Yorkshire CCC have the players to contend on all fronts in 2022
While we await the outcome of the England and Wales Cricket Board investigation into the racism affair, which may or may not lead to disciplinary action of that sort, we can only assess Yorkshire’s chances at face value and in expectation of a level playing field.
Suffice to say – all things being equal – they should do well on all fronts.
It is certainly high time that the club won something – or at least challenged very strongly – seven years after their last silverware and, quite staggeringly, 20 years since their last limited-overs trophy or, indeed, any appearance in a one-day final.
Some of the current squad were not even born when the club won the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy against Somerset at Lord’s in 2002 (why, you may have the highlights somewhere on an old VHS tape).
The 50-Over Cup is now a lottery, of course, given the fixture clash with The Hundred which takes away most of the top players. It is, in effect, a development competition – a glorified second XI event that gives young players experience.
Yorkshire have a strong team on paper for T20 cricket – and a particularly explosive batting department that can thrill and excite.
The club would be disappointed indeed not to reach Finals Day – the minimum requirement, you feel, given that they have signed quality overseas stars in Haris Rauf, Shadhab Khan and Finn Allen.
Despite the growing significance of white-ball, however, it is the Championship that still means most to the club and its supporters, the Championship that is the ultimate benchmark of a successful campaign.
Yorkshire are by no means favourites to win their first pennant since 2015; in fact, they come a long way down the betting with most bookmakers.
But, with the likes of Dawid Malan available from the start of the season, overseas pace bowler Rauf and, fingers crossed, a bit of Joe Root to come, Yorkshire can potentially surprise a few people and slip under the radar to challenge for the crown.
The key, as ever, is likely to be their batting.
For some time now, Yorkshire have struggled with the bat in four-day cricket and lacked the consistency to achieve success.
Last season, for example, eight of their 13 first-innings scores in the Championship were under 250, five of which were less than 200 and therefore resulted in no batting points.
Titles are not won with such statistics so more consistency is needed from the top-order – a good one, on paper, even accounting for the absence of Gary Ballance owing to the fallout of the racism affair.
Ballance is clearly a big miss presently, and let us hope that we see him back in action sooner rather than later.
Malan, to some extent, offsets Ballance’s unavailability while the club has another outstanding ‘leftie’, it should be remembered, in the form of Adam Lyth, who is still going strong in his 35th year.
Harry Brook has now had a taste of international cricket having featured in a T20 game in the West Indies this winter, with Test cricket surely on his radar too.
A big season from Brook, or even a big few weeks in the next couple of months, could catapult the 23-year-old into that Test-match picture.
Rauf, the 28-year-old Pakistani, has made his name in white-ball cricket and played only four first-class games, but he has the pace and penetration to make a real difference to Yorkshire first up as they negotiate six Championship matches before the T20 Blast, starting with today’s opening encounter against Gloucestershire in Bristol.
According to Brook, his team-mate at Lahore Qalandars in the recent Pakistan Super League competition, Rauf is a character, a joker in the pack.
Yorkshire could certainly do with a few laughs – as well as a few good results – following easily the worst winter in any club’s history.
It promises to be a big season for off-spinner Dom Bess and all-rounder Jordan Thompson, who have the talent to contribute with bat and ball, as well as Harry Duke, the 20-year-old who made a favourable impact in first-class cricket last year.
Ben Coad and Matty Fisher are quality pace men (how they deserve some better luck with injuries) and captain Steve Patterson remains a wily campaigner: consistent, reliable and a level-headed leader.
George Hill is a young all-rounder of whom much is expected after some promising performances last year, while Will Fraine and, once he has recovered from a concussion problem, Tom Kohler-Cadmore are explosive batsmen of proven ability. Space precludes each member of the squad an individual eulogy, but there is plenty of young talent coming through the ranks and reason to suppose that Yorkshire can thrive.
Of course, we have been here before in recent years, with pre-season optimism not quite translating into on-field results.
But Yorkshire have a strong squad, a squad bonded by the hurt of the past few months and the departures of so many friends and mentors, nothing to lose and everything to gain.