DAVID WILLEY insists that he will not be following his Yorkshire and England team-mate Adil Rashid down the white-ball only route as he outlined his desire to help the club win the County Championship.
There had been speculation that Willey, 28, could join the ranks of those players choosing to confine their skills to one-day and T20 cricket, with Rashid and Notts’s Alex Hales having recently opted to go down that path.
But as he approaches the peak of a career characterised by some splendid performances in the white-ball arena, Willey is keen to prove that he is a man for all formats by taking a giant step forward in red-ball too.
This year, he will be available for 12 of Yorkshire’s 14 Championship games along with international colleague Liam Plunkett, who is equally determined to shine in the red-ball format, in what represents a significant boost to Yorkshire as they pursue a third Championship in five years.
“Speculation about me playing just white-ball cricket was a load of rubbish really,” said Willey, son of former England batsman Peter.
“I can rule that out, and I moved up here a couple of years ago to improve my red-ball game but, unfortunately, due to injuries and availability, I haven’t played that much.
“For me, it’s quite exciting to be available for that many Championship games, and the important thing is that I’ve had a bit of a build-up this year rather than just coming in cold off white-ball cricket.
“Having not played much red-ball cricket over the past few seasons, that’s been very good for me and I can’t wait to get going.
“Hopefully, after that good build-up, I can make some contributions and help us towards some silverware.”
Willey, speaking at Yorkshire’s annual pre-season media day at Headingley yesterday, continued: “I want to try and win the County Championship with Yorkshire and, hopefully, that can happen this year.
Having not played much red-ball cricket over the past few seasons, that’s been very good for me and I can’t wait to get going.David Willey
“It’s a long, hard season, the Championship, but we’ve got a good, strong squad and that’s what you need to win titles.
“Players are bound to pick up niggles along the way, so it’s important to have a good depth of bowling and, if they’re all fit, there’s going to be some selection headaches for Galey (coach Andrew Gale), which will be a welcome headache, I’m sure.”
Willey, who sympathises with those who are following the white-ball path in an increasingly congested fixture list, has helped to transform England’s white-ball fortunes.
The former Northants man epitomises the sort of three-dimensional player that has given England enviable strength in depth as they build towards next year’s World Cup on home soil.
Having played only 64 first-class matches since making his debut nine years ago, however, the all-rounder accepts that Test cricket might now have passed him by.
But he hopes to figure in next year’s World Cup, having played another three one-day internationals this winter to lift his total of caps in that format to 34, while his T20 skills speak for themselves in the form of probing left-arm pace, powerful, clean hitting and spectacular fielding.
“If I’m completely honest, because of my age and the amount of four-day cricket I’ve played, I think Test cricket is a long way off for me, although I’m not ruling it out,” he added.
“For me, I’d like to win the County Championship and, if Test cricket comes along on the way, great; it would be brilliant to follow in my dad’s footsteps and represent England in the Test format as well.
“But those ambitions are not at the forefront of my mind right now, and my focus is on doing well for Yorkshire.
“I’d love to play a part in the World Cup next year, and I felt like I actually bowled quite nicely in the one-dayers this winter, so hopefully I can be involved.”
No one who has watched England’s one-day cricket recently can fail to have been impressed by the way they have gone about their work.
But what is it like to have been part of that white-ball revolution?
“It’s been brilliant,” said Willey. “All the talk is about playing aggressive, positive cricket and always taking the positive option, and we’re reaping the rewards of that.
“Sometimes it’s not going to work, but you’re going to win more games than you lose and I don’t think we’ve ever had more match-winners.
“That’s the beauty of it. When you’ve got a team full of those you can go out and play positively and know that if just one guy comes off, you win the game.”
Willey’s enthusiasm is infectious, his determination palpable. All he wants now is some decent weather so that he and the players can hit the ground running.
Yesterday’s media session took place in the East Stand net area as sleet and rain poured down outside.
Yorkshire are crossing their fingers that things clear up in time for their three-day curtain-raiser at home to Leeds-Bradford MCCU, starting on Saturday.