There will be a mass exodus from Headingley this winter with no fewer than 22 players heading south to play cricket and continue their preparation ahead of the 2014 season.
It is an operation fully endorsed by the management team and with a pre-season tour also in the final stages of planning, no stone is being left unturned as Yorkshire look to improve on their efforts from their most recent campaign.
Alongside our four England internationals – Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan and Joe Root – we have Kane Williamson away with New Zealand in their home series against West Indies. Williamson, who has starred with the bat in the last Test Match again West Indies, scoring 56 and 58 in his two innings, will be with Yorkshire for the majority of the 2014 campaign as our overseas star.
In the New Year wicketkeeper Dan Hodgson (below left) will be joining Mount Waverley Cricket Club based in East Melbourne. Mount play in the Victoria Suburban District Cricket Association – a league below the Victoria Premier League. Ahead of the Christmas break, they are currently bottom of the league and Hodgson could be the man to make an impact and give them some impetus during the second half of the season.
In addition to Gale and Hodgson, Azeem Rafiq (below right) will also play in Melbourne turning out for Dandenong West from late January. After a season of disappointment with injury and loss of form, Rafiq is eager to start the 2014 campaign in good spirits. A stint in the pressure cooker environment of Australian league cricket will benefit the 22-year-old offbreak bowler. Dandenong West plays in the Dandenong & District Cricket Association. They are currently ranked sixth at the halfway stage.
Finally, we have a number of players who will be representing their country at various levels over the next few months. Opener Alex Lees will team up with Bairstow on the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka next month.
Five players have been selected to represent England under 19s at the forthcoming World Cup. They are Karl Carver, Matthew Fisher, Will Rhodes, Josh Shaw and Jonathan Tattersall.
Yorkshire’s production line continues with the England Development Programme at under 17s level with two players invited to an elite training camp at Easter in Sri Lanka – Moin Hussain and Jared Warner.
Over the next few months, we will be keeping you up-to-date with the exploits of our players as they fly the white rose across the World.
“We fully back the lads heading south for the winter,” said Director of Cricket Martyn Moxon.
“Every winter we encourage lads to go and play cricket in the Southern hemisphere. It is ideal preparation for the new season. Nothing beats playing on grass pitches, in good conditions against quality players.
“You can do all the training in the world in the gym, which is important, but you can’t replicate match conditions in the indoor nets.
“The players will also gain life experiences. Grade cricket in Australia, in particular, is a hard environment and very competitive. Most weeks you are coming up against First-class players from the domestic competition and when they have a free weekend you will get Test players playing. Also, being English out there is also another challenge the lads will face. They’ll be plenty of banter on the field.”
In Western Australia, opening bowler Jack Brooks left English soil last week and will join up with Western Australian Grade side Willetton Dragons. This will be Brooks’s second spell at the Club. It is one of the most prosperous Grade Clubs in Perth and was home, for a short while, to England captain Alistair Cook. Australian all-rounder Brad Hogg is also a member of the current squad. At the Christmas break, the Dragons are in a good position – fourth in the table – and aiming to reach a Grand Final for the first time since 2010.
“I love this part of the world,” said Brooks. “This is the second time I’ve been out here. I was a member of the club nine years ago. My claim to fame was that I played the same season with Alistair Cook. Albeit he was in the first team and I was in and out of second and third grade.
“It is a great lifestyle in Perth. The weather is fantastic and to be honest I’d rather be here working on my skills than slogging my guts out in the wet and cold of an English winter.”
Moving onto South Africa and promising young seamer James Wainman will be using his stay in Johannesburg to gain full fitness ahead of English summer. Wainman has struggled with a back injury over the past couple of seasons will be playing for one of the most prestigious clubs in South Africa – Wanderers Cricket Club.