WHENEVER I bump into Michael Vaughan at a Headingley Test match, as we go about our respective media tasks, he invariably greets me with the words: “Now then, Fred.”
This is because he suspects – or at least pretends to suspect, perhaps to divert suspicion from himself, I always think – that I am Fred Boycott, the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Twittersphere.
For, as with the Pimpernel, the identity of Fred Boycott – a clever combination of Yorkshire’s greatest living batsman and t’finest fast bowler that ever drew breath – is one of the great mysteries of modern times.
This shadowy figure, whose Twitter profile states “I say what I like and I like what I say. I’m right, you’re wrong”, is renowned for his dry observations on all things cricket – in particular, his love of long net sessions and hatred of slogging, as well as contempt for southern prices “Ow much?!”
Anyway, once I have batted off Vaughan’s routine accusations, insisting I do not possess a sense of humour good enough to be Fred Boycott, let alone the inclination to have posted over 26,000 tweets, he invariably stops for a quick chat about Yorkshire CCC.
The former England captain clearly retains deep affection for the club, and is interested in its progress, on-and-off the field.
Rather than criticise Gale, as some have done, it would surely be better to support him and to give him the respect that he deserves.Chris Waters
Once, I remember that his conversation turned briefly to the subject of Yorkshire first-team coach Andrew Gale, and it would hardly be betraying a confidence to say that Vaughan was extremely complimentary of his former team-mate.
“Good man,” was Vaughan’s simple, succinct and emphatic observation of Gale – one that put me in mind of how the famously taciturn Wilfred Rhodes is said to have described Don Bradman as a “good bat” and left it at that, as though nothing more needed to be said.
Memory of Vaughan’s respect and admiration for Gale returned to my mind this week when he came out in public support of Gale’s endeavours.
Why, you might have seen the story in The Yorkshire Post after our business reporter, Ismail Mulla, posed some general cricketing questions to the 2005 Ashes-winning captain, who was speaking after becoming a shareholder in the Leeds-based cricket shoe business, Payntr.
Reflecting on the difficulties that Gale faces in managing a Yorkshire team in transition, and one routinely affected by England call-ups, Vaughan said: “You feel for Andy Gale because he loses some of his players.
“But I’ve been in and around the ranks and he’s doing a fine job.
“He’ll be absolutely fine over the next few years.”
Good on Vaughan, I thought, and a timely observation, with Yorkshire having just slipped into the County Championship relegation zone as one or two supporters again begin to question the coach.
Gale takes a fair bit of stick on social media, where public figures are an easy target, but, when you have got someone like Michael Vaughan batting in your corner, it rather speaks volumes.
As one of cricket’s most intelligent voices, not to mention one of the most forward-thinking men in the game, Vaughan’s support says it all.
And although he is still a novice coach (the 34-year-old Gale is in only his second season in charge), he is learning rapidly and has another “good man” above him/alongside him in the form of director of cricket Martyn Moxon, with fellow coach Rich Pyrah completing a splendid triumvirate.
Rather than criticise Gale, as some have done, it would surely be better to support him and to give him the respect that he deserves.
As a captain, he will go down as one of the most successful in Yorkshire’s history, and one doubts whether there has been a more proud and passionate man to have worn the White Rose.
That, in itself, is no guarantee of an easy passage into coaching, of course, and it is far from easy for Gale at the moment.
But although the Championship situation is not ideal, there is half-a-season to turn things around and the club have maintained their progress in white-ball cricket, doing extremely well – shorn of said international stars – to reach the semi-finals of the Royal London Cup.
Yorkshire are indeed going through a period of transition – Jason Gillespie probably got out at the right time, in my view, having taken the club as far as he could as the previous coach.
There has to be a recognition of changing times and patience shown; Yorkshire were missing six players to England/England Lions duty, for instance, for the Championship game against Surrey at Scarborough recently (seven if you count white-ball player Adil Rashid).
Vaughan is right on most things and, I believe, his assessment of Gale is one of them.
What he is entirely incorrect about, however, is that I am Fred Boycott, although I cannot pretend that I am not unbelievably flattered to even be mentioned in the same breath as that doyen of social media, let alone mistaken for him/her/it by the most successful captain in England’s distinguished Test match history.