Shan Masood looking forward to a “clean slate” for Yorkshire CCC in 2024
The surroundings, of course, will help to lift the mood, with North Marine Road a well-known restorative, and they say that the weather is going to perk up as well.
But after three years of off-field problems by no means resolved, amid suggestions that Headingley cricket ground may have to be sold to guarantee Yorkshire CCC’s survival (but for how long?), the pall of gloom is not difficult to perceive.
On the field, where Yorkshire have won just twice in the competition in almost two years, including against next week’s winless opponents at Chesterfield in June, hopes of a late promotion push were crushed by the points deduction brought about by the racism saga, which sent the club crashing to the foot of Division Two.
Small wonder that Shan Masood, the Yorkshire captain, is looking forward to coming back next year when, as he puts it, and with no pun intended, the club can start again from a “clean slate” - an expression which, for some reason, sends a shiver down the spine.
For Masood, for whom Derbyshire’s visit will hopefully serve as a personal restorative, given that his only Championship performance of note this year came in that reverse fixture at Chesterfield, where he hit 67 and 95 not out in a three-wicket win, 2024 is when he feels he can really stamp his authority as captain.
This year, after all the uncertainty around the points deduction, the threat of which had hung over Yorkshire for well over a year, like the wait on death row, his first campaign has ended up being more of a reconnaissance mission than a productive raid on coveted silverware.
The Pakistani has gained some useful insights if not the promotion on which he’d set his heart.
“When I was coming here, promotion was one of the biggest things on my mind,” said Masood, who joined following a magnificent campaign for Derbyshire last year when he averaged 60.
“I think Yorkshire’s a First Division club, always has been, and we shouldn’t expect any less than that.
“I signed for two years because I want to have as much time to sort of stamp what I’m like, and I’ve made it very clear that I’d like us to be an attractive side to watch.
“Ultimately, I’d like people, not just in Yorkshire but around the country and who follow the game, to look at this side and be like, ‘Wow, we really like watching this team play and how they go about their business.’
“Instantly, that’s not always possible. You have a fair assessment, you give everyone a fair chance, and then you see where you can improve as a side, where you can improve in terms of your composition, in terms of roles, and then hopefully when we come back again next year we start from a clean slate.
“Hopefully, everyone starts from zero points and that’s when you can really stamp your authority in terms of the way you want to play.”
Masood, 33, has never shied from personal responsibility in a difficult summer.
He is frustrated that he has not been able to convert a succession of starts into sizeable scores and heads into the final month still seeking his first hundred for Yorkshire; last year, he hit three for Derbyshire, two of which were doubles, plus 12 fifties.
Following Yorkshire’s last game, when he contributed his highest score for the club (96 against Middlesex at Radlett in the One-Day Cup), Masood said he actually felt he was batting better than last year.
Now he hopes that a little Scarborough sea air, allied to the visit of a county for which he either seems to score runs or score runs against, will help him to lead from the front on the North Yorkshire coast.
“It will be my first Championship game at Scarborough, and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“I’ve played an U19 Test match there, and also a one-day game there recently, and it will be interesting against my former county, of course.
“For us, it’s all about starting the month on the offensive, getting a result and then hopefully cracking on for the three games after that. We’d like some really polished finishes in our last four matches.”
After Scarborough, Yorkshire round off with games against Glamorgan at Cardiff (September 10-13), Leicestershire at Grace Road (September 19-22) and Worcestershire at Headingley (September 26-29).
Ottis Gibson, the club’s head coach, has set his side the imaginary target of seeing whether they would have won promotion without the points deductions (as it stands, they would have been 36 points off the second and final promotion place instead of 84), and although Yorkshire have won only one match in 2023, better luck with the weather might have seen them convert some of their seven draws into positive outcomes.
“We’d like to drill in a few things in these last four games, and I think that, in four-day cricket, we have been playing good cricket,” added Masood.
“A lot of the time, the weather hasn’t been on our side, and we could have had a lot of good results if the weather had been kinder.”