A FIRST-CLASS debut, the LV= County Championship title and a new contract all within two months of each other – it’s no wonder Usman Arshad is confident of starring across all formats for Durham this season.
Making his first senior appearance with just six matches left of Durham’s bid to win a third LV= County Championship title in six years, Arshad didn’t have the luxury of time to find his feet.
He scarcely needed it though picking up two wickets from three overs bowled in the first innings of their defeat of Surrey before claiming two more in the second to spark a run of five straight wins towards the title.
With Ben Stokes on England duty, an opportunity opened up for the bowling allrounder and he took it with six wickets two games later against Sussex before the title was won one match early against Nottinghamshire.
Arshad was rewarded with a new contract a month after the season ended having taken 16 wickets at an average of 15.56 from his five appearances before jetting off to South Africa to play during their summer.
The 21-year-old has returned in his own words fitter, stronger and quicker and is convinced he can pick up where he left off and help Durham retain their title again.
“After winning the Championship last year, it is good to get going again and hopefully we can win another. Everything has gone really quickly for myself and last year was an unbelievable feeling,” he said.
“I signed a contract for two years and I was chuffed to bits.
I have always been confident within myself but I never knew I would do as well as I did. Now I have got to try and do even better.
“It is a big ask to win it again as there are quite a few teams looking to do well in the Championship this year but there is a lot of buzz around the squad and we are a young squad.
“Ben will be playing for England, Scott Borthwick is in contention and obviously I am looking up to them and I am also trying to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Graham Onions.
“Physically I have got a bit stronger, I have been in South Africa and I am even more confident with ball in hand than I was last season.
“I have been getting good feedback and I’ve been told that I have put on a yard of pace and I am fitter and feeling really confident about the season.”
This time last year Arshad was nervous having only returned from shin splints and a stress fracture in his pelvis but admits such issues have long since slipped from his consciousness.
As well as his first-class efforts, Arshad made his List A debut – appearing once against Surrey – and he wants to complete the set by featuring in the shortest format this season.
“I was part of last year’s T20 squad and I had a good season in the second X1 in T20s so we will see what happens but it will be good to get a spot,” he added.
“Before my debut I was travelling around with the T20 squad and looking around the changing room and seeing Ben, Graham and Paul Collingwood and it didn’t intimidate me.”