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Some cricketers are born great, others achieve greatness and an unfortunate few have greatness thrust upon them. Len Hutton obviously belongs in the first category, Geoffrey Boycott in the second. Any heir to county cricket's burnish'd throne, the Yorkshire opener's spot, must bear the weight of tradition that comes with the last curse.
Although he has come closer than a good many predecessors to realising a youthful potential which brought unwarranted comparisons with the rich lineage of Yorkshire batsmanship, no one could say Martyn Moxon is a great player. However, the county's captaincy is an office great enough to snap the resolve of anyone ill-prepared for the club's frequent outbreaks of self-flagellation; in that respect he has done the state some service.
If he was not fully versed in the committee-room squabbles which make a Sicilian village resemble a model of harmony, he is now. The three seasons of his captaincy, unsuccessful in terms of winning trophies, have nevertheless steeled him for the years ahead and strengthened his position. Without an obvious challenger in the dressing-room, he will preside over the short to medium-term future of the world's most celebrated competitive cricket club. Detractors have suggested it is a club with a glorious future behind it, but Yorkshire have learned to live with such jibes. Craig McDermott, had he been available as expected, might have made a big difference to their bowling last season. When the Cricket Academy at Bradford gets into a full, productive swing, the committee should have more encouraging matters to discuss.
Despite the arrival of Sachin Tendulkar, in McDermott's stead, the sansculottes proved reluctant to storm Headingley's ramparts. Only a few Yorkshiremen, of the public variety, ripped up their membership cards in protest against the inclusion of an outsider, and flounced off to watch Durham. In common with many more significant amendments of law and common law, Yorkshire's repeal of their non-native policy met with general acquiescence. That self-erected barrier, and the financial crisis which threatened to engulf the club, provided the backdrop to the situation Moxon inherited. Stripped of their exclusive birthright, the modern Yorkshire side is much like Essex or Northamptonshire, only less successful. The longed-for revival has yet to take shape.
MARTYN DOUGLAS MOXON was born in Barnsley on May 4, 1960, two years before Boycott took his first steps as a Yorkshire cricketer. He joined the ranks in June 1981 as Boycott's locum, making 116 on his first-class début against Essex at Headingley (the first Yorkshire batsman for 60 years to do so). Batsmen often have difficulty finding their range and repertoire. This is particularly true of opening batsmen, who must always remember Picasso's maxim, liberty within order. It took Glenn Turner the better part of his career to throw off the shackles and, although Moxon's flowering has been less obvious, he is certainly a freer player now than he was five years ago, even if he gets bowled too often, front leg buckled.
In 1992 he stood apart from his team-mates, as a serious captain should. The dropping of Ashley Metcalfe, his regular opening partner for five years, showed that reputations would no longer take precedence over the team's better interests. After missing four Championship matches with a broken finger, Moxon himself returned to make the business runs that betokened a batsman at the flood of his talent, and he ended the season with 1,385 at 53.26. He made them attractively, excelling in the drives through cover and mid-wicket, but when the call came for an opener to accompany Graham Gooch it went to Michael Atherton. In every era there are batsmen whose ability is more commonly recognised by their peers than by the selectors: in the 1970s it was Trevor Jesty of Hampshire. It must now be uncertain whether anyone, including Moxon himself, will ever know his true measure. In Yorkshire they have watched in stupor as others, less gifted and less constant, have got the nod: at almost 33 he is not ideally placed to resume a Test career that brought ten caps between 1986 and 1989.
Injuries may have played too prominent a part. In 1984 a cracked rib deprived him of an appearance against West Indies at Lord's, delaying his début for two years. In 1991-92 he was due to lead the England A team but broke a thumb in a beer match in Bermuda on the first day of the tour. Even when he seemed well set for a century at Auckland in 1987-88 he joined the 99 Club instead. Overlooked for the senior team the past two winters despite convincing claims on paper, he faces opposition from younger, more favoured players when Gooch retires from Test cricket. Two of the favoured share the same dressing-room. Moxon, to his great credit, greeted Richard Blakey's promotion to the England one-day side, and subsequently to the touring party for India, with kind words, while he had to make do with taking the A team to Australia. It must have been harder to accept the call-up for Paul Jarvis graciously, given the bowler's record of injuries, moods and rebellion. Moxon was eight when Yorkshire won their last Championship. Since then a generation has grown up more familiar with discord than the club's glorious pageant. Whether he likes it or not, the honour invested in his job obliges him, as the club's figurehead, to remind the next generation of that tradition.