Yorkshire well within their rights to give the kids a chance

Yorkshire's Ryan Gibson
Yorkshire's Ryan Gibson
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IT was one of the most heart-warming stories of this or any other season.

The appearance of 15-year-old Matthew Fisher for Yorkshire in Sunday’s YB40 game against Leicestershire was the very definition of a Boy’s Own tale.

Fisher, plucked from his GCSE studies at Easingwold School, was a credit to his club, family and friends.

He scored 10 runs from four balls, took 1-40 from seven overs and smiled his way through a day that neither he nor anyone present at Scarborough will forget.

Fisher was handed his chance, along with fellow teenage debutant Ryan Gibson, as part of Yorkshire’s ongoing strategy of giving young players experience in 40-over cricket.

It is a strategy which, notwithstanding the groundswell of support for the club’s young players, has not passed without certain criticism from the county’s followers.

With Yorkshire having lost five of their opening six games and fielded a weakened side in every match, there have been grumblings that they are not taking the competition seriously enough.

Yorkshire have long-since blown any hope of reaching the semi-finals, with only the top team from each of the three groups progressing to the last four along with the best second-placed side, and it is now 11 years since they graced a Lord’s final.

Some supporters have expressed disappointment because they are paying good money to watch Yorkshire in one-day cricket and one can well understand and sympathise with their frustration.

At the same time, my personal view is that Yorkshire have got their tactics right.

Granted, I might disagree with the odd selection here and there, or the order of the batting line-up from time to time, but that it always going to happen because cricket, like any sport, is a game of opinions and you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

But as regards the broad strategy of treating the competition as a chance not only to blood young players but, more importantly, to rest key ones for the serious business of the County Championship, I find myself in agreement with the coaching staff.

Indeed, it is a policy I would argue has gone some way to helping the club mount a strong Championship challenge.

There is no doubt in my mind that it has certainly helped to keep bowlers such as Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Patterson fresh, and although you could argue that bowling a maximum of eight overs in a YB40 game is not going to do them too much harm, there is more to it than that.

A 40-over game still requires 40 overs of concentration in the field, still involves travelling to and from the fixture, still involves the mental demands of playing a match, and Yorkshire are right to “put the Bentley in the garage for a while”, as first-team coach Jason Gillespie invariably says of resting Sidebottom.

The first two-and-a-half months of the season have been incredibly hectic, featuring half of the season’s Championship games crammed in.

It has made sense to rest key bowlers and to give some of the younger players a go, players who have not let themselves or anyone else down.

Alan Hansen famously said that you can’t win anything with kids, and it is true that Yorkshire are not going to win the YB40 with the sides they have selected.

At the same time, my view is that Yorkshire are not good enough to win the YB40 even at full strength, and that the competition itself is largely an irrelevance.

Yorkshire simply do not know how to consistently win games of 40-over cricket and were unlikely to mount a serious challenge without a top-class overseas player. The Championship is their forte – and they are right to focus on it.