Yorkshire is the very beating heart of England, a vast and untamed landscape that touches the hearts of so many that visit or set root there. With the modern setting of the fastest growing urban landscapes to the west, and the fascinatingly wild coastline to the east, tradition, heritage and progression unite in symbolism of everything British today. Nestled against the Leeds skyline, Headingley has seen a famous tradition of cricketing brilliance, although one that has not seen them parading the County Championship trophy since Darren Gough inspired scenes in 2001; too long a wait for such a fine cricketing county.
The winds of change are blowing above Yorkshire though, with a quiet, steady, and very British revolution occurring. As if a gradual breeze from the moors, growing in confidence and verve, a new ideology is taking hold in Headingley dressing rooms, and board rooms. In the age of the Kolpak player, a rule not only taken advantage of but squeezed the life out of by the likes of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, Yorkshire are building a side of absolutely huge potential, a side that has been together for years, a side that has come through the ranks and a side that will all be challenging for current and future England selection, a generation of British talent fighting for Yorkshire and England honours.
Joe Sayers is a classic English opening batsman. At his best when all around him is failing, and the wickets are tumbling, Sayers is a solid, gritty and patient player. Coming into prominence in Yorkshire?s 2007 season, Sayers hit two big centuries of 149 and 187, both showing huge patience with a run every other ball strike rates. Capitalising on a good start, Sayers hit 1000 runs in 2008, and seemed on the path to greatness after calls to England performance squads and the like, but poor years this and last with illness, injury and poor form have seen his average slip to a not particularly impressive 33.79 in first class games. Undoubtedly Sayers has the ability and the mentality to kick on and be a potent and stabilizing force at the top of the Yorkshire lineup, and 2011 will offer the Leeds born player a chance to return to the scoring charts. Sayers is one of Yorkshire?s contingent of English born players, and although coming to his peak and unlikely to gain national honours, he has a vital role to play in helping along some of the younger talent at the county.
Joe Root is set to be the latest of the Yorkshire second team to progress and make an impact at first team level. Yorkshire fans and pundits alike continue to liken Root to former Headingley hero, Michael Vaughan, with his batting ability and part time off breaks leaving something of a familiar silhouette. 2009 and 2010 brought with them scores of runs for the Yorkshire second XI. Joe is a promising and prodigiously talented batsman likely to be more involved in first team duties in 2011.
Like Sayers, Andrew Gale is a man you might not expect to find in an appraisal of the young English talent coming through the ranks at Yorkshire. However, whilst he?s been around for a few years now, Gale has a vital role in helping to bring through this talented generation, particularly as Captain of the side. Not only this, but Gale is a fine example of the sort of player Yorkshire are now breeding, with their peaks ahead of them, and International honours on the horizon
Adam Lyth is a hot tip from many people, experts and fans alike, to be the next major young star to break into the England team. Along with the likes of James Hildreth, who is realizing years of obvious potential, Lyth topped the scoring charts in 2010, and was a talismanic figure for Yorkshire. Geoffrey Boycott, a harsh critic much of the time, has suggested that Lyth should be considered a long term replacement for England?s outgoing batsman Paul Collingwood.
Jonathan Bairstow had a fantastic 2010. A man who had scored a multitude of runs through the Yorkshire set up, he has graduated into the first team through the last couple of years. Defensively minded, gritty and a solid batsmen, Bairstow has excellent technique, and the added ability to keep wicket to a good standard. Bairstow is very much a potential England player in the making, and just one more example of the British revolution occurring at Yorkshire C.C.C at the moment.
Few readers will need to hear an in depth appraisal of Tim Bresnan. Currently a fundamentally important part of England?s set up in all three forms of the game, Bresnan is one of a few characters who are marked as having the potential to fill the much sought after all rounder role that England currently miss. Bresnan is a good batsman, with genuine pedigree and potential, but is not yet of the standard that would be needed for such a role. Despite this, Bresnan already has the bowling ability to justify selection in the first team. Many were critical of Bresnan to a degree before the Ashes of this year, including myself, suggesting that he was not quite good enough a batsman or a bowler to be considered, but coming in to replace the young Steve Finn in Australia, Bresnan proved himself to be a dangerous swing bowler with test match wicket taking ability. If Bresnan has any time with Yorkshire during the county season he will be a valuable asset, and can only learn more from playing with Ryan Sidebottom in 2011.
Ajmal Shazhad, similarly to Bresnan, has recently found himself heavily involved in the England first team schedule. Despite not yet pushing his way into the Test side, Shazhad seems to have been genuinely considered, and his apparent mastery of the elusive reverse swing leaves him a definite potential replacement in a role that has been missing since the break down of Simon Jones. Like Bresnan, Shazhad also has the potential to blossom into a genuine all rounder, with potential batting ability clear from his first class record. It seems that Shazhad is being integrated in the England set up with an eye on the future, and it would be no surprise to see him break into the Test lineup in the coming years.
Adil Rashid seems to have been around for a great number of years now, the first player of Asian heritage to appear for Yorkshire, Rashid is a talented young leg spinner and a more than capable batsman, in line with many of the other bowlers Yorkshire are producing. It is perhaps unfortunate for Rashid that Graeme Swann has had such a storming couple of years, as further months of Monty Panesar not quite fulfilling his potential may have led to Rashid?s involvement in the England first team. Rashid is a player of huge talent, and huge potential, and England need to think seriously about involving him in a positive way, not just as a net bowler, in order for him to progress into the International leg spinning all rounder that he can be.
David Wainright is just another of the talented batting/bowling British talents that Yorkshire are currently producing. A slow left arm bowler, with good batting pedigree, Wainright has had significant ups and downs in form in recent years, but it is doubtless that he has the talent to become at least a good spinning all rounder in county cricket, and with a host of England call ups potentially decimating the Yorkshire lineup, this is no mean attribute.
Azeem Rafiq was the captain of England?s highly talented U19 squad, and as a young off spinner, is already being thought of as a potential national team player in the future. Still very young, Rafiq has been increasingly involved in first team affairs, but will be looking for a continued role in the side in 2011.
Oliver Hannon-Dolby has become a player of genuine potential for Yorkshire over the last couple of years, a tall, strapping bowler, who hits the deck hard and generates pace and bounce, Hannon-Dolby will be looking to represent his native Yorkshire with increasing regularity through 2011. Already being taken notice of as one of the young bowlers with National side potential, if he keeps improving, performance and training squads will come calling, and his physique and potential will not go unnoticed.
The future at Yorkshire is bright, the future is British, and the future is massively talented. 2011 will likely see a forthright title assault by the white rose county, and come the end of the season, I would be far from surprised to see the County Championship trophy resting at Headingley. This Yorkshire side is a legacy not just for the county, but for a progressive, lively and successful national side in years to come.