Strong Yorkshire, strong England
The presence of six Yorkshire players in England's Test squad will be cause for a justified outpouring of pride
Chests will be thrust out in an unabashed display of cricketing superiority - and why ever not? Six players in an England tour party is just cause for an outpouring of Yorkshire pride even if only Joe Root can be 100% sure of a place in the final XI. And once pride has been fully sated, there's also the chance for a satisfying grumble that Yorkshire will nivver retain the Championship with six of "our lads" missing.
Yorkshire's great onward march is not restricted to cricket, if we are to believe George Osborne's budget speech, in which he claimed the county was creating more jobs than France (not all of them in cricket). A news site rang the French embassy to ask why this should be so, but they were all out at lunch.
In the interests of fairness, it should be recorded at this point that Yorkshire's Championship win in 2014 was their first for 13 years, and that strictly only five were born within the county - Gary Ballance hailing from Zimbabwe and Harrow School. (Middlesbrough, the birthplace of Liam Plunkett, is counted as White Rose territory, incidentally, whatever counter claims Teesside might make).
But the success of the club's academy is there for all to see. It comes only a day after the death of Bob Appleyard, the former Yorkshire and England bowler, who did so much to promote the development of an academy during lean times. At a time when the next generation of England cricketers is not easy to make out, especially in the bowling ranks, the county feels needed again. That can only be good for England cricket.
Not all is plain sailing at Headingley. Yorkshire remain £22m in debt, partly because the ability to talk a good game in the Broad Acres is not always followed up by cash at the turnstiles, especially when England are in town. But Colin Graves, the man who saved Yorkshire from bankruptcy, will feel he is assuming the role of ECB chairman at a propitious time, his right to dispense wisdom on those who would rather look elsewhere fully justified.
The county's strength was also signalled when they fielded seven players on the England Lions tour of South Africa early in the year. Two of those seven missed out in the full squad in the Caribbean: the pace bowler Jack Brooks and top-order batsman Alex Lees. Lees' time will surely come. For the moment at least, Brooks will have to take comfort in his growing Headingley cult status.
Yorkshire's previous Championship triumph, in 2001, also coincided with a heavy influence on the England team. Michael Vaughan, Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard, Craig White and Ryan Sidebottom - who is still around - all played international cricket.
On both occasions, they were coached by an Australian pace bowler: Wayne Clark then, Jason Gillespie now. Yorkshire folk tend to respond favourably to Australian straight-talking and a tendency towards negativity is countered by Australian adventure and optimism. It is the machinations of the ECB that they sometimes find difficulty with, which is what makes Graves' term of office at the ECB, a time when change is in the air, all the more intriguing.
Six of the best
Bairstow travels to the Caribbean as Jos Buttler's wicketkeeping understudy, recalled to an England squad for the first time since the Ashes series in Australia, when the destructive mood encouraged by a 5-0 whitewash contributed to the criticism heaped upon him after he took the gloves from Matt Prior. Why England do not also value his aggression in limited-overs cricket is hard to gauge.
Ballance could hardly have taken to Test cricket more successfully. He averages 60 in his eight Tests, with three hundreds, and ensured that Jonathan Trott's absence was not noticed. But Ballance had a poor World Cup and now Trott returns, his batting spot unstated. Cursed by spellcheck, Ballance has yet to persuade Microsoft Word that he exists but there is still time.
This compact left-hander from Whitby, a veritable outpost in Yorkshire cricket terms, has always possessed shot-making ability. That now comes with the discipline to bat for a long time when needs must. An easy-going lad, and great slipper, Lyth averaged nearly 70 in first-class cricket in 2014. Once had football trials for Manchester City. Gets the vote over Sam Robson, but might face a challenge for an opening spot from Trott.
There are few more uplifting stories in England cricket in recent years than that of Plunkett. There was a time at Durham when his career seemed over, but Yorkshire kept faith and he played four Tests as a shock trooper against Sri Lanka and India with reasonable effectiveness. Benefits primarily from the continued frailties of Steve Finn.
Rashid gets his opportunity because of the absence through injury of Moeen Ali. He is a much more battle-hardened legspinner than when he was picked, prematurely, for the World Twenty20 in England in 2009. Was also in the Test squad for the tour of West Indies that year but did not earn a cap. England should take the chance to find out about him. Full allrounder status these days.
Odd as it seems, Joe Root is the only one of Yorkshire's six who is nailed on for a place in the first Test. In the unlikely event that the other five are left out, the response in Yorkshire will certainly be educational. Root is the darling of the serious Yorkshire cricket fan, extolled for his dedication, cricket brain and determination to make use of every inch of his considerable talent. An England captain in the making.