Wasim Khan has been flying in the face of supposedly good advice ever since, as a boy growing up in Birmingham, his elders in the Pakistani community told him he was deluded to think he could play cricket for a living.
He ignored them to sign for Warwickshire, where he became the first British-born Asian to play county cricket and was part of the team that won the County Championship and a Lord’s final in 1995. Now he has brushed aside more sage words by swapping the role of chief executive of the Cricket Foundation – where his work introducing cricket to 2.5 million state school children via the Chance to Shine scheme earned him an MBE – for the same role at Leicestershire, the county that made unwanted history this year by failing to win a Championship match for the second year in a row.
“I’ve had a great deal of advice over whether this was something I should be doing but every negative that was raised I saw as an opportunity and that attracted me,” he said on Monday. “I’m not daunted by the challenge.
“When I broke into cricket as a player, everyone told me it was a waste of time. The phrase I kept hearing was ‘it doesn’t happen to people like us’.
“But perseverance and determination are two attributes I have always had as well as a vision about everything I have wanted to go into. People said when we started Chance to Shine that it wouldn’t work but with resilience and determination, we succeeded.”
He will have his work cut out at Grace Road, where Leicestershire ended a second inglorious campaign with a two-day hammering by 408 runs at the hands of neighbours Derbyshire. Not since the Northamptonshire side of the 1930s, which went 99 games over four years without a victory, has a county side gone two full Championship seasons without one win. Leicestershire’s form and apparent lack of direction led to four senior players deciding their futures lay elsewhere.
“Clearly what has happened with the team is unacceptable but I have been impressed with the honesty of the Leicestershire board,” Khan said. “They recognised where the failings were and I knew I was coming into an environment where they wanted change.”
Engaging with Leicester’s substantial South Asian community, a resource the county has never tapped fully, is Khan’s long-term task but his first job will be to confirm the appointment of the former Australian Test all-rounder Andrew McDonald as head coach after Phil Whitticase’s position as director of cricket was scrapped.
Leicestershire have already signed the Australian fast bowler Clint McKay as their overseas player for 2015 and have been linked with another, the former Glamorgan opening batsman Mark Cosgrove, who holds a British passport.
“We need a head coach who is going to inspire and motivate the dressing room,” Khan said. “I want there to be a winning mentality and a steeliness about the place.
“What I don’t want is people celebrating when Leicestershire win their first Championship game next year because we have bigger ambitions. The club is debt free and in a position to build for the future. In the next five years I want us to become the biggest county outside those with Test match grounds.”
At 43, Khan has been tipped as a future chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, with ECB chairman Giles Clarke among his admirers, although Khan says: “There is a huge amount I still need to do about learning the business of cricket.”Reuse content