David Willey will captain Yorkshire in the T20 Blast this season, his elevation coming with an admission that he was “burnt out” and “lacking enjoyment” playing cricket last year following his omission from England’s World Cup squad.
Willey had been a regular feature in England’s ODI squads between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, playing 46 times in the format, but after the ECB’s decision to change their availability criteria opened the door for Jofra Archer to feature in the tournament, he found himself squeezed out at the last moment having been named in a provisional squad. He had previously questioned whether picking Archer would be “the right thing”.
And after an underwhelming season following his return to county cricket, Willey said he was feeling “refreshed” and ready for a new challenge with Yorkshire.
“If you are going to lead a team you need to spend some time around the lads,” he said. “This is the first opportunity I’ve had to do that, having spent a winter at home. I think I was burnt out of cricket and probably lacked some enjoyment at the back end of last year. It’s been a really good period for me, I feel refreshed and have had lots of time to work on my game. I’m looking forward to the start of the summer and being here at Yorkshire for the first time in five years.”
Willey’s appointment as captain, as a permanent replacement for seamer Steven Patterson, appears to signal his acceptance that his international career may be over, at least for the time being. The end of Yorkshire’s group campaign clashes with a three-match T20I series against Australia, and while Willey has previously signalled his “ambition and drive” to be part of the T20 World Cup in October, he has been left out of England’s past two T20I squads, with Sam Curran favoured as the left-arm seam-bowling allrounder.
“I put my name forward [for the captaincy] in my appraisal last year,” Willey said. “Over the past four or five years I’ve been in and out with Yorkshire due to England commitments, but having been left out of the World Cup my pathway for this summer has become very clear, which is really exciting. I’m very much looking forward to getting my teeth back in to county cricket and all formats. Part of that will be drawing on my experience in T20 cricket and wanting to lead the team as well as I possibly can.
“The reason I came in four or five years ago now was to try and improve that area at Yorkshire. We’ve got a phenomenal record in red-ball cricket, but for a club of this size, to not have silverware in white-ball cricket is very disappointing. I’ve played T20 cricket all around the world, a World Cup, IPL, Big Bash, I’ve been in Finals Day four times myself, so hopefully I can draw on all of that experience and bring that to the table. We’ve got a brilliant group of players and my job will be to sit in the background and let the lads go about their business and we hope to go a long way.”
The news is something of a blow for Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who led the side in the Blast last season and said last month that captaining Yorkshire was “100 percent” something he wanted to do more often.
“Firstly, I just want to say that Tom did a good job last year,” Andrew Gale, the club’s head coach, said. “[But] I think the time is right for Dave. England is currently out of the picture for him, he’s around a lot more, he’s got a vast amount of experience.
“We went through a process this time, quite a formal process and Dave came out as the right man for the job. He’s excited for the job and we’re excited about the amount of time we’re going to have him available to us.
“I think for a period of time he’s not felt part of anything, having been here, there and everywhere. He probably feels like a proper Yorkshire player having had a full winter. He’s able to be more vocal around the lads because he’s here for the long haul.”
After missing out on the quarter-finals for the past three seasons, Yorkshire appear well-placed to challenge in 2020. They have re-signed Nicholas Pooran, the West Indies batsman, for the majority of the tournament, while Dawid Malan has also been brought in. On top of that, Adil Rashid is likely to sign a new contract in the coming weeks and should be available for the majority of the Blast, and having fallen out of England’s Test side, Jonny Bairstow is likely to play his first game in the competition since 2016.
“For me, it’s about growing throughout the competition,” Willey said. “If we don’t get off to a great start it’s about ensuring it’s not panic stations. Ultimately, you don’t win anything in those first three, four or five games, it’s the back end when you start clicking and growing as a team, playing for each other.”