Author: Alan Birkinshaw
Tillakaratne Dilshan is generally credited with introducing the scoop shot to cricket at the 2009 T20 World Cup – but there is clear evidence it was first unveiled in the Central Yorkshire League 20 years earlier.
Even top Indian cricket commentator Sanjay Manjrekar supports the claims that his former Mumbai team-mate Iqbal Khan was the inventor of the stroke after he unleashed it while making a century in the Ranji Trophy in 1991.
Subsequent reports in the Indian press have also revealed that he learned to play the stroke while playing in English league cricket and knowing that Khan had successful times at Mirfield, Brighouse, Drighlington and Undercliffe, a little digging was required.
Now after interviewing the player himself and his club captain of the time, it is confirmed that the scoop shot was introduced by Khan when he was batting for Mirfield against Morley at Scatcherd Lane on May 13, 1989.
“We were all amazed when he went down on one knee and scooped a ball from left-arm spinner Roger Braithwaite over the wicketkeeper for four. That was no mean achievement as he was not wearing a helmet at the time and the boundaries at Morley are big,” said Mirfield skipper Russell Heritage.
Khan, who is now a manager for a Drighlington medical practice and lives at Staincliffe, recalls the afternoon well. “There were no fielding restrictions in those days apart from no more than two behind square on the legside.
“Morley had pushed the field deep and were just trying to limit me to a single to get me off strike. I could pull, cut or straight drive and only get one so I was just thinking where was there a gap that gave me the chance of a two or a four.
“As a batsman I was always weighing up my scoring options and this was one which I felt gave me great opportunity because there was a huge gap behind the keeper and even if third man or fine leg cut the ball off, I reckoned there would be a comfortable two.
“I was really pleased that when I played the shot it went for four. The wicketkeeper was confused by what was going on and I think a few of the fielders were too.”
Khan, who played alongside the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Manjrekar for Mumbai, recently played for India in the World Over 50s World Cup in South Africa which was cut short due to Coronavirus.
At the age of 52, Khan is still plying his trade in league cricket with Cawthorne, who last season won promotion from the South Yorkshire League to Yorkshire League South.
He has been playing league cricket in England for 35 years and he believes he learned a lot as a young cricketer when he arrived in England to play at Mirfield in 1988 as a 19-year old.
He said: “In India as a cricketer everything is done for you but suddenly you have to live on your own, look after your own food preparation, do your laundry and shopping. It helps you learn to speak good English and good manners.
“Most important, as the professional you have to perform. You are the one being paid, and you are expected to help the captain and to encourage and coach the young players.”
Khan settled in quickly at Mirfield and hit two centuries and six fifties as he helped them win the Division Two title.
His good form continued in 1989 – the year of the scoop shot – with one century and 14 50s as Mirfield came runners up in Division One. His off-spin bowling also earned him three five-wicket hauls.
Mirfield were a team on the up and won the Division One championship in 1990 with Khan chipping in with one century, five fifties and three five-wicket hauls.
His most productive season was 1991 when he made his highest CYCL score of 201 not out against Ossett. For good measure, he made 117 not out against them in the return fixture in a campaign which saw him add two further centuries and four fifties.
Khan’s happy stay at Mirfield came to an end after the 1992 campaign which brought him nine fifties as his team came a disappointing tenth.
Next stop for Khan was Brighouse and his introduction to the Bradford League was a big hit as he made over 1,000 runs in each of his three seasons with the club.
He opened with 1,044 in 1993 and followed up with tallies of 1003 and 1054. His consistent runscoring had already captured the attention of Russel Heritage and when he was appointed Undercliffe captain he did not hesitate to give Khan a call.
“He’s easily the best overseas player I have played with. Iqbal is a quality batsman and is also a useful off spinner who formed a good combination with me at Mirfield,” said Heritage.
The reunited spin duo played a big part in helping Undercliffe win the Bradford League title in 1996. Khan took 42 wickets and Heritage 38, but Khan was only able to score 529 runs.
He made 520 runs at 47.27 in the following season before moving on to Drighlington for a three-year spell which saw him score 3,031 and take 136 wickets. The 1998 season saw him score what was then a league record tally of 1,428 runs.
In eight seasons, Khan scored 7,184 runs at an impressive average of 56.57 and took 322 wickets at 19.82. That is an impressive Bradford League record by anybody's standards.
Since leaving Drighlington, Khan has played in the Huddersfield League with Scholes and Cawthorne where he has continued to pile up the runs.
He still enjoys playing but he fears there are real dangers for the club game. He said: “Too many clubs are paying money to players who don’t deserve it and clubs are wasting vast sums of money.
“If you go and say to a young player, I am going to give you a chance in my team the first question is how much will you pay me? Young players should be glad to be given a chance and if they do well then, they can talk about the money.
“The ECB has spent a lot of money coaching and developing young players who look like they are world beaters at 16 or 17, but by 19 they are out on the town with their friends and not even playing.
“It is a complete waste of money and talent. Clubs need to be much tougher about what they expect from the players they are so happy to pay. Players should be paid according to ability and results, not simply because there is a shortage and they are available.
“Not enough clubs make sure that the overseas player is seen at the club in the week helping coach and encourage the young players.
“It was one of the best parts of the job for me. There is nothing nicer than meeting up with a player you helped as a youngster and hearing that they have gone on to be successful
“But cricket is about attitude and wanting to be better. I can remember when I was playing for Mumbai and Sachin Tendulkar was out for 80.
“We would tell him he was unlucky, and it was a good ball, and he would reply by saying if you are my friends, help me to be better. I should be scoring more runs.
“It is an attitude that club players should copy. Personally, I am happy if I score a century, but I cannot be satisfied as I could have done better. What about those half-volleys I did not put away and the balls I missed? However good you are, you can always get better.”
|IQBAL KHAN'S BRADFORD LEAGUE BATTING|
|IQBAL KHAN'S BRADFORD LEAGUE BOWLING RECORD|
|IQBAL KHAN'S MIRFIELD RECORD|
|Mirfield statistics courtesy of Patrick Neal|