Will Young Foxes Take the Bait? or, Warwickshire Swoop For Taylor

(This chicken breast has now been took by the fox, as we say in these parts, but I’m sure it would take more than that to lure any of our young cubs away from the club that nurtured them … not so sure about Samit Patel …) 

Leicestershire v Northamptonshire, Grace Road, County Championship, Day 2, 20 June 2011

I suppose this is the second Monday running that I’ve watched a match unaware of the news breaking around the ground.  Last week at Luton, I didn’t realise that the News of the World had (quite wrongly) alleged that local hero Monty Panesar had been arrested for having an argument with his wife in a car park (they do seem to be pursuing less ambitious stories these days).

Today I arrived at this Championship match – marooned in a sea of 20/20 – prepared to stop and take stock at the mid-point of the season, indeed the turning point of the year, and muse as to why Northamptonshire are currently top of Division 2 and Leicestershire bottom, when I wouldn’t have said, at the start of the season – and I’m not sure I’d say now – that they are a better side.  But that will have to wait for another day (or, perhaps, on past form, indefinitely).

What I didn’t know this time was that the Telegraph had run a story claiming that Warwickshire have offered to buy out the rest of James Taylor’s contract, which ends at the end of next season.  The reason given for the move was that he would stand a better chance of being picked for England if he were playing for a First Division side.  

It doesn’t take a genius to predict that this was coming (in fact, almost as soon as he  made his debut, I feared that he would soon be following Broad to Notts – see here).

I also noted that, in last  month’s Cricketer, in the course of an advertorial feature for Jaguar cars, Stuart Broad commented –

“There’s a big difference in quality between the two divisions; statistics in the First Division are taken more seriously … Someone like James Taylor will be dying to get into Division One” (by joining Nottinghamshire, presumably)   

and, in this month’s, Taylor himself is quoted as saying –

“The next step is to learn how to combat the bowlers at the next level because, if I want to play for England, I will be facing genuinely quick stuff and quality spin”. 

(Many have insinuated that Ashley Giles’s position as both Director of Cricket at Warwickshire and part-time England selector leave him ideally placed  to whisper ideas like this into ambitious young players’ ears).

I am doubtful about the logic of this (well, I would be, wouldn’t I?). 

An obvious retort would be that, if Taylor wants to play in the First Division, then he ought to concentrate on helping Leicestershire to get promoted.  This would be monstrously unfair, as he has been doing precisely that for the last two years (at times  almost single-handedly), but he would feel a bit silly if, having transferred to Warwicks, they were then relegated and Leicestershire promoted (and what would he do then?  try to get transferred back again?).

My feeling is that the  idea that Division One is on another level to Division Two is largely wishful thinking, on the part of those who would like to see a smaller, more concentrated Championship (and Leicestershire and Northants consigned to the Minor Counties).  Is he really any more likely to face “serious pace” in Division 1 than against Tremlett, Finn and Dernbach in Division 2? Hasn’t Tremlett just revitalised his career by moving in the opposite direction?  (And Steyn aside, is he even likely to come up against “serious pace” in Test Cricket?).  

I should have suspected something was up when Taylor took to the field without his usual Leicestershire cap (perhaps Hoggard had thrown it out the window), or when, fielding at short leg, he was nearly decapitated and Hoggard bawled “Catch it Taylor“.  When cricketers resort to surnames rather than nicknames, it’s a sure sign that something is amiss.

Another vignette.  A group of young players were on their way back from the nets, and, watching the match from the stands,  appeared excited about something.  At the time, I’d assumed that this was the appearance of a young lady who rather resembled the young Deborah Harry (the kind of thing that normally excites the attention of young cricketers), though, in retrospect, it was probably the turmoil in the dressing room, when one of them was accosted by a couple of sharks (and not the cuddly kind you get at Sussex).  They were interested to know how he felt about being left out of the side, having just played a spectacular innings in a T20 match, and whether he’d be interested in them managing him.  This is a 21-year-old – certainly talented – but with a patchy first class record.  To his credit, he was at least  non-committal about the proposal.

But you can sniff  the scent of blood that had attracted them.  Taylor had been quoted in the Telegraph as earning £90,000 a year, and 10 per cent of that is not to be sniffed at.  If their diffident prey could repeat his feat against Derbyshire a few times, he might look forward to being put up for auction for the IPL (in spite of his plaintive plea  “I don’t just want to play one day cricket” …).  And so would they.

There are straws to be clutched at.  Taylor’s entry in the Cricketers’ Who’s Who states that his recreations are “hunting, fishing and shooting“, and he should get more of that if he stays in Melton than if he moves to Birmingham.  In footballing parlance, Tough-talking Foxes’ boss Whitticase has rapped his wantaway starlet and told him You’re Going Nowhere!  But we shall see.

During the course of the day, Northants reached 371-9 dec. in reply to Leicestershire’s 168.  The next day, when, mercifully, I wasn’t there, Leicestershire were bowled out for 48, losing by an innings and 155  runs.  Taylor was bowled for a duck.

To complete the melancholy scene, a first leaf of Autumn landed beside me on the memorial benches in front of the scoreboard –

Mind you, have I told you about Shiv Thakor?  Now, there is a promising young player …

6 thoughts on “Will Young Foxes Take the Bait? or, Warwickshire Swoop For Taylor

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the true figure. I suppose Leicestershire’s thinking was that if they offered him the same kind of money that he’d be getting at a richer club he’d have no purely financial incentive to leave. Though it looks as though Giles, Broad et al. have convinced him that he has other reasons to do so.

  1. Hello Backwatersman,
    I know nothing about cricket but if it’s any consolation the leaves are turning brown and falling of the trees around our way also. It’s only mid-June. What’s going on?

    • Hi Rab

      I’m afraid this blog is very preoccupied with cricket at the moment – there should be less of it when the Autumn comes, which seems to be … er now.

      I guess it’s because April and May were so dry, but I’m not generally optimistic about the way the climate’s going.

  2. I enjoy reading about cricket, even though I know next to nothing about. It reminds of when I used to walk passed the Northamptonshire cricket ground on my way to work… and then there was the kids that used to play cricket in the park across from my office. It all seemed so quintessentially English. It was lovely. God, I miss it.

  3. I’m glad you enjoy it – I suspect a lot of people see the word “cricket” and, as it were, immediately switch over to the other side. There is a lot of good writing about cricket out there that connects it to stuff that doesn’t have much to do with the technicalities of hitting balls with bats, and I think it is one of the more attractive aspects of Englishness (God knows, there are plenty of unattractive ones).

    I didn’t know you had connections with Northampton – was that something to do with the University there?

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