Yorkshire CCC: Short-term overseas policy not delivering at Headingley

THERE are several contenders for the most ineffective overseas signings in Yorkshire’s history –Imran Tahir, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Greg Blewett, to name but three.

Unless he does something significant in Yorkshire’s next game, against Hampshire in Scarborough next week, assuming that he is selected, Shannon Gabriel would have to be included in that number sadly.

To say that the West Indies fast bowler has been a disappointment so far would be an understatement as big as his build. In his two County Championship appearances (the four-wicket defeat to Surrey at Scarborough last week, and the game against Somerset in Taunton that yesterday ended in a watery draw), Gabriel has returned a combined bowling analysis of 45.4-4-222-5, sent down 28 no-balls, scored seven runs in three innings and misfielded badly on a couple of occasions.

There are mitigating factors.

West Indian pace bowler Shannon Gabriel has struggled to make an impact during his short time at Yorkshire, a county who have a poor record when it comes to short-term overseas recruits at Headingley. Picture: Harry Trump/Getty Images

He has come in from the cold to a new club, a new environment, and he has been struggling with a sore hip after falling on the ball while fielding on the boundary at Scarborough last week, while perhaps there are other considerations in terms of his body that we do not know about.

But for a man with 83 international caps and 197 international wickets, including 161 at Test level, you would expect something a little bit better for your buck than Gabriel has delivered, the no-balls, in particular, a dispiriting problem and hardly helpful when one considers that Yorkshire were docked two points at Scarborough for a slow over-rate.

In truth, Gabriel’s ineffectiveness continues a long-running trend, which goes back several years to a varying degree. There has been a succession of short-term overseas “flops”, signings which rarely, if ever, seem to work and leave one wondering: why did the club bother?

This year, Haris Rauf did alright in his four Championship games (15 wickets at 31.53) and four wickets in four T20s with an economy rate of 7.92, but they were hardly the sort of figures to pull up trees (we’re not exactly talking about Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis).

But Rauf was still the best of a mostly mediocre bunch, proving for the umpeenth time that the so-called big names are no guarantee of quality or success.

Shahdab Khan was another colossal disapppointment.

Signed amid great fanfare, he took nine wickets in 12 T20 games, leaked at just under nine an over and scored 134 runs in 11 innings. Shahab actually got better towards the end of the competition, looking more like the player that Yorkshire thought they had signed, but overall his impact was negligible, the outlay, ostensibly, a waste of time.

Ditto Finn Allen, if not quite to the same extent.

The New Zealander helped the club get off to some fast starts (his strike-rate of 179 was the best of Yorkshire’s frontline batsmen), but a sum total of 190 runs in nine innings (average 21.11, highest score 48) tells you everything you need to know – yet another short-term overseas signing which, if it did not quite fail, did not succeed either.

Dominic Drakes, another West Indies pace bowler, was arguably the best of Yorkshire’s T20 overseas crop, taking 10 wickets in five games, although he made no impact on his solitary Championship outing.

Dimuth Karunaratne, the Sri Lanka captain, was another who struggled, scoring 89 runs in four Championship innings at the start of the season.

To be fair to such players, who have to hit the ground running, is it really a surprise that those drafted in for the odd game here or there so often fail to do so?

Why do Yorkshire keep ploughing this furrow?

Injuries this year, especially to the bowlers, have left them short of numbers, which has to be considered, but the policy is well-established and its success warrants scrutiny; at what point does the club determine that these necessarily transient arrangements are more trouble and expensive than they’re worth?

No one can fault Yorkshire’s ambition or ability to attract the big-name players.

They made a transparently great attempt to win the T20 for the first time, dovetailing four overseas signings and basically throwing the kitchen sink at it.

But it was their existing group of players who were more 
impressive, in some cases showing the overseas players how to do it rather than the other way round.

Put it this way, who would you rather have had bowling that key last over of the T20 quarter-final against Surrey, “death specialist” Rauf or Jordan Thompson?

It would be no more than a toss-up between the two men at best.

Likewise, which opening batsman would you deem more likely to score runs consistently in T20, Allen or Adam Lyth? It would be difficult to advance a case for Allen.

One can think of other overseas players in recent years who have struggled at Yorkshire – Ajaz Patel, Kraigg Brathwaite, Jeet Raval, Sarfaraz Ahmed, the list goes on, while others, such as Che Pujara and Peter Handscomb, have largely underwhelmed.

Poor Gabriel is simply the latest in a long line of short-term recruits who have so far failed to justify the hype, expectation and financial outlay, the strategy apparently not working and arguably going from bad to worse.