YORKSHIRE’s hopes of returning to the County Championship First Division last night received a significant boost with the news that Australian batsman Phil Jaques will not be classed as an overseas player, thus paving the way for the club to recruit another international star.
The England and Wales Cricket Board have granted Yorkshire’s request for Jaques to be registered as a non-overseas player, pending the formality of him attending an interview with ECB officials and signing a declaration that he will not play professional cricket in his homeland.
Yorkshire are now expected to try to sign an overseas pace bowler to spearhead their promotion charge.
With Jaques having signed a two-year contract, it also frees them up to go down the overseas route in 2013.
Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, last night stressed the club had yet to definitively decide whether to sign a new overseas player for this summer but admitted it was “a serious option”.
Chief in Moxon’s thinking is the need to strike the right balance between developing a home-grown Yorkshire team that can challenge for honours for years to come and the desire for a quick-fire return to Division One.
The former England batsman conceded the club had already made tentative enquiries about potential recruits but nothing more substantial.
Jaques, 32, will now be registered on a dual nationality basis as a UK passport holder on account of his English parentage.
Welcoming the ECB’s decision, Moxon said: “It’s good news, and we can now get our heads seriously around whether we go down the overseas route for this season.
“We will come up with a plan during the next few days.
“It’s a delicate balance between giving our own lads opportunities while at the same time striving to be successful now.
“Ultimately, we want to get back into the First Division, so it’s a fine line.
“We’ve got one or two irons in the fire, but I think it would have been wrong of us to have gone too far down that route given we were still waiting for permission from the governing body.
“If the ECB decision had gone against us, it would have been a complete waste of time and energy anyway.
“We’ve made a few potential enquiries – and when various agents found out we were trying to get Phil registered on a dual nationality basis we had a few calls asking whether we would be interested in players, so we’ve laid a bit of a foundation.”
Yorkshire’s recruitment strategy has been compounded not only by uncertainty over Jaques’s registration but familiar ambiguity surrounding player availability.
The advent in recent times of tournaments such as the Indian Premier League has made it tougher for counties to sign top players, while the international calendar remains busier than Spaghetti Junction at rush hour.
Availability is the key issue, but Moxon admitted it would be a pace bowler Yorkshire would look to sign, with the wise money pointing towards an Australian.
Last year, Ryan Sidebottom effectively carried the pace attack but, at 34 years young, the former England star is no spring chicken and Yorkshire might be tempted to try to ease some of his burden.
“We’ve certainly got a strong batting group on paper,” said Moxon. “We’ve got a developing bowling group, I would suggest, and it’s just whether we decide we need that little bit of extra help in that department going forward into this season; I think that really is the crux of the argument.
“Ryan, for instance, did very well for us last year and stayed fit, but there’s always a danger of injuries and he’s far and away our most experienced bowler; without him, it would leave us somewhat inexperienced, shall we say.”
There is certainly plenty for Moxon, first team coach Jason Gillespie and captain Andrew Gale to ponder in Barbados next week, with Yorkshire leaving on Monday for a two-week pre-season tour.
The club are taking a full complement of players apart from Jaques, who does not arrive in England until mid-April, James Wainman (back) and Rich Pyrah, soon to become father of twins.
Yorkshire will join Derbyshire, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire in the Caribbean for a fortnight of friendly games and practice.
Although Yorkshire finally know where they stand over Jaques, confusion remains over the future of the county cricket schedule going forward.
The ECB yesterday deferred until at least the end of the summer a decision on the fixture programme amid ongoing concerns among the counties about the Morgan Review into domestic cricket.
The review, undertaken by former International Cricket Council president and ECB chairman David Morgan, contains a number of crackpot proposals – principally the plan to reduce the number of Championship games per county from 16 to 14.
Although the ECB have approved the general principles of the review, they have yet to rubber-stamp the detail, where the devil is usually found.