YORKSHIRE captain Darren Gough believes Huddersfield born fast bowler Ajmal Shahzad is on the verge of exploding onto the county scene next season.
The 22-year-old has been in the first-team frame since he made cricket history three years ago when he became the first British-born Asian to play for Yorkshire, but has since failed to establish himself in the starting XI.
And with veteran South African bowler Deon Kruis penning a new one-year deal last month fears had grown that Shahzad may once again struggle to cement a place in the attack.
But Gough – who is backing the BBC Sports Unsung Hero Award, supported by Robinson’s – insists a regular starting berth is up for grabs, and it is up to Shahzad to take it.
“In Shahzad we have a young bowler with immense talent,” said the former England star. “And he has a terrific future ahead of him.
“But he is not quite ready yet, he will have a few really good games but he will struggle for the next couple.
“So we probably still need to find one more seam bowler before the start of next season but it is up to him to prove that we don’t need to bring anyone in.
“Ajmal isn’t far away from being ready and the next few months will be crucial, so he is ready for the start of the season.”
And Gough is also predicting big things for Kirkburton’s teenage fast bowler Oliver Hannon-Dalby.
Despite being only 18, the former Brooksbank School Sixth Form pupil has already caught Gough’s eye and the 37-year-old believes the duo could become a dynamic double act in years to come.
“Oliver hasn’t played in the first team yet but he has all the attributes to come in and produce the goods,” added Gough. “He is 6ft 8in and probably bowls at about 80-odd miles per hour – and he is hungry.
“His height is such a big factor because if utilised properly he can be very dangerous for us in the coming years and, alongside Ajmal, we could have a very potent attack – it certainly gives us more options than in previous years.”
While Gough would like nothing more than to see the Huddersfield pair make an impact, he admitted it is up to him and the more experienced Yorkshire attack to lay very solid foundations.
“We don’t want them to be under too much pressure to perform in every game,” he continued. “We want to use them when they are bowling well and on top of their game and not put too much pressure on them because they are not quite ready yet.
“We have some really good promising young bowlers but they just need time to get going.”
Nominations for the BBC Sports Unsung Hero Award, supported by Robinson’s, can be made at www.bbc.co.uk/sportsunsunghero until Saturday.