Yorkshire ready to complete circle as home-grown policy bears fruit

Whisper it gently, but there is a chance the White Rose side could be made up entirely of Yorkshire-born cricketers next summer. Chris Waters reports.

"ANYBODY not born in this great county, no matter who he is, shouldn't be allowed to take the field for Yorkshire."

So proclaimed Fred Trueman in 1990 when Yorkshire relaxed their birthright tradition and allowed non Yorkshire-born players to play for the club.

Trueman's comment highlighted the fierce pride in Yorkshire's long-standing tradition of fielding home-grown players whenever possible.

It is a pride that burns to this day among a Yorkshire fan-base that would be thrilled to see as many home-grown cricketers as possible in the first team.

Two years after Trueman's pronouncement, Yorkshire went a step further and became the last first-class county to admit overseas players.

Sachin Tendulkar, the India batsman, became Yorkshire's first official overseas signing – a move that polarised opinion amid ironic contentions that the Lincolnshire-born Lord Hawke would have turned in his grave.

Since then, many overseas players have represented the club in first-class cricket – ranging from the peerless Australian batsman Darren Lehmann to unsuccessful appointments such as India's Yuvraj Singh and Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq.

By my calculation, one has to go all the way back to 1992, the year of Tendulkar, to find the last time Yorkshire fielded an all Yorkshire-born XI in a Championship match.

In the final game of that season, against Sussex at Hove, the Yorkshire team was: Martyn Moxon, Simon Kellett, Ashley Metcalfe, Craig White, Richard Blakey, David Byas, Paul Jarvis, Phil Carrick, Peter Hartley, Jeremy Batty and Mark Robinson.

Since that fixture, I calculate Yorkshire have only twice fielded a fully Yorkshire-born side in first-class cricket – as distinct from Championship cricket.

Against Cambridge University at Fenner's in 1993, the team was: Moxon, Metcalfe, Kellett, White, Blakey, Byas, Carrick, Darren Gough, Batty, Mark Broadhurst and Stuart Milburn.

And against Loughborough University at Headingley in 2007, the XI was: Andrew Gale, Matthew Wood, Adam Lyth, Richard Pyrah, Chris Gilbert, Simon Guy, David Wainwright, Mark Lawson, Ajmal Shahzad, Steve Patterson, Nick Thornicroft.

Whisper it softly, but there is a chance that Yorkshire could field a fully Yorkshire-born side in a Championship match at least once next summer.

The departure of South African batsman Jacques Rudolph means the only first-team regular born outside the county is fellow South African Gerard Brophy.

However, with Brophy no stranger to injury in his role as a wicketkeeper/batsman, and with Yorkshire adamant they have no money for overseas players this year, there is a distinct chance the Holy Grail of many supporters could again be achieved.

The only potential spanners in the works, in the nicest possible sense, are Gary Ballance, the talented 21-year-old Zimbabwe-born batsman, who will surely get his chance now Rudolph has gone, and Azeem Rafiq, who was born in Pakistan.

Ballance, along with Sheffield-born Joe Root, is the likeliest young batsman knocking on the door as Yorkshire look to improve on their third-place finish in last season's Championship.

Rafiq – he of Twenty20 expulsion and Twitter infamy – is there or thereabouts as an off-spinning all-rounder, via which he hopes to make a more auspicious name for himself.

In addition, the presence of England stars Tim Bresnan and/or Ajmal Shahzad would appear necessary/desirable to balance any Yorkshire-born team chosen for the Championship.

With both presently doing their utmost to carve out a long and successful international career, it remains to be seen how much Yorkshire will see of them in 2011.

However, Martyn Moxon, who captained Yorkshire in that historic match at Hove 19 years ago, admits there is a distinct chance Yorkshire could field an all Yorkshire-born XI at some point next summer.

The county's director of professional cricket said: "We set out a couple of years ago to give our talented young players every chance and it's pleasing to see they've responded working so well. Our challenge is to continue bringing players through while at the same time trying to push for silverware.

"At some point, you have to find out about your young players and challenge them, which is exactly what we're trying to do."

Moxon insists it is more by design than accident that Yorkshire have moved increasingly closer towards an all-Yorkshire XI. "I'm not sure we'd have gone down the route of an overseas player next summer even if we'd had the money," he declared.

"It's complicated by the Bresnan/Shahzad situation in that neither have central contracts, so England aren't paying their wages.

"If those players had central contracts, we might have gone down the overseas route. As it is, we've developed a definite policy of trying to bring our young lads through in any case."

Whitby-born Adam Lyth was Yorkshire's leading run-scorer in first-class cricket with 1,509 at 52.03, while Bradford-born Adil Rashid was leading wicket-taker with 57 at 31.29.

Should Brophy fall injured or lose form, Jonathan Bairstow could take over the gloves and Rashid could push higher up the order to No 6.

On the bowling front, Yorkshire have a veritable profusion of home-grown players.

"Our efforts last season certainly highlighted the success of our Academy system," added Moxon.

He believes Yorkshire's members will get behind anyone who wears the White Rose – providing they do so with pride. "Attitude is a big thing with the Yorkshire members. If they see players giving their all, they will get behind them, whoever they might be.

"But tradition is very important to them and it's something I recognise.

"I certainly believe in the Yorkshire-born principle and, ideally, would love to see a successful Yorkshire-born team."

chris.waters@ypn.co.uk