Ben Coad is quick to signal Yorkshire's intentions in 2019
BEN COAD believes it is 'frightening' what a young Yorkshire side could eventually achieve after signing a new contract at the club.
The 24-year-old pace bowler has penned a two-year extension that will keep him at Emerald Headingley until the end of 2021.
Coad is the spearhead of a much-changed bowling attack following the departures of Jack Brooks, Liam Plunkett and Ryan Sidebottom during the past 15 months.
In their stead, Yorkshire have recruited pace man Mat Pillans and leg-spinner Josh Poysden, while they have been linked with the potential Kolpak capture of South African fast bowler Duanne Olivier.
The batting, too, has a fresh-faced look, with Alex Lees having left and with new talents emerging such as Harry Brook, the former England Under-19 captain.
Yorkshire are in a state of self-announced transition, with first-team coach Andrew Gale estimating that it could take up to three years for the side to become genuine County Championship title contenders once more, as the club seek to get back to the heady heights of 2014-2015 when they won back-to-back titles under Gale’s captaincy.
Coad promises to be a highly influential figure in that process, along with fellow young pace bowler Matty Fisher.
Although Coad does not entirely rule out a title tilt next year, he believes that the future looks bright for an inexperienced squad hungry to improve.
“As long as we stick together as a group and no one leaves, I think there’s going to be exciting times coming,” he said.
“If we get a bit more experience under our belts in Division One, I think in a few years’ time, with the lads that are coming through, it will be frightening what we can do.
“It’s going to be tough to win silverware next year with the inexperience we’ve got, but we’ve got a very talented squad and I think that we could win any game on our day, so I don’t see why we couldn’t win titles.
“As long as we perform on those days, I can’t see us not doing well, but we’re a developing team and we need to be realistic.”
While Yorkshire are keen to manage expectations, having flirted with the wrong end of Division One in the past two seasons, there is the sense of a squad determined to surprise a few people and silence any doubters.
Although Coad perhaps did not have too many of those himself going into last season, having taken 50 Championship wickets in his breakthrough summer of 2017, he was anxious to prove that he could back up his success, harvesting another 48 Championship wickets from three fewer appearances.
“It felt like last year was a really big year to prove that I could do it again and not be like a one-year wonder,” he said.
“I’ve always believed in myself and my ability; I believed I was ready before my first year, it was just very tough with the attack we had to get an opportunity.
“I’m glad that I proved some people wrong who said that there was pressure and who perhaps thought I wouldn’t be able to back it up in the second year.
“I did have an injury, which made me miss all the T20 stuff, so I’d like to make a bit of a mark in white-ball cricket next year as well as in red-ball.”
Voted Yorkshire’s Players’ Player of the Year for the second time in succession, Coad has been tipped by some observers for international honours.
He feels that he needs to keep improving to stand a chance of that, although he disagrees that his pace (around the low 80s mph) could count against him.
“I am trying to put on a bit of extra pace this winter to make me a better bowler overall, but I personally disagree that this sort of pace doesn’t work in Test cricket,” he said.
“If you look at the likes of Vernon Philander, for example, stats-wise he’s up there with the best in the world.
“I feel that my skills are at a high level now; I can always improve them a little bit, but I think a bit more pace would just make me a better bowler – it would make anyone a better bowler.
“But I don’t think rapid pace is necessarily the key to Test cricket; skill is the most important thing, and although a lot of people say you have to be 90mph to play (international cricket), the fact is not many people are 90mph, especially in England.”
In his younger days Coad was a bowler who tied up an end, kept things tight and was not especially rapid.
His pace increased when he was encouraged to run in with greater purpose and to hit the pitch harder, which goes some way to explaining his recent rise.
“A few years ago I was only about low 70s,” he reflected. “But I’ve got it up to the low 80s now.
“If I can get a consistency of low-to-mid 80s that’s high enough, in my view, while trying to do a bit of everything with the ball.
“But I have to keep improving to stand any chance of moving on up (to international level).”
For now Coad’s sights are firmly concentrated on Yorkshire. He had no hesitation in signing his new deal.
“I’ve always wanted to play for Yorkshire,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted from a very young age.
“It’s the biggest club in the world, probably, and a great place to be with the mates I’ve grown up with.
“It’s the only place I want to play.”