“A strong Yorkshire, means a strong England.”
The history of English cricket has seen some fine cricketers represent their country with distinction – and many have come from the Broad Acres of Yorkshire.
Today, England coach Chris Silverwood, a one-time Yorkshire fast bowler who played in a few Tests in his prime years and helped Yorkshire become County Champions in 2001, has Sheffield-raised Joe Root as his England captain and Jonny Bairstow, son of the late David Bairstow for good company on the team bus.
Occasionally, a legendary Yorkshire and England fast bowler makes an appearance as an bowling coach/consultant, And, just for good measure, former Ashes-winning England captain Michael Vaughan is always close by working in a media capacity alongside Sir Geoffrey Boycott – possibly the most famous of all living Yorkshiremen. There are ‘Yorkies’ all-round the England team again – and England is enjoying one of its best periods of success in international cricket.
Co-incidence, or not? Let’s look at the key factors behind top-level performance. Firstly, a team needs to have quality players – especially among the senior player group. And it helps if they are good people too. Secondly, the senior leadership needs to enjoy a level of harmony which prevents the team becoming broken into factions supporting either the captain, the coach, the star player or their mates in the ranks.
There needs to be a collective spirit. With Root and Silverwood at the helm, I suggest the shared values learned under ‘hard-nosed’ coaching methods at Yorkshire serve them both well. I’d go so far as to say there is a synergy present when the captain and coach are in the room together.
When England tour Australia next winter to attempt to regain the Ashes, the trip will require every ounce of Yorkshire grit and determination and plenty of skill too. Sir Leonard Hutton famously led the team to success in Australia during the 1950’s and Raymond Illingworth’s team won the Ashes in 1970-71, so the omens are good for a Yorkshireman to perform well where Essex captains have failed miserably and only Middlesex captains have enjoyed a successful track-record.
Joe Root has plenty to prove as a Captain still, but I feel sure that having Eoin Morgan lead the one-day team will help England’s best present-day batsman remain fresh for the role of captaining the Test team. However, Joe Root needs to do more than just captain the team well – he must score big runs throughout the series if England is to be competitive, let alone victorious.
Yorkshire’s finest cricketers dates back to Lord Hawke, the esteemed captain, Wilfred Rhodes a great all-rounder, Herbert Sutcliffe the high-scoring opening batsman, Sir Leonard Hutton the master technician, Fred Trueman the savvy fast swing bowler who devastated opposition teams around the world, through to Sir Geoffrey Boycott the accomplished accumulator of centuries for Yorkshire and England. For many Yorkshire cricketers of my era, playing without an overseas player in county cricket and with the challenge of living up to the great Yorkshire team of the 1960’s of which Close, Trueman, Illingworth and Boycott were prominent members, proved burdensome.
Good players played for England such as David Bairstow, Arnie Sidebottom, Martyn Moxon and fast bowler Paul Jarvis but their forays into top-level cricket were glimpses when compared to the great names of the past. But, in this eco-system of English cricket, these families helped inspire a future generation of high-achievers for Yorkshire and England.
Ryan Sidebottom, son of Arnie, was a key performer in the 2001 Yorkshire County Championship-winning team that I played against for Leicestershire. The bowling attack of Sidebottom, Matthew Hoggard, Craig White, Chris Silverwood and Steve Kirby was a handful to play against. Darren Gough had left to play for Essex at this stage but soon returned. Hoggard and Sidebottom became excellent performers for England whilst Craig White proved himself to be a very good all-rounder across all formats in England colours too. And, this success spawned another era of talent coming through the system which saw Adil Rashid and Jonny Bairstow honour The White Rose in England colours.
Today, the England one-day and t20 team looks a strong outfit. Jonny Bairstow is a fine all-round cricketer. Dominant with the bat in any position and good with the gloves, and a quality performer in the outfield too when Jos Buttler has possession of the ‘keeping gloves. And now, Dawid Malan, world number 1 ranked t20 batsman, is a Yorkshire player too!
England’s tilt at adding the world t20 trophy to sit alongside their 50 over ICC World Cup is looking stronger for Malan’s inclusion alongside Bairstow in the batting order and with Rashid properly established as a key player in the team. Confidence comes from within a person, but the backing of the selectors and the captain contribute significantly towards it. All 3 players have suffered from being ‘out of favour’ with key selection personnel at one time or another and I imagine, have developed a thicker skin to deal with whatever life throws at them. England will benefit from healthy competition in the key roles – perhaps Joe Root may be the next ‘Yorkie’ to come into the t20 team and make a difference to the quality of performance.
If so, Chris Silverwood will be delighted.