LIAM PLUNKETT expects Yorkshire’s long production line of talent to continue producing further success this season.
The England all-rounder is looking to play a significant role for Andrew Gale’s team in all formats during 2018, but is confident the next generation of talent will also continue to thrive at Headingley.
Last year saw fellow pace bowler Ben Coad come to the fore and, while the 24-year-old could not exactly be classed as an overnight sensation, he seized his opportunity to go on and comfortably finish the season as the club’s top bowler in the County Championship with 50 wickets at an average of 20.86.
There will undoubtedly be pressure on Coad to replicate his stunning year with the ball, not least because of Ryan Sidebottom’s retirement from the game – something that would leave a sizeable hole in any side’s bowling line-up.
Coad seems unlikely to let the expectations placed on his shoulders get the better of him this season and Plunkett believes that there will be others who will come to the fore in a similar way in Yorkshire’s first-team over the coming months.
“That’s the good thing about having good squads,” said Plunkett on Yorkshire’s pre-season training camp in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
I also feel like I have got plenty to offer the team in terms of red-ball cricket, I feel like I can help win games for Yorkshire.Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett
“You have a good second team and a good Academy.
“Luckily enough with Yorkshire, for the last four or five years, we’ve done well.
“So people who want to be in that first team need to be at a certain level.
“When you’re netting with senior lads, you step up and get better. That just shows. The lads are stepping up.
“Coady did it last year, and someone else will this year – hopefully a couple will.”
One of those who has already made an early statement of intent for the year ahead is batsman Harry Brook, who earlier this week scored his third century of the year, the two others coming while on England Under-19s duty.
Brook scored an unbeaten 154 in a two-day encounter against Nottinghamshire that saw Plunkett continue his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury with a short spell of substitute fielding.
“People have impressed already on this tour and already put their names in the hat for that first Championship game against Essex,” added Plunkett.
“That’s what you want to do, you want to impress like young Brooky who has put himself right up there. By scoring as many as he did and not getting out he has put himself in a good place.”
As for himself, Plunkett is also hoping to be in the mix when it comes to Gale picking his line-up for the four-day opener against defending champions Essex at Headingley on April 13.
On the international stage, Plunkett is regarded very much as a one-day specialist, his last apearance in Test cricket for England being in 2014.
But the 32-year-old former Durham star is keen to be involved across all three formats for Yorkshire this season as the club looks to bounce back positively from a 2017 campaign which saw them flirt with relegation from Division One of the Championship.
“I love playing white-ball cricket, I love playing it for England and Yorkshire,” added Plunkett.
“But I also feel like I have got plenty to offer the team in terms of red-ball cricket, I feel like I can help win games for Yorkshire.
“You just never know. When you start and you’re maybe getting five-fers and you’re scoring runs and you’re looking a million dollars, you just never know what can happen.
“There might even be that chance to go back and play Test cricket for England if there are injuries.
“I feel like I am in my prime and that I am at my most skilful – more than I’ve ever been. I still love playing the four-day game.”
While his involvement will be kept to a minimum in South Africa, Plunkett was keen to get back alongside his team-mates after spending so long away while on duty with England and during the initial recovery period after picking up his injury.
“You want to be part of the squad, so you want to be out here training and not stuck at home indoors,” he said.
“I feel in a good place. I’ve done as much as I can in terms of strength. I’m still building up and, hopefully, I’ll be flying by the time we get home.”