Cricket: Tykes take to Richardson's charm: Yorkshire's new recruit from the West Indies wants to hang on to his winning habit. Derek Hodgson reports from Leeds

Click to follow
The Independent Online
OTHER COUNTIES sign overseas professionals; Yorkshire sign television stars. Sachin Tendulkar got the full treatment last year. Yesterday it was Richie Richardson's turn, a press conference before the cameras in Leeds signalling the signing by the West Indies' captain of a pounds 33,000 one- year contract for the Tykes, sponsored by Yorkshire Television.

It is said of all the West Indians returning to their county clubs this weekend, after winning a series in Australia, a short trip to South Africa and then beating Pakistan in the Caribbean, that all they really want now is 10 days on a private beach.

In fact, all those who can stand up will be pitched into a 55-over Benson and Hedges knock-out tie today, that, with some counties, will make or break the season.

Richardson, smiling through tired eyes, faces Curtly Ambrose and Northamptonshire at Headingley today. He was introduced as the world's No 1 batsman, which was his ranking until the computers whirred during his red-eye flight from Antigua, arriving at Gatwick at dawn, promoted Desmond Haynes to No 1, Richie falling to No 4.

He will have flown over the Pennines, where fog reduced visibility to 20 yards in mid-afternoon, and wisely wore a thick blue sweater before donning a white-rose cap and telling his audience: 'I would hope to score 2,000 runs and be part of a team that wins the championship.'

The eyebrows of Yorkshire's president, Sir Lawrence Byford, rose at that point. Richie, who had been introduced as 'not only a great player but also a gentleman,' added: 'What I do for myself is less important than what I do for the team. I have wanted to play county cricket for a long time and one attraction of Yorkshire was that they have a young team who are still developing a winning spirit. My main job is to contribute.' Hardened Tykes, accustomed since birth to an 'owt-for-nowt' philosophy, blanched visibly. One hissed: 'If Boycs could only hear this.'

More questions established that he would bat at No 3 or 4 - 'wherever the captain wants me' - and that he would forsake his famous maroon sun hat for a dark-blue Yorkshire cap. Sir Lawrence intervened: 'Richie rang to say he will be proud to wear the cap (Yorkshire do not permit sun hats or baseball caps). But this is a hard commercial world, and in return we shall market the sun hats.'

In the unlikely event of a broken finger for the captain, it was asked, would Richie take over? Sir Lawrence implied that was a bridge to be arrived at: 'Richie knows we do not have a vice-captain, but the decision on that would have to be taken by Martyn Moxon, who picks the team.'

Furthermore, said Sir Lawrence, with the faintest hint of a superior smile, after 'today's result at Chelmsford there is no guarantee that Richie has a place in the team.' It was Richardson's turn to look startled: 'I hear I may be struggling. What do I do? Buy the committee a drink?'

Steve Oldham, Yorkshire's cricket director, added: 'Much as we all loved Sachin, he wasn't old enough or confident enough to pass on all he knew. Richie has played against the world's best, and his value will be as much in what he says to the lads as the runs he scores.'

(Photograph omitted)