Indian Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara will be a part of Yorkshire team in the upcoming County season © IANS
Indian Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara will be a part of Yorkshire team in the upcoming County season © IANS

London: There was a time when the notion of an Australian coach of Yorkshire getting excited by the arrival of an Indian batsman at Headingley would have been unthinkable. For most of their proud history, the White Rose club — the most successful side in the 125 years of England‘s first-class County Championship with 31 titles — insisted upon selecting only players born in Yorkshire.

But that policy was finally done away with in 1992 when they signed India great Sachin Tendulkar. Now Yorkshire, the reigning county champions, are about to begin the defence of their First Division title away to Worcestershire on Sunday with another India batsman, Cheteshwar Pujara, in a side coached by former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie.

And all that after a move for veteran Pakistan batsman Younis Khan fell through. Pujara, who averages over 57 in first-class cricket. impressed on India’s tour of England last year when the 27-year-old also played for Yorkshire’s cross-border rivals Derbyshire.

“We originally signed Younis, but that felt through. This has worked out perfectly for us, to be honest,” Gillespie said. “Having a young player that really wants to prove himself and improve as a player fits in exactly with how we like our overseas players.”

Meanwhile Pujara said he was happy to be following in the footsteps of compatriots Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh. “When I heard that I was the third Indian cricketer to play for Yorkshire, it was a great feeling and an honour for me,” Pujara explained.

But the expansion of the international calendar and the rise of domestic Twenty20 leagues around the world mean the days of the 1970s and 1980s — when Pakistan batsman Zaheer Abbas (Gloucestershire) or West Indies fast bowler Malcolm Marshall (Hampshire) became synonymous with a county team by playing a whole campaign are long gone.

When Pujara leaves in May, he will be followed in turn by fellow-batsmen Aaron Finch (Australia) and Kane Williamson (New Zealand), with Aussie World Cup-winning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell on Twenty20 duty. Yorkshire’s preference for batsmen can be explained by the fact the top-order trio of Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Joe Root — all currently with England in the West Indies — are likely to miss large sections of the county campaign because of international calls.