England’s gain will always be Yorkshire’s loss

Yorkshire Cricket Club president Geoffrey Boycott
Yorkshire Cricket Club president Geoffrey Boycott
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GEOFFREY BOYCOTT believes Yorkshire are victims of their own success as they strive to become a dominant force in county cricket.

The former Yorkshire and England batsman feels their track record for producing young England players is a double-edged sword.

Yorkshire finished second in the County Championship last season despite being without England’s Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan for much of the campaign.

Gary Ballance will be joining that trio on the forthcoming Ashes tour, while Yorkshire have seven players in the England Under-19 and Under-17 winter squads in a further testament to the work being undertaken by the county’s coaching staff.

“We are victims of our own success,” said Boycott.

“We tend to produce more England players than some counties, who don’t produce anything.

“But once they play for England, we lose them. We hardly see them again, and that is the problem.

“Do I see Yorkshire as a force to be reckoned with during the next few years because we have just come second in the Championship? I think we’ll do alright.

“But I couldn’t tell you how many of our youngsters will be taken by England, and that’s the key to it.”

Root serves as a perfect illustration of what Boycott is talking about. The 22-year-old played arguably the club’s best innings of the season when he hit 182 to help beat eventual champions Durham at Chester-le-Street in April, a result that kickstarted Yorkshire’s campaign.

But after following up with a career-best 236 in the next game against Derbyshire at Headingley, which helped inspire another win, Root did not play another Championship match all summer.

It is in stark contrast to the era in which Boycott starred, when England players turned out regularly for their counties.

“When I played, and the likes of Freddie Trueman, Brian Close and Ray Illingworth, there were only five Test matches per summer and 32 Championship games,” said Boycott. “We still played a huge amount of cricket for Yorkshire and that simply doesn’t happen anymore because of the way cricket has changed over the years.

“Nowadays, there’s so much international cricket that it’s very difficult to produce a successful county side.

“It’s very difficult for our coaching staff if the players are not available to them because they are away playing for England all the time.

“When you look at it, how many matches has Joe Root played this year? How many have Tim Bresnan and Jonny Bairstow played?

“Joe Root played against Durham and got 180-odd and we beat them, but how many times has he played since?

“We do well to produce so many good young England players and it’s all credit to the club, the coaching staff and cricket in the county as a whole, but I’m mindful of the wider picture when it comes to 
assessing how we might perform as a club going forward.”

Boycott paid tribute to the work being done by captain Andrew Gale and his players and the coaching staff led by director of cricket Martyn Moxon and first-team coach Jason Gillespie.

When Boycott became club president in March last year, he challenged Yorkshire to win promotion to ensure they had a chance of winning the title in the club’s 150th anniversary this year, and they responded to his call.

“We nearly won the Championship this year and from where we were two years ago, that’s a good effort,” he said.

“Some people said I put them under pressure when I said we had to get out of the Second Division because we can’t win the First Division in our 150th year otherwise, but there is always pressure in Yorkshire cricket and they’ve given it a good go.

“To get out of the Second 
Division was important because I don’t think anybody who follows Yorkshire cricket was thrilled about us being in Division Two.

“Championship cricket is in our blood, it’s in our history; we’re a Championship club and we had to get out of Division Two.

“This year, they gave it a good shot at winning the title and didn’t quite make it.

“That’s slightly disappointing – sad more than disappointing – because from what I saw of Durham at Scarborough, they were a very good team, so full marks to them.

“I think, on the whole, they were slightly better than us and you have to acknowledge that.

“But we’ve had a good season and I’m really pleased for our players and coaches.”

Boycott, who turns 73 on October 21, is coming towards the end of his two-year term as president.

The role has meant much to him and he has tackled it with great energy and enthusiasm.

“I look back on some happy times,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of members; I’ve invited quite a number of ex-players who haven’t been near the club for a while – Howard Cooper, Peter Squires, Colin Johnson. I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s hard work.

“I think my wife, Rachael, and I have helped raise quite a lot of money and she has put her heart and soul into it.

“Next year, we’ll have a new president, but I still want to come to the ground and spend some time with the members.

“I’ll pop into the Hawke Room from time to time, but I don’t want to be in there all the time taking any gloss off somebody else’s presidency.

“I’ve always been a members person. The members have been brilliant to me over the years and I will go to see them always.”