Martyn Moxon: Lions calls penalise England player production

I’m currently one of several county coaches who find themselves very frustrated and aggrieved by the England Lions situation.

Injuries had already made things very difficult for my Yorkshire team in the recent Roses match at Liverpool without the fact that we lost two players to the Lions for their game against Sri Lanka at Derby.

I’m talking about the principle of the matter – it is not a case of sour grapes because Lancashire didn’t lose any players. If they continue to do well their players will be looked at and they might lose a couple for the next Lions game when they are trying to win the County Championship.

It’s a very difficult situation. I can see the value in Lions games for the selectors and I realise if we send them on tour in the winter we have to reciprocate when other countries come here. But it’s unfair on county teams to lose players for very important and competitive matches. In an ideal world, Lions matches should take place when there are no county games, but that can’t happen with the current fixture list.

We accept that we lose our England players for Test matches and I’m delighted for them to represent their country. That’s what it’s about, but with Lions calls as well we are being penalised for trying to produce England cricketers.

Apart from Jonny Bairstow and Ajmal Shahzad, who played against Sri Lanka, we had Adam Lyth, Andrew Gale and Adil Rashid away with the Lions until just before our domestic season started.

Lyth is struggling to repeat last season’s form and Rashid is a bit up and down. At the moment I don’t think it’s anything to do with playing too much cricket, but long-term I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for all of them.

I haven’t had any complaints about how my players have been handled by the ECB since Rashid went away two winters ago and hardly played. We came to an agreement that he needed to play and develop his skills. I’ve had a good working relationship with Geoff Miller and found him helpful.

Traditionally, Yorkshire have been a county who have developed their own home-grown players and we’re trying to do that now. Joe Root, to give the latest example, has come in this season after just turning 20 and I’m very excited about his potential. He has adapted well to first-class cricket and looks the part. He’s a top order batsman, but he’s also a useful off-spin bowler and good fielder.

Gerard Brophy was in the team until he was injured, then Gary Ballance, who was born in Zimbabwe, came in. Otherwise the whole team are Yorkshire-born. We are trying to invest in our own players and are really driven by that, although there are also financial considerations in not having any overseas players.

I know other counties like Warwickshire and Lancashire have all the costs associated with ground development and still find money for Mohammad Yousuf or Farveez Maharoof, but we would prefer to stick to our underlying principle.

Having said that, we do want to be successful, so at the end of the season we might have to decide if enough of our players are going to be good enough and whether we can continue to go it alone.

It was very frustrating not to win anything last season, when we went so close in two competitions. But it was very pleasing that we played good cricket throughout the summer and I was delighted with the overall effort.

We’ve had more frustration since winning our first match at Worcester this season. It’s been a case of missed opportunities, particularly when we lost to Nottinghamshire after having a big first innings lead. Then we couldn’t quite finish off Hampshire at Headingley, when we lost half a day to rain.

At Liverpool we lost an important toss but then fought really hard to stay in the game and if we had batted for two or three more overs they wouldn’t have had time to knock off the runs. They got them in the last over – that’s how close it was and it shows how fine the line can be between success and failure.

Our missed opportunities, indeed, mean we are in the bottom three when it could have been the top three. That’s how close Division One is, which is why it is so frustrating to lose players to the Lions.

*Martyn Moxon, the former England batsman, is Yorkshire’s director of professional cricket

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One Response to Martyn Moxon: Lions calls penalise England player production

  1. Craig Burley says:

    A very fair comment Martyn. If the ECB were to restrict itself to one player per county for domestic Lions games, would that be fairer or better?

    Allied to that, if the ECB had said “we want to take two, but if you insist we’ll only take one” would you have insisted that Jonny or Ajmal play in the Roses match instead?

    Obviously a number of counties pride themselves on producing England players (I am thinking of Middlesex, who I support, as an example… those players are just about all we’ve had to celebrate these last few years!) and I wonder if restricting Lions selections to one per county wouldn’t frustrate just as many counties as it pleases.