OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS this summer for Jack Leaning as he aims to rediscover the sort of form that earned him one of English cricket’s most prestigious prizes.
Four years ago, Leaning won the Cricket Writers’ Club Young Cricketer of the Year Award at a glittering ceremony in London.
The then 21-year-old batsman joined a distinguished list of Yorkshire players to have scooped the award including Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and Alex Lees in recent times, along with former greats such as Fred Trueman and Geoffrey Boycott.
Leaning scored 961 first-class runs during that memorable summer from 16 appearances at an average of 38.44, with three hundreds and three half-centuries.
The Bristol-born right-hander, son of former professional goalkeeper Andy, learnt his cricket in York and enjoyed a steady rise through the county’s system.
So far, so good.
The difficulty with achieving success, however, is trying to live up to it and Leaning is hungry to do just that after a trio of subsequently challenging seasons by comparison.
Consequently, this has the air of an important campaign for one of the club’s most versatile batsmen, one capable of playing traditional, patient innings as well as those of the more explosive variety, and it is very much to players such as Leaning that Yorkshire will look to help mastermind a collective upturn in their batting fortunes.
“From a personal point of view I just want to contribute to us winning as many games as I can, whether it be white-ball cricket or red ball, doesn’t matter which,” he said.
“And the same for the team, really, we just want to go in to win every game that we can and push to go on and win all three competitions.”
As you become a more senior player, and in particular a capped player, you are expected to perform and while that might not always happen, as long as you’re contributing in games for the team, that is all you can doYorkshire’s Jack Leaning
Asked whether there is more expectation on him now that he is a senior player, Leaning said: “Definitely. As you become a more senior player, and in particular a capped player, you are expected to perform and while that might not always happen, as long as you’re contributing in games for the team, that is all you can do really.”
Leaning is pleased with the strength of the squad going into the opening Championship game against Notts at Trent Bridge.
There looks to be a nice blend of youth and experience as Yorkshire go in search of their first title since Leaning’s landmark 2015 season.
“Yes, it’s looking really good,” he added.
“The lads who have come in have really pushed hard and are fighting for places and competition for your spot in the team is always a good thing.
“It certainly makes you increase your own performance and makes you work on things.
“The lads are ready and raring to get the season going after a good winter’s preparation, with plenty of training done and a little bit of warm-weather stuff in South Africa, and we just want to get going now.”
Although the Championship is always Yorkshire’s primary focus, they are keen to add some one-day silverware to boot.
It is 17 years since the club last won a limited-overs trophy in the shape of the old Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy in 2002, and although they have been regular semi-finalists/quarter-finalists in the interim, it is a source of frustration that they have been unable to clear that final hurdle.
“Certainly in one-day cricket we’ve come really close before and fallen at the final hurdle a few times,” said Leaning.
“I think every year since I’ve been a pro’ we’ve got through to the knockout stages of the one-day cups so, as a team, it’s something we really want to achieve.
“While we’ve had some success in recent years in red-ball cricket, trying to lift a trophy in the white-ball formats is certainly high on our list of priorities.”