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Gillespie and Moxon back Azeem

By matthew murray, Sports Reporter Thursday 20th March 2014
Yorkshire coaches Jason Gillespie, left, and Martyn Moxon, right, with Azeem Rafiq.

Yorkshire chiefs Jason Gillespie and Martyn Moxon believe Barnsley spinner Azeem Rafiq has what it takes to add his name to the long list of cricketing greats from the town.


Gillespie joked that 'there must be something in the Barnsley water' after learning that Dickie Bird, Geoff Boycott and Darren Gough were all born here, as well as his current Yorkshire boss Moxon, who started his career at Monk Bretton and later played for Barnsley.


Gillespie, who took 259 wickets in 71 tests for Australia, is looking forward to his third season as first team coach at Yorkshire.


He told the Chronicle: "Azeem is an impressive young man. He had some issues last year with injuries and lost a bit of confidence but he went to Australia after the season and has spent some time in Pakistan with his family. He's back in the UK now though and has looked great in pre-season.


"His effort and attitude have been brilliant and he has to focus on performing for Yorkshire this season and then you never know what could happen. With the way England performed in Australia, there'll be some test places up for grabs this summer, and I'm sure county cricketers up and down the country will be keeping an eye on proceedings in the first month of the season and trying to impress the selectors.


"With Graeme Swann retiring, spinners will be extra keen to impress, and there's no reason why Azeem can't fill that role. That's the challenge he has to focus on. It'll come down to him performing. He has the talent, he now has to find the consistency."


Gillespie was in Barnsley earlier this month, speaking at the Lamproom Theatre alongside Moxon. He said: "There must be something in the water here in Barnsley. Dickie Bird, Geoff Boycott and Darren Gough? Wow!


"Dickie is a cricketing legend. Everyone all across the world knows him. He's not just a quirky character but he was a fine umpire, every cricketer I've ever met respects him.


"Geoff Boycott is another character who isn't afraid to give his opinion. We used to laugh in the Australian dressing room listening to his opinions.


"Darren Gough was another one who we respected. He was a fantastic cricketer and was probably the player in the England dressing room who we feared the most. I also played for Goughie for Yorkshire when he was captain in 2007.


"I enjoyed playing under him, he was a great attacking captain who really knew his stuff about the game. It's asking a lot for Azeem to follow in their footsteps, but there's no reason why he can't. I wouldn't like to write anyone off from this town, maybe it's a talent hotspot the ECB needs to tap into."


Moxon, who scored more than 20,000 first class runs for Yorkshire, is now the county's Director of Cricket. He said: "Azeem has shown great ability but struggled last season. He has all the attributes though so we're expecting big things of him this season.


"It's an exciting time for Yorkshire. We finished second last season and just lost out to Durham, who are an excellent side. We were top for most of the season and I'd like to think that Durham won the title rather than Yorkshire lost it.


"We're hungry for success this time round and have had a good pre-season so far.  It's never easy, especially now we have so many players involved in the England set-up, but the challenge is there for us."


Yorkshire are currently on their pre-season tour in Sri Lanka and begin their campaign against Leeds/Bradford University on Tuesday, April 1.