#UAE15: Yorkshire make a big impression as we leave Abu Dhabi

In the last of his blogs from Abu Dhabi, cricketbadger.com’s editor James Buttler reflects on the last three weeks following English counties in the UAE…

Our coverage from the UAE is brought to you in association with Honey Badger Cricket – look no further for a top quality cricket bat!

I stand with trepidation on the 1st tee of the Yas Links golf course. I’ve not swung a club in anger for around two years and, despite having played a lot previously, the need to move the ball forward somewhere remotely straight has never felt stronger.

I’m playing with Graham Hardcastle, cricket writer for local papers in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and my seventh trip abroad to cover various counties who choose sunnier countries to hone their games prior to the English domestic season is coming to an end. It’s time to reflect…

A bit like me with driver in hand, the players and coaches in Abu Dhabi over the last three weeks live in hope.

They have the advantage of a full winter’s slog to give their ambitions some foundation. But, in the same way a golfer hitting that first shot may dream that today will be his day, some of the cricketers I’ve been watching in the United Arab Emirates really will be about to embark on the season of their lives. For others it may be a summer to forget.

SAM_0318My trip out here has seen me follow an impressive Derbyshire side for a little over a week, take in matches involving Worcestershire, Sussex, Lancashire, Middlesex and Durham. And finally the Champion County fixture saw a very strong looking Yorkshire see off the MCC inside three days.

A trip like this is never all about the cricket. It’s a chance to meet new friends, a time to develop relationships with those you usually just nod to in corridors, share experiences and create memories.

There is a lot that’s happened in three weeks. And this round of golf is a little treat to round things off.

I will remember a £22 bar bill for a double Glenmorangie – the dry Emirates are certainly not places to develop alcoholism.

Graham Hardcastle and James “Badger” Buttler stand stunned that they made it across the water behind and onto the green!!

The generosity of Derbyshire chairman Chris Grant saw me celebrating his birthday at the Emirates Palace hotel – the second most luxurious in the world. The 62nd floor of a towering building followed where I found myself sipping quality whisky with panoramic views of downtown Abu Dhabi. It was like being inside a poster - a taste of how the other half live.

While alcohol is expensive, taxis are cheap, but you take them on the understanding that 60% of road traffic accidents involve a cab for hire.

After each day of the Champion County match, the supporters bus left within ten minutes of the game ending, the players not far behind, while we in the media tapped match reports and interviews into our computers.

The first evening of the game we were a good thirty minutes behind the rest and called a local taxi firm to ferry us home.

The view from behind the Yorkshire dugout during the Champion County game

A man at the ground then told us the car we’d booked was coming from miles away and he would sort out an executive cab for an extra five Dirham – about a pound. This superior car arrived almost immediately – from a distance the vehicle was rust coloured. Closer inspection showed it was just dilapidated.

The young driver was eager enough, said it would be no problem to get us back to the hotel and then proceeded to drive us to the other end of the ground, where a small group of groundstaff appear to live. He popped in, picked up a driver’s licence – we were not sure it was his – and then we were off.

Living in the west you naturally mistrust anything outside your comfort zone. I didn’t want my final resting place to be a shallow desert grave.

Taxi drivers generally use passengers as their sat navs and relying on Graham Hardcastle in this instance was unwise. This fella finally dropped us back at the hotel forty minutes later than expected after taking the scenic route via level three of an IKEA car park.

SAM_0427I remember watching Jason Gillespie and Alastair Cook talking as they walked around the boundary together and wondering whether this is the new England the ECB are looking for.

I have to say Cook disappointed me. We were the guys that printed his full interview which was skewed a little by journalists back home. From then on he would not talk to the media. Each to their own, but if someone had miscast my views I’d want to set the record straight.

I recall bobbing in the Yas Beach sea and being bombarded by a small tidal wave called Nick Compton who swam past me like Michael Phelps. The bronzed, square jawed former England opener reminds me a lot of a Disney cartoon prince – his hair barely moves in the breeze. It’s just jealousy :)

Chatting to Worcestershire batsman Richard Oliver was fun. He’s a 25-year-old, plucked from club and minor county cricket with a refreshingly raw love of the game and how to play it. I hope his future success doesn’t change that.

It’s never been the results attained in pre-season that are a guide to a team’s future success, but it’s the vibe, work ethic and attitude that speak volumes.

SAM_0102

With Graeme Welch at the helm Derbyshire are in safe and ambitious hands - he did catch this ball.

I’ll give you an honest verdict of the seven counties I’ve seen. The two counties that have impressed me most are Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

It’s no surprise the White Rose county look strong and don’t be fooled by them missing six England players for the first three matches of their Championship defence.

Adam Lyth (main photo) has long been one of my favourite players to watch and I fear I’ll be following his career from now on through a TV screen. I hope England realise the talent he has.

The Tykes have strength in depth and an unerring ability to blood their next youngster who immediately looks like he’s played county cricket for years. Will Rhodes, who enjoyed a three wicket and 61 runs first-class debut, is the next off their endless production line.

Derbyshire are less fashionable, but fashions change and in Graeme Welch, Ant Botha and John Sadler have three coaches who have galvanised their squad and know the direction they want to take them in. With Alex Hughes, Tommy Taylor and Ben Slater leading the ranks of some serious young talent I fully anticipate they will challenge for honours this summer.

SAM_0214

Adam Lyth celebrated his England call as Yorkshire impressed in all formats, winning the Champion County match and collecting the Emirates T20 prize in Dubai

Derbyshire and Lancashire would be my tips for Championship promotion and I liked the look of Worcestershire, but guess they may find Division One survival tough.

The aforementioned Compton is a great signing for Middlesex and they will be top half of Division One.

As they all tee off this season I wish them well and thank them for their time in Abu Dhabi.

My own tee shot found the fairway and I shot an 18-over par 90, which I was rather chuffed with, on a spectacular course that you’d be foolish to ignore if ever in that neck of the woods.

Let that be a lesson to you cricketers out there – like in a Compton-esque movie anything really is possible if you really do believe.

Enjoy your summer ahead!

SAM_0322

James Buttler

James Buttler

James has been working as a cricket journalist and broadcaster since 2006.
As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
He's unsurprisingly a complete cricket badger!
James Buttler

One thought on “#UAE15: Yorkshire make a big impression as we leave Abu Dhabi

  1. Pingback: #UAE15: Yorkshire make a big impression as we leave Abu Dhabi – LUYOL

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