Headingley opens the gates on a challenging new era

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The Independent Online

Yorkshire struggled to keep recent history under lock and key as they officially opened the new Sir Leonard Hutton Gates yesterday on the eve of the Headingley Test.

The club were at pains to stress the meeting of past, present and future as they tried to put the controversy over the gates' design and the decision as to who would open the new West Stand behind them.

After dissension in the ranks of illustrious former players, including Fred Trueman and Geoff Boycott, it was hastily agreed that the club president Robin Smith would open the stand rather than the former Prime Minister John Major.

The president also introduced Sir Leonard's son Richard Hutton at the unveiling of the gates, whose design – depicting Asian women watching the great man in action – caused concern in Yorkshire.

Smith, presiding over the ceremony in the company of guests including England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Lord MacLaurin, said: "Yorkshire have played cricket here for over a century, and as you can see from our immediate surroundings here Headingley is still batting and on course for its second century."

The president was presented with a cheque for £2.9m from Sport England, whom he thanked along with the ECB and Leeds City Council for their support in the ongoing transformation of the home of Yorkshire cricket into "a world-class cricket ground".

Smith endorsed the gates' design. "The gates were planned by the Yorkshire committee as a tribute to a great player and a great man," he said. "By setting Sir Leonard's deeds in the continuum of Headingley as one of the world's leading international grounds, the objective has been achieved."

Dickie Bird, the former Yorkshire and Leicestershire batsman turned umpire, said: "Len was a fantastic friend of mine, and the controversy surrounding this is a shame.

"Asians are a part of Leeds and a part of cricket. Asian cricketers are the future and need to be encouraged."

Bird's former Yorkshire team-mate Ray Illingworth said: "After all the controversy I thought the president did the opening ceremony very well."

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