Zubair Najeeb was beaming with pride as he lifted the Priestley Shield last season after Bowling Old Lane's victory over Pudsey St Lawrence.
Now the experienced campaigner is all smiles after his picture, which was taken by league photographer Ray Spencer was chosen for the front cover of the 2019 All Rounder Cricket Bradford Premier League handbook.
“It’s a wonderful surprise and something I am very proud of,” said 52-year-old Najeeb who also revealed that he has decided to hang up his boots after 19 seasons with the Birch Lane club.
Najeeb took 546 wickets in first team cricket between 2000 and 2015 at an average of 15.58, before stepping down to become second team captain in 2016.
He has played mainly as a batsman for the past three seasons while overseeing the integration of a number of promising young players into his club’s second team.
“My back and my knees won’t stand up to playing regularly, Najeeb said. “I have indicated I might turn out on the odd occasion to avoid the club fielding a short team, but I believe it is time for the young players to step up and take things forward.
“I will still be helping out around the club and I am looking forward to watching from the other side of the boundary rope.”
Najeeb, who intends to spend more time with his family – he has a son and four daughters – is also looking forward to the challenge of tending the allotment he has just taken on.
As he cultivates his new interests, Najeeb can look back on many happy Bradford League memories with Old Lane.
After gaining plenty of experience in the Bradford Central League with Dudley Hill, Girlington and Buttershaw St Paul’s and a short spell with Leeds Kalsa, Najeeb marked his debut season in 2000 by taking 49 wickets.
His best year was 2003 when he took 53 wickets as he established a reputation as an effective and economical opening bowler.
“I’ve loved every minute,” he said. “I have been fortunate to play in both a Priestley Cup final (2006) and Priestley Shield finals (2017 and 2018).
“There have been times when I was hot headed and got into trouble. There were occasion when I had to be told by umpires to keep quiet, but I have always had respect for them.
“It is important that the junior players that are coming through realise that it is important to play hard and have respect for both the umpires and your opponents.
“There is no place in the game for abuse or violence and I have appreciated more and more as my career has progressed the need for respect.
“There was a great example for this at last season’s Priestley Shield final. We have had a strong rivalry with St Lawrence over the years so it was good to see the players on both sides showing respect for each other.
“Afterwards the younger players were talking with each other and even having pictures taken together. That is something which we need to see repeated more.”
Najeeb also speaks fondly of the tireless work that has been done at Old Lane during his 19 seasons.
He said: “You can only have the greatest admiration for people like Michael Hope, Brian Clough and Geoff Hanson who ensured the club was run on the right lines. Nothing was too much trouble.
“Since the deaths of Michael and Brian, Haqueq Siddique has done so much to continue the good work.
“I think it is incredible the way we have thrived as an all-Asian club. There have been tough times but we have always found a way to pull through.”
He added: “I have been lucky to play for a club with such a strong connection with its community. I have also played against many fine players.
“One opponent I admired greatly and had a good friendship with was Bradford & Bingley’s Richard McCarthy. What a bowler!
“I will always remember my time with Old Lane and I feel proud to have played in the Bradford League.”
|ZUBAIR NAJEEB'S FIRST TEAM BOWLING RECORD|