Liam Plunkett has signed a three-year deal with Surrey and will leave Yorkshire at the end of the season after becoming the first casualty of the IPL rivalry to England’s county game
Plunkett’s future at Yorkshire was thrown into question on the eve of the season when he accepted a last-minute offer to go to the IPL as a replacement for the injured South African quick Kagiso Rabada at Delhi Daredevils.
His departure, plus that of his team-mate David Willey, who also won a late deal with Chennai Super Kings, severely weakened Yorkshire in the early part of the season and prompted Martyn Moxon, the county’s director of cricket, to call for a cut-off window for late IPL call-ups.
Willey did sign a new contract at Headingley, but Yorkshire came to the conclusion that Plunkett no longer offered value for money, also taking into account his regular absence with England’s ODI side, and presented white-ball only deals as an inevitable future consequence of divided loyalties.
Surrey have the financial clout to play the longer game, in the anticipation that Plunkett may soon be available more regularly, but even for them, and even considering Plunkett’s exceptionally high level of physical fitness, a three-year deal at 33 for an out-and-out fast bowler represents a calculated risk.
Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket, made light of that, saying: “When a player of Liam’s ability and experience becomes available it makes perfect sense to sign him. Adding him to our squad gives us great options in all formats and we look forward to seeing him playing for Surrey over the coming years.”
“We are trying to assemble a squad that has availability and is within our budget to compete in all three domestic competitions”
Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire director of cricket
Yorkshire’s emphasis, meanwhile, is on developing a group of young pace bowlers with good availability to foster consistency and togetherness.
Moxon said: “We are trying to assemble a squad that has availability and is within our budget to compete in all three domestic competitions. With that in mind we are not in a position to be able to offer Liam a new contract. He has played a big part in our recent success and we obviously thank him for that and wish him well for the future.”
In 2017, Plunkett claimed 36 one-day international wickets in the calendar year, the joint-second best haul in the world behind only Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan. He is ranked No. 20 on the ICC’s list of ODI bowlers.
But 2017 saw him play only 10 times across all three forms for Yorkshire, with injury ruling him out for large parts as well as the regular international commitments. This year could be even more unproductive as he has played only three Royal London Cup matches and one game in the Vitality Blast.
Plunkett, a four-time Specsavers County Championship winner – twice with Durham in 2008 and 2009, and twice with Yorkshire in 2014 and 2015 – was a faltering county pro when Yorkshire took him from Durham, his confidence low and his accuracy awry.
Moxon, who had worked with him at Durham, retained faith in his ability and he rebuilt his career under the tutelage of Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire’s former coach, as he concentrated on fast, aggressive bowling – short or full.
That method should be suited to The Oval’s pitches and Surrey will surely make better use of him than Yorkshire as a dangerous lower-order hitter in T20. That reluctance in a side not overstocked with late-order firepower has been hard to understand.
“It’s disappointing that it has come to an end,” Plunkett said. “Obviously Yorkshire took a chance on me after Durham and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. I feel as though I’ve played some of my best cricket at Yorkshire, including getting myself back in to the England team.
“There comes a time in people’s careers where you don’t get offered a contract. Obviously, Yorkshire want to go in a different direction. I feel like I’ve met some really good people, made some fond memories and won some good trophies for an incredibly passionate club.”