Yorkshire CCC - Leaving The Past Behind

Chris PotterCorrespondent IJune 28, 2008

Yorkshire Cricket has struggled for many years now to come out of the dusty shadows left lingering behind by the greats that have graced Headingley over the past decades - Wilfred Rhodes, Herbert Sutcliffe, Freddy Trueman, Brian Close and the like.  

The county's 2001 County Championship triumph - which was quickly forgotten following their relegation the following season - has been the only moment of triumph to saviour for those long-suffering die-hard 'Yorkies'. 

The White Rose has at the moment of blossoming been spiked by a thorn all too often. This thorn has largely taken the shape of in- quarrelling and financial hardship.

Nevertheless, the next few summers should see the White Rose in all of its blooming splendour.

What has changed? Why is their cause for optimism? Why is this optimism of a different, more substantial nature to that felt before?

Firstly, the club is moving forward financially. The nonsensical nostalgia has subsided and been replaced with efficient management and a reasonable vision of the future. 

The £30 million acquisition and re-development of Headingley Carnegie - a ground which is now under sustainable joint management with the rugby club and which will fulfil a more multi-functional and versatile role in the local and national social, academic and sporting communities - is paramount to the success of the cricket side.

Membership numbers have also risen significantly thanks largely to a freeze in season ticket prices and the acute Mynahs Club, a youth scheme which welcomes local youngsters into the game through numerous offers and schemes that represent excellent long and short-term value. 

Financial stability is now a real prospect for the club's administrators.

Much of the praise must be directed towards Stewart Reagan, the club's chief executive. The 43-year old former director of the Football League Championship has not only overseen the changes to Yorkshire CCC's spiritual home but is also a big reason for the recent overhaul of the playing and coaching staff and resources.

He ensured, for instance, that Yorkshire came out of a very challenging and uncertain off-season in 2006-07 which saw Chris Adams turn his back on the position of captain, key batsman Anthony McGrath threaten to leave and promising youngster Michael Lumb sign for Hampshire.

Just when Yorkshire fans had all but lost any hope of progress and achievement, Reagan pulled off three huge coups in quick succession.

Firstly, he appointed Durham's promising coach Martyn Moxon as head cricket coach. Secondly, he persuaded Barnsley-born England legend Darren Gough to return to his boyhood club as captain. Thirdly - and somewhat controversially - he signed up South African international batsman Jacques Rudolph as a Kolpak player.

A hugely encouraging yet ultimately, in the circumstances, disappointing season culminated in a respectable 6th-placed finish despite the team having lead the championship into April. 

Perhaps the most important and exciting discovery was not the team's spirit and resolve but the emergence of spin sensation Adil Rashid (pictured) who took more than 40 wickets with his leg spinners and averaged upwards of 30 with the bat at 7.

This season, the team has consolidated these foudations with some impressive bowling displays and whilst Adil Rashid has disappointed with the ball and Joe Sayers is hopelessly out of form, other youngsters such as Tim Bresnan, all-rounder Richard Pyrah and opening batsman Andrew Gale have made a name for themselves.

17-year old spinner Azeem Rafiq has recently made his first-team debut in a crunch Twenty20 group match which saw Yorkshire Carnegie progress to the last eight.

He, along with Rashid and fiery seamer Ajmal Shazhad, is one of many talented young cricketers of an Asian background who represent the best hope of the county winning back its reputation as England's leading cricket team. 

In fact, Darren Gough is so impressed with the young bowlers that are coming through the ranks that he has (with 3 months of the current season remaining) already announced his retirement from the game.

While the club only has two centrally-contracted on its books at the moment, you can reasonably expect there to be many more Yorkshire players competing on the international stage in the near future.

I for one hope that the old adage 'A strong Yorkshire makes for a strong England' is not without truth.