JASON GILLESPIE has hailed Yorkshire’s calmness under pressure as a key reason why they are firmly in the hunt for a league and cup double.
Yorkshire are odds-on to retain the County Championship and are through to the semi-finals of the Royal London Cup.
They have never previously done the league and cup double, and first-team coach Gillespie believes his players’ ability to stay cool is a major driver.
“One thing that has really stood out for me is the lads’ calmness,” said Gillespie.
“We’ve seen it a lot this season, and it’s a really important attribute.
“By focusing on the process instead of the end result – the individual steps we need to take to be successful – it ensures that we don’t panic in difficult situations.
“It’s all about concentrating on the next ball as opposed to worrying about the situation of the match, or the final outcome, and that’s what we’re always drilling into the players.”
Yorkshire’s ability to keep the bigger picture out of their minds was highlighted by their win over Essex in the quarter-final of the Royal London Cup on Thursday.
Yorkshire appeared to be heading out of the competition after crashing from 163-3 to 202-9 at Chelmsford before Liam Plunkett and Matthew Fisher added 50 for the last wicket, Plunkett scoring 49 not out in a match-turning display.
It evoked elements of Yorkshire’s Championship season, with the team having invariably found someone to stand up when required.
Even when Essex were seemingly well-placed at 95-1 in reply inside 19 overs, Yorkshire kept their composure to eventually dismiss their opponents for 232 to record a 20-run win.
“Again that calmness under pressure was really evident,” said Gillespie, whose side take on Gloucestershire in the semi-final at Headingley on Sunday, September 6.
“Liam and Matt Fisher gave us something to bowl at, and I thought the lads showed a lot of what they are about in the field to defend our total.
“When Essex were 95-1, there was just a real calmness about our team and they were just cracking on.
“The body language and energy were excellent, and everyone was putting in a really big effort.”
Gillespie’s comments support the time-honoured maxim that professional sport is played as much in the head as it is on the field.
The former Australia fast bowler acknowledges that Yorkshire still have a number of improvements to make in all competitions, not least in one-day and T20 cricket.
In essence, it seems that the shorter the format, the more improvements that Yorkshire need to make.
They are comfortably the best side in the country in four-day cricket, highly competitive in the 50-over competition, and yet they have never quite cracked the T20 stuff.
“At times, I felt that we did panic a little bit in T20 this season, so we made a concerted effort to address that,” said Gillespie.
“Sometimes, one of our bowlers would be hit for six in T20 and all of a sudden everyone was running around like blue-arsed flies and panicking and not focusing on what they need to do, which is just the process of bowling the ball in the right spot.
“We talked about it a lot after T20 and sowed the seeds for our Royal London campaign.
“The lads were brutally honest in their assessment of T20 and we were brutally honest with them as support staff, and while that mantra of focusing on the steps needed to achieve success has sunk in for a while in Championship cricket, I feel it’s just starting to sink in now in the one-day stuff, resulting in that calmness we saw against Essex.”
In some ways, Yorkshire’s advancement to the last four of the Royal London Cup has crept up on a club attuned to the fact that they are very good at four-day cricket but less so at the one-day game.
However, if Yorkshire beat Gloucestershire on Sunday week, they will achieve their first Lord’s final since 2002, when they won the old Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy.
“We’re far from the finished article in one-day cricket and are a long way off,” said Gillespie.
“However, we are moving in the right direction and that’s really pleasing.
“Gloucestershire are a very good side and it will be a big challenge.
“Richard Dawson and Ian Harvey have done a fantastic job there, and they’re two great guys and two guys I respect greatly, so we’ll look forward to having a tussle with them.
“Once again, it comes down to who can perform well when the pressure is on and stay calm.
“Hopefully that will be us again.
“It would be great to see all the Yorkshire supporters down at Headingley cheering us on and hopefully we can put on a really good show for them.”