The retirement of Yorkshire coach Doug Padgett at the end of last season brought to a close a remarkable span of over half a century of active service in cricket for the player who became Yorkshire's youngest debutant in 1951 at the age of 16 years and 321 days.

It was a record which Padgett proudly held for 30 years until he was nudged into second place by Paul Jarvis at the age of 16 years and 75 days, but Padgett remains perhaps the most talented youngster the county has produced.

At the age of 13 he had become the youngest batsman to play in the Bradford League and he was still a few days short of his 16th birthday when he first appeared for Yorkshire Seconds against Northumberland at Thirsk in the Minor Counties competition.

He had the ability throughout his career to execute to perfection every shot in the book and it was this technical expertise which made him an automatic choice to take over as second team captain once his first class career was over and then go on to become club coach.

Such is his modesty that it is difficult prising from him the moments of outstanding personal achievement over a 20-year first team career with Yorkshire which began with that fresh-faced debut against Somerset at Taunton.

The first delivery he received in first class class cricket came from former Yorkshire off-spinner Ellis Robinson who, Padgett still remembers, did NOT give him one to get off the mark!

But Padgett's contribution to Yorkshire cricket can be measured by the yardstick that he played in seven championship-winning sides and his 20,306 first class runs earned him a place in the list of Yorkshire's 12 heaviest scorers of all time.

Only now, however, can it be revealed that Padgett might have gone on to score the bulk of those runs not for Yorkshire but for Leicestershire had the promise of a regular first team place at Grace Road proved greater than his burning ambition to wear the colours of his native county.

"Although I topped 1,000 first class runs for Yorkshire in the wet season of 1956 I was not awarded my cap that year and late in the following summer I was taken to one side by Willie Watson," recalls Padgett.

"He told me that although Yorkshire did not yet know it he was going to Leicestershire as captain in 1958 and he invited me to join him there.

"But I said that although I was grateful for the offer I wanted to give it another year with Yorkshire to see how it would go. I thought that I could play better than some of those who already had a cap and in the end it turned out I was right.

"Besides, at that time I never dreamed of going anywhere else because like other Yorkshire-born youngsters all I wanted to do was to play for my native county. Even after playing my last match in 1971 it never entered my head to go elsewhere, even though I still believed I could have made a contribution at first class level."

Padgett's decision to remain faithful to Yorkshire quickly proved to be a wise one and he capped a golden season 1959 - in which he scored 2,158 runs - by playing a leading part in the sensational win against Sussex at Hove that brought Yorkshire their first outright championship title since 1946.

It was Yorkshire's last championship match of the season and to win it they needed to score 215 in only 105 minutes - which they managed with seven minutes to spare and five wickets in hand.

Bryan Stott (96) and Padgett (79) were the undoubted heroes, thrashing 141 together for the third wicket in little over an hour.

"Winning the championship finally broke the ice and great credit was due to captain Ronnie Burnet for his man management in getting us to play as a unit," said Padgett.

"I travelled to that match in Ronnie's car and it was ages before we were able to leave Brighton for Scarborough and the start of the cricket festival.

"It was the early hours when we eventually got there but I don't remember much about the drive - I was probably fast asleep in the back."

"The Yorkshire team didn't change much for the next ten years and often the only player in the side who had not played Test cricket was Tony Nicholson and he was selected for a tour of South Africa but had to pull out because of injury.

"We thought of ourselves as a team rather than individuals and we came to believe that we could beat anyone. If some of us failed with the bat we knew that others would succeed and it was the same with our bowlers.

"Everyone in the side respected the ability of his colleagues and would hear nothing wrong said about each other. But there was no showing off and if a player came into the dressing room with his England sweater he would soon be told: 'Take that off, you're playing for Yorkshire today'.

"We were labelled a great championship side and were thought to be not too good at one-day cricket, yet we still won the Gillette Cup a couple of times in the 60s and our overall success over a decade or so was quite remarkable."

With Padgett's peak form spilling over into the 1960 season, he made his Test debut against South Africa at Old Trafford and also played in the final Test at The Oval before being named in a young MCC party to tour New Zealand in the winter.

Although Padgett was second top-scorer on the tour he was never included in any of the unofficial Tests and he has often wondered if declining Watson's invitation to join Leicestershire had anything to do with this.

"Willie was vice-captain on the tour and was in charge for much of the time because skipper Dennis Silk sustained an injury," said Padgett.

"On the flight out to New Zealand, Willie came to sit next to me on the plane and he asked me which position I expected to bat in? Each one I suggested, he said someone else looked certain to fill that spot and it seemed strange that I never played in a 'Test' despite scoring a lot of runs.

"Whether I had upset Willie or not by declining his invitation to join Leicestershire I just don't know, but he has never mentioned it since and neither have I."

Padgett hit 29 first class centuries for Yorkshire and completed 1,000 runs in 12 seasons.

His technique was so good that he only once got hit and that was when West Indies pace merchant Charlie Griffith smacked him on the jaw at Middlesbrough in 1963.

"I opened with John Hampshire and he was carried off in the first innings after being struck by Griffith and I was carried off in the second, Phil Sharpe coming in on each occasion as we retired hurt.

"I didn't normally get hit by fast bowlers because I kept my eye on the ball and moved my head away if necessary, but Griffith's trajectory was so low that you just couldn't pick out his quicker ball. I never saw it - and neither did several other batsmen who he pinned that season.

"Don't forget that fast bowlers were a yard-and-a-half closer to you when they delivered in those days because it was the back foot which had to be behind the line and not the front foot."

With the legendary Arthur 'Ticker' Mitchell due to retire as Yorkshire's coach at the end of 1971, Padgett was invited to take over the job and also replace Bob Platt as second team captain.

"I accepted on both counts and I was assured that I would still play in the first team when it was felt necessary because of Test calls and injuries," said Padgett.

"Geoff Boycott was captain then and he often pushed for me to be included in the team but cricket chairman John Temple would not have it for some reason.

"It was very disappointing because I still felt I had a couple of years of first team cricket in me and could have helped during a transitional period."

Padgett was in charge of the second team until the end of the 1979 season, when his recommendation that Colin Johnson should take over as captain was accepted, and for the past two decades he has continued to be mentor, coach, guide and friend to all of Yorkshire's up-and-coming players.

Fifty years of close involvement with Yorkshire have just flown by for Padgett who says: "Time has gone so quickly because I have always done what I wanted to do and that has been to work in professional cricket. It has been a great privilege and I have enjoyed it immensely."

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