Whitaker returns as an eager native

THE WEEK AHEAD

David Byas is not the only Yorkshire-born captain who believes he is leading a side capable of winning the County Championship.

The other is James Whitaker, an exile throughout his professional career, who will not lack motivation when he arrives with his Leicestershire troops at the Park Avenue ground in Bradford tomorrow.

When he agreed last winter to take over from Nigel Briers, the match against Yorkshire was the first he wanted to find in the season's programme. Born in Skipton, Whitaker, 34, recalls frequent trips to the Leeds nets as a precociously talented teenager, encouraged by his father, head of the family's speciality chocolates business, who had no sweeter dream than to see his son defending the county's honour at Headingley.

Unfortunately for Whitaker senior, the boy's talents were not appreciated until he was installed at Uppingham School and making an impression on Leicestershire. He was recommended unhesitatingly to them by their former player Maurice Hallam, who was Uppingham's cricket master.

Divided loyalties can be discounted. Indeed, should he do something memorable over the next few days it would not be the first time he has been inspired to do so in opposition.

In the autumn of 1993, pressed into service by an injury to Briers, he had the good fortune to lead Leicestershire against Yorkshire. Not only was he moved to score his first Championship century for two years, he also plotted a 74-run victory.

He has no doubt he has a side equipped to unseat his native county. "We have a well-balanced team with bags of ability and a great spirit," he said. "If you look at our record over the last few seasons we have always been among the leading sides and we are good enough to challenge for the title."

Tomorrow, Leicestershire must manage without Alan Mullally, one of the architects of that 1993 victory, and face a Yorkshire side full of confidence after defeating Warwickshire at Headingley to stretch their Championship lead to 14 points. In their current mood, Michael Bevan, Michael Vaughan and Tony McGrath could take some containing, while Darren Gough is rediscovering his form at just the right time - not quite ready for England and eager to fire for his county.

For their part, the Midlands side need to restore their self-belief after being mauled twice by Surrey, in the Championship and the Sunday League, in which they were bowled out for 48.

Elsewhere, Kent, whose hopes of keeping Yorkshire within touching distance were frustrated by a resurgent Middlesex at Canterbury, will not win points easily at Warwickshire, who can be expected to react to their second Championship defeat of the season with renewed vigour.

It has taken only a small blip in the champions' normally steady upward graph to bring the individual quality of their players - as opposed to their team - into question. In the past, nothing has motivated them more.

A fascinating encounter is in prospect at Derby, where the home side, forcefully led by Dean Jones and with Devon Malcolm coming out of his understandable slump, begin two points behind third-placed Middlesex.

As a first success, Surrey's defeat of Leicestershire was overdue. They lose Chris Lewis, Graham Thorpe and Alec Stewart but will hope to build on the gain against struggling Durham at Stockton, where they might also give their Sunday League prospects a lift before concentrating on a match with a touch of Euro 96 about it, against the Netherlands in the NatWest Trophy on Tuesday.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
news
Life & Style
tech
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Arts & Entertainment
film
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal