My team of the decade coincided almost exactly with Adam Waite’s, so it seemed publishing it would be futile. Then I got to thinking about doing a team of the century to be different, but that was a much harder task.
The wealth of talent made it difficult, or should I say almost impossible. The quality of some of the players I have left out is immense, and it is quite embarrassing to make some of these decisions.
However, I have based my selection on what I have seen out there on the grass, and I have shied away from averages that can be misleading.
I have reluctantly excluded some big players who had their best days in the nineties and were not quite the same force in the new century.
There is several of that ilk and it would be tempting to include them hoping nobody notices, but I regard John Carruthers, Ashley Metcalfe, Richard McCarthy and Richard Robinson as candidates for the nineties side, along with Chris Gott, Murphy Walwyn, and Chris Pickles.
So my team is this:
1 Gary Fellows (Hanging heaton, Wrenthorpe & Pudsey St Lawrence)
Gary retired from county cricketer to thrive in league cricket. Unlike some former county players that were perturbed about league wickets, he just got on with it scoring heavy for Pudsey St Lawrence, Wrenthorpe and Hanging Heaton. The times I’ve seen him get the innings off to a flier with some of the most audacious pulls and hooks. In his pomp he was also a useful `little seamer’ who could break difficult partnerships.
2 Mark Robertshaw (Pudsey St Lawrence)
Mark’s an authentic opening batsman who sets his stall out to bat the majority of the overs, and often he does, invariably keeping the ball on the floor. He has that ability to ignore a torrid start when the ball is seaming all over the place, even if he is repeatedly playing and missing. He’ll just weather the storm and make hay later. He is the perfect foil for Gary. His record in the league is probably unsurpassable.
3 Alex Stead (Lightcliffe & Pudsey St Lawrence)
Huge run-getter throughout both decades- he could `dig-in’ or go for the bowler, and had every shot in the book. Remember seeing him get a double ton at Todmorden for Yorkshire 2X1, and I was convinced he’d go on and make a county cricketer. Doesn’t bowl often now, but was an extremely handy seamer who was the perfect `first change’.
4 Tim Orrell (Woodlands, Captain)
In the first decade, Orrell could destroy attacks, and there was no better hooker of the ball from the quicks. Doidgey was a great captain, and it’s harsh excluding him, but Orrell has it for me. I remember when he was one of two close fielders put in when Bricey was on, and he was inches from the bat, and few batters could survive this pressure. He was the catalyst for Woodlands breaking the Congs domination.
5 James Smith (Pudsey St Lawrence)
For most of the two decades he has had the ability to bat the opposition out of the game with ferocious onslaughts. But, he was far from a hitter of cameos- he could bat long to the end of the innings. My fondest memory of him was when he hit a magnificent 125 not out against the Yorkshire League at Elland in 2006. I remember one hapless bowler exclaiming, “He has just `flat-batted’ that ball for six”, as if it was a freak. It was no freak, James always trusted his power!
6 Dan Hodgson (New Farnley & Farsley Wkt)
It is difficult to ignore the claims of Mally Nicholson or Gary Brook, but whenever I have seen this guy he has been flawless behind the stumps. Vital catches no more than an inch or two from the ground, and `takes’ he has no right to make. Quality batsman too- the full package, and probably batting too low here, but he could arrest any collapse.
7 James Middlebrook (New Farnley & Pudsey Congs)
I’ve gone for the young Middlebrook as my off-spinner- at the time when he was just breaking into county cricket, and taking wickets and scoring runs for Congs. Remember seeing him score 154 not out at Scholes (Huddersfield League)in 2001 in the Heavy Woollen Cup for Congs.
8 Ian Austin (Cleckheaton)
Austin delivered at Cleck in spades, and even won the League Batting Averages with his second string talent. For a former county player with a distinguished career it was impressive to see how he `mucked in’ and help to engender a team spirit and ethic during his spell at Moorend. He would be the third seamer in this side.
9 Chris Brice (Woodlands)
He has got to be the best left arm spinner in the league this century, and much of the previous years too. He doesn’t appear to have a containment ball, as he presses for the `killer’ ball in what seems like every delivery. Even when there is very little spin in the wicket, he will get into the batter’s heads, varying his delivery whilst indulging in `jocular’ sound bites. A player one needs in the trenches.
10 Richard McCarthy (Bradford & Bingley)
I had the misconception that Richard was a nineties man with his blistering pace, but then realised the success he had with a more `considered’ style of bowling past 2000. He was so successful that he won the Learie Constantine All Rounders Trophy in 2004 and the W H Foster Jubilee Bowling Averages in 2010. He was a colossus of a cricketer and it is impossible to keep him out, and what a No.10 batter!
11 Jaffer Nazir (East Bierley overseas)
It does seem sacrilege to leave out Sarfraz Ahmed and Naved Rana ul Hassan for this spot, but Nazir edges it for his superior wicket-taking. Despite his languid, smiling disposition he always got amongst the wickets, evidenced by him winning the League Bowling Averages five times with three different clubs. He was no batsman as such, but could win a match down the order with a tremendous hitting ability.
I regret the exclusion of fine cricketers like Chris Taylor, Pieter Swanepoel, Richard Pyrah, John Wood, Mustaq Ahmed, Callum Geldart, Matthew Doidge, Lee Goddard, Neil Gill, Andy Bethel, Glen Roberts, Scott Richardson Snr, Russell Murray, Gary Brook and many more.