YORKSHIRE chief Martyn Moxon believes young batsman Jack Leaning’s mental strength comes from his sporting genes.
Moxon believes the fact that Leaning’s father, Andy, played professional football goes a long way towards explaining why his son is such a strong-minded character.
Leaning junior has carved out a reputation for being a tough customer during his brief career, having broken fully into the Yorkshire first team last summer.
Moxon feels it is no coincidence that the player’s father is Andy Leaning, who kept goal for York City, Sheffield United, Bristol City, Lincoln City and Chesterfield before becoming a goalkeeping coach.
“Jack’s father was a professional footballer, and I think that’s helped him to develop his own strong character,” said director of cricket Moxon.
“That’s obviously been passed through from father to son, that kind of mental toughness and toughness of character, because the determination and desire in Jack is there for all to see.
“Of course, that might have come from Jack’s mother as well, but it certainly comes from his father.
“His father played in the competitive world of professional football and you need to be tough to deal with that.”
Moxon has much admiration for Leaning junior, one of the rising stars of Yorkshire cricket.
The 21-year-old struck his maiden first-class century last month – 116 against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, an innings that helped Yorkshire gain an unlikely first-innings lead of 13 after they had been under the cosh in conceding 428.
Leaning played in 10 of the club’s 16 Championship games last year, scoring 465 runs at 38.75, with a top score of 99 against Sussex at Arundel.
He also showed his versatility with a maiden hundred in List A cricket, striking 111 not out against Essex at Scarborough in the Royal London One-Day Cup, and he topped Yorkshire’s averages in that competition.
“Jack played really well last year,” said Moxon. “And, once again this year, he’s already shown his qualities and he’s looking like a real bonus for us.
“What I particularly like about Jack is that he’s a match player. He’s very much in that mould – he reads the situations of games extremely well – and he’s got that inner steel of a true competitor.”
Born in Bristol and brought up in York, Leaning has developed swiftly since making his first-class debut in unusual circumstances against Surrey at Headingley in 2013.
He joined the match part way through when Gary Ballance left for England duty, and he fell for a second-ball duck in the Yorkshire second innings.
Leaning showed that strength of character, however, by hitting back with an unbeaten half-century in his second Championship outing, against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road last June, and he has steadily gone from strength to strength.
The man himself is pleased with his progress.
“I had a good pre-season and managed to get some runs, and I’ve just tried to take that into the summer,” he said.
“All you can do is try to take your opportunities, particularly with us having such a strong squad.
“It was nice to get the monkey off my back with a first Championship hundred, and, hopefully, I can now get a few more.”
Leaning, who played in Australia last winter with the Sydney-based club Sutherland, was pleased with the tempo of his innings at Trent Bridge.
There is a grittiness about his batting that matches his character, but he is also capable of striking fluency.
Leaning is not the only York-area representative to have made a positive impact at Headingley of late.
Moxon also had praise for Matthew Fisher, the 17-year-old pace bowler who has done a splendid job in the absence of the county’s England players and injury victim Ryan Sidebottom.
“All the young lads who have come into the team in recent times – Jack Leaning, Matthew Fisher, and so on – have done really well,” said Moxon.
“And Fish is another who has shown that he can cope at this level.
“We need to look at his workload carefully – he’s still very young and he’s got his first year A-levels coming up, so he’ll miss a bit of cricket.
“But he bowls decent pace and has the ability to swing the ball both ways and is another talented young player.”