YORKSHIRE have defended their decision to sign New Zealand Test spinner Ajaz Patel and have backed him to bounce back from a nightmare start as their overseas player.
Patel endured a disastrous debut against Kent at Emerald Headingley last week as Yorkshire crashed to the heaviest defeat in their 156-year history.
Patel returned first innings figures of 15-0-119-1 and a second innings analysis of 20-0-112-1 as Yorkshire were thrashed by 433 runs.
It was the fourth-largest defeat by a runs margin in the 129-year history of the County Championship, the heaviest being Leicestershire’s 483-run reverse to Surrey at The Oval in 2002.
Yorkshire signed Patel for the Kent game and for the final match of the season against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, starting today, at a time when they were third in the table and still outside contenders to win the title.
But two successive defeats have seen them drop to fifth, eight points behind fourth-placed Kent and 10 behind third-placed Hampshire, who meet at Canterbury.
I think we need more competition for places, to try and recruit one or two batsmen, and we’re working hard on that. That should create competition to push the guys in the team who have got the shirt to push them to be better and not just be happy averaging 30 or whatever.Andrew Gale
“I know people will question why we brought Ajaz in but, without him, we wouldn’t have had a spinner,” said first-team coach Andrew Gale. “Jack Shutt is injured along with our other main spinners, and we wanted someone to replace our previous overseas spinner, Keshav Maharaj.
“Following someone like Keshav is tough, because he did brilliantly well for us, and I felt a bit sorry for Ajaz because the periods when he bowled it was backs-to-the-wall and he never had a time where he could settle in. Ajaz had a poor debut, he’ll admit that himself for a Test spinner, but although things didn’t go well for him, hopefully at Edgbaston he’ll get it right.”
Gale believes it would be a mistake to go to Warwickshire without a spin bowling option with the hosts likely to rely heavily on their own New Zealand spinner, Jeetan Patel.
Although it is a “dead game”, as it were, with Warwickshire one place and 32 points behind Yorkshire, it is an important one for the visitors as they seek to end strongly.
“We’re going to Edgbaston where they will have a world-class spinner on display and we’d be stupid if we didn’t have a spinner as well,” said Gale. “Ajaz will play there, for sure, and he’ll be better for the Kent game, when there would have been some nerves and pressure there as well which overseas players have sometimes struggled with in the past.
“I think people would probably agree that our recruitment this year has been pretty good on the whole, and Ajaz is more than capable of doing well. We want to sign off on a high and get a positive result.”
The two straight defeats have taken the gloss off Yorkshire’s Championship season, which had previously brought five wins, four draws and two defeats, but Gale believes they have made strides this year in red-ball cricket.
“I do feel we’ve made progress this season,” he said. “My message from the outset was to find out about our own players, and I think we’ve found out some really good stuff and, in other areas, we’ve been found wanting. I just don’t want this last few weeks to take the gloss off everything.
“People forget that two weeks ago we were talking about winning the Championship, whereas this time last year we just avoided relegation. That is progress, but we are still work-in-progress as a team.”
Yorkshire have stated their intention to strengthen their batting and spin bowling departments during the winter, which Gale believes can help drive up standards.
He added that there is plenty of technical work to do with some existing players.
“Coming out of the T20, I think there’s been some technical things there with a few batsmen,” he said. “Some of the shot selection has been poor and there’s work to do with one or two individuals, some of whom are still learning the game.
“Secondly, I think we need more competition for places, to try and recruit one or two batsmen, and we’re working hard on that. That should create competition to push the guys in the team who have got the shirt to push them to be better and not just be happy averaging 30 or whatever. Instead, go and average 40, average 45, be willing to invest that time in the middle.
“We need to get more match-winning hundreds, in particular, and to get back to posting sizeable totals.
“You look at someone like Kent’s Sam Billings (who hit two hundreds in the match at Headingley).
“He invested time, backed his defence and worked really hard, and he ended up making match-winning contributions.”
Yorkshire have named Tom Loten, the 20-year-old York-born batsman, in a 13-man squad in which there is no place for former England all-rounder Tim Bresnan.
Loten made his only first-team appearance earlier this year in the Royal London Cup against Durham at Headingley. However, he did not bat in a rain-ruined match.