David Byas, who captained Yorkshire to their first County Championship in 33 years last summer before declaring his career to be over, performed an extraordinary U-turn yesterday by announcing he was reversing his retirement – in order to boost Lancashire's batting order.
The 38-year-old, who had decided to leave the game to concentrate on his other life as a North Yorkshire farmer, admitted he had taken "a little persuading" but sees the prospect as an exciting challenge.
"I was happily retired after a very enjoyable career at Yorkshire culminating in Championship success last season," he said. "I'm looking forward to joining up with the squad and I hope my experience will complement the promising younger players at the club."
Chris Hassell, the Yorkshire chief executive and a former Lancashire secretary himself, wished Byas well, but the development is sure to cause consternation, especially after cryptic comments made by the player during a radio interview yesterday which suggested others may have had a hand in his decision to retire.
Byas said he had "enjoyed my four or five months of retirement, back on my farm". When asked about the circumstances behind leaving Yorkshire, however, he said: "It wasn't really my decision." He added: "I have no wish to go any further into that."
On the face of it, Byas, a Yorkshire player since 1986 who was made captain in 1996, appeared to have choreographed his bowing-out to perfection, having clinched the elusive title on his own home ground in Scarborough, with victory over Glamorgan. But, in a county well used to controversy, there were rumblings that all was not well behind the scenes.
Darren Gough's autobiography, published in June last year, revealed a rift between captain and bowler, the England man admitting the two "often locked horns" and that discussions between them tended to be aggressive. There were rumours he might be asked to stand down as captain.
His recruitment makes perfect sense to Lancashire, who have taken on a gritty, experienced batsman with 14,000 career runs at a time when their resources are depleted. "The retirement of Michael Atherton along with Neil Fairbrother's injury problems have left us looking a little thin," their cricket manager, Mike Watkinson, said.
Lancashire are also likely to be without John Crawley, who is thought to be close to finalising a deal to buy himself out of his contract, having failed in his claim of constructive dismissal against the county, having been removed from the captaincy last summer.
Byas may be facing his former team-mates as early as 6 May, when Lancashire are due at Headingley for a Benson & Hedges Cup match.Reuse content