Who can fill Tim Bresnan’s boots at Yorkshire CCC?
Hopes rested awkwardly on the shoulders of various pretenders before Andrew Flintoff answered the cry, with Ben Stokes the most recent incarnation.
Now Yorkshire are searching for the next Tim Bresnan, after the all-rounder called time on his distinguished 19-year association with the county.
Indeed, one of the reasons given for the former England man’s departure was both his and the club’s desire to clear a path for the next generation, players who can potentially follow in his footsteps.
On the face of it, in terms of fulfilling Bresnan’s particular role across the various formats, there are four obvious candidates to step into the shoes of “Brezzy lad”.
These men – albeit as outstanding performers in their own right, as opposed to any like-for-like replacement for the World T20 and double Ashes winner – are Matthew Fisher, Jordan Thompson, Matthew Waite and David Willey.
Willey, of course, is already an established campaigner with a proud track record in white-ball international cricket as a key figure in England’s rise to 50-over world champions.
But Yorkshire also need a Bresnan-type performer in the County Championship, a format in which Willey, 30, has played only 66 times in a career that began in 2009.
“Dave hasn’t played much Championship cricket recently,” said Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket.
“Along with Matthew Fisher and Matthew Waite, he’s not been able to play a full season yet through injuries, so that’s something that we’ve got to hurdle and get such players used to the day-in, day-out rigours of bowling.
“That can only happen by playing, and with Brez leaving it gives them that knowledge that there’s going to be an opportunity for them, which I want them to grasp and show that they’re capable of filling Brez’s shoes.
“They are all capable; obviously Dave’s played international one-day cricket, and if he plays enough (in the Championship) I can only see him getting better.”
Fisher, 22, is perhaps the most mouth-watering prospect.
Injuries have stalled him more than most since he became, in 2013, the youngest cricketer to appear in a competitive county match aged 15 years and 212 days.
Bresnan gave him his own seal of approval by saying: “I think he’s going to be an unbelievable bowler” after Fisher made his Championship debut two years later.
A talented paceman and lower-order batsman, who has long been on England’s radar as one to watch, Fisher needs an extended run at this stage of his career – not to mention more luck with his body.
“Matthew Fisher has already attracted England’s attention, mainly for his bowling, but he’s a very capable batsman as well,” added Moxon.
“I don’t see any reason why he can’t score first-class hundreds in the future and, like Dave, I can only see him getting better.
“Jordan Thompson and Matthew Waite are less experienced than Fisher and also Willey clearly, but, again, the potential is there. They just need games, the experience to find out how good they can be.”
Thompson, 23, first played in the Championship last summer and has featured more in T20 so far.
Fellow all-rounder Waite, 24, has played eight first-class games and 19 in the white-ball formats, and he is one of 12 Yorkshire players out of contract at the end of the season who is hoping to earn a new deal.
Another is Tom Loten, the 21-year-old who made his first-class debut during what remains Yorkshire’s last competitive match exactly nine months ago – against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in the final fixture of 2019.
Loten is one of three players Moxon also identified as having the ability to step up in Bresnan’s absence primarily, at present, as batsmen who bowl (Harry Brook, 21, already a flourishing first-team presence and George Hill, 19, who has yet to play a first-team game but has lately featured for England Under-19s, the others).
Yorkshire are certainly not short of options as Bresnan, 35, exits stage left in the hope of prolonging his career elsewhere following uncertainty over whether he would win a new contract at Headingley himself.
“Tom Loten is a batter who bowls a bit and definitely has potential bowling-wise,” said Moxon. “In a little while, George Hill, who’s a batsman who bowls, will hopefully come through as well.
“Also Harry Brook, possibly, as someone who can bowl a bit, so the potential is there in all these lads as we look to replace Brez and build for the future.
“All are capable of having good first-team careers, and it’s all about giving them that opportunity now.”
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