THE head of England’s cricket selectors has spoken of his pride in Yorkshire’s County Championship title triumph and predicted that the club can go on to enjoy a period of sustained success.
James Whitaker, the Yorkshire-born national selector, said he was thrilled by the achievements of captain Andrew Gale and his team after the White Rose county clinched English cricket’s greatest prize for the first time since 2001.
And as he looked ahead to a winter that will see England play one-day cricket in the build-up to next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, Whitaker said he was also confident of success not only in that competition but in the Ashes next summer.
England play a seven-match ODI series in Sri Lanka before Christmas and an ODI tri-series in Australia against the home side and India prior to the World Cup, followed by a Test series against the West Indies and a Test/ODI series against New Zealand ahead of the Ashes.
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Whitaker said: “I’m just really proud, like every other Yorkshireman who follows cricket, to have seen such a tremendous team evolving over the last few seasons, and specifically this season, and I believe it could be the start of a period of sustained success for the club.
“I don’t want to start talking about creating dynasties and things like that, and attaching that sort of tag to it, but I do think that with the people and systems Yorkshire have got in place that they can continue to do well in the coming years.
“It’s up to the players now to stay hungry and to have the desire to keep doing it again and again, because there’ll be a lot of clubs out there now wanting to get one over Yorkshire and it will be a big challenge for them in the next year or two.
“But if the principles stay true in how Yorkshire play the game, and in what their players want from the game, both personally and collectively, then they could have success for a number of years.”
Whitaker, 52, was born in Skipton and lives in Harrogate and has always had a soft spot for Yorkshire cricket.
He never played for Yorkshire – instead carving out a distinguished career as a batsman with Leicestershire – but in his role as an England selector since 2008, and as the chief selector since January this year, he has been a regular presence at Yorkshire’s games to see many talented young players come through.
Whitaker has witnessed the rise of such as Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow, with Yorkshire boasting an enviable crop of England material from their age-group teams to the first XI
The selectors might be whisking a few more away before winter is out, with batsman Adam Lyth and leg-spinner Adil Rashid among those knocking on the door of the international side.
“It’s good to see so many Yorkshire players coming through as it means I get to watch a lot of Yorkshire cricket,” quipped Whitaker.
“But, in all seriousness, a lot of players have come through in the last four or five years and you suspect there’s going to be two/three/four more coming through in the next year or so.
“When I first started as a selector in ’08-09, I started to hear noises about a young Root, a young Bairstow, and it’s great to see them doing so well. It shows the strength of the Yorkshire Academy, too, and although Yorkshire have got a big catchment area, they are also funnelling it in the right way.”
Whitaker believes Yorkshire’s success owes much to the leadership at all levels of the club.
On the administrative side, chairman Colin Graves and chief executive Mark Arthur form a talented, experienced partnership, while a coaching staff that includes Martyn Moxon, Jason Gillespie and Richard Dawson has been heavily praised.
“A lot of things Yorkshire have achieved start from the top,” said Whitaker. “Right the way down from Colin Graves, whose recruited well, and Mark Arthur, the chief exec, all the way down to Martyn, Dizzy and Richard Dawson, and before that Paul Farbrace, who had a big hand in some of the junior players coming through.
“It’s been a collective effort by everyone, and the players have been well-taught and well-guided.
“Andrew Gale has done a terrific job as captain, which has been a major part of the team doing well.”
Whitaker’s attention will soon turn to the two biggest challenges facing an England team – the World Cup and the Ashes. He is optimistic they can rise to the task.
“I think we can do well,” he said. “When you look down the list of one-day players in isolation, it’s very exciting, and we’ve got a concentrated period of time now for one-day cricket going into the World Cup.
“As for the Ashes, there are always factors – form, fitness, you name it.
“But I think there’ll be a hell of a lot of determination from everyone involved to go get ’em (the Aussies).”