MARTYN MOXON believes Yorkshire’s hopes of defending their County Championship title could rest heavily on their ability to withstand a testing start to the county season.
The club’s director of cricket admitted that one of the oldest cliches in the book, that “a good start is vital”, could well prove apposite if Yorkshire are to win the league again in 2015.
His comments come after the fixture list handed Yorkshire a difficult beginning, with games against probable title rivals Nottinghamshire (away) and Warwickshire (home) following an opening round trip to promoted Worcestershire.
Yorkshire could be without seven key players for the Worcestershire match due to suspension and England call-ups for the tour to the West Indies in April/May, and six players for the games against Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire.
Andrew Gale, the captain, is banned for the match at Worcestershire – and the preceding Champion County fixture against MCC in Abu Dhabi – following his verbal altercation with Lancashire’s Ashwell Prince at the end of last summer.
Gale will return for the game against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, where Yorkshire clinched the title last season, but England calls could again hit hard for that contest and for the visit of Warwickshire to Headingley in late April.
Moxon is working on the theory that Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Liam Plunkett, Adam Lyth, Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid will all be chosen to go on tour, although Alex Lees and Jack Brooks could also force their way into contention should they impress for England Lions in the coming weeks.
Yorkshire will have their England players back by the time of their fourth match at home to last season’s Division Two champions Hampshire, although it remains to be seen how many would be available with that game starting only five days after the West Indies series ends and 11 days before the start of the home Test series against New Zealand.
It is impossible to predict how many Yorkshire players will be in the full England side next year and how many will remain on the fringe and play county cricket, but Moxon is determined to view the situation in positive terms.
“Clearly, it’s going to be a big hit if we have that many players missing at the start of the season and a big test of our capabilities,” he said.
“It’s important that we get off to a good start if we’re going to back up what we did last year and it won’t be easy by any means.
“Worcester away, first game of the season, will be tough as they’re going to be up for it and they’re going to be fresh.
“Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge is never easy and Warwickshire at home won’t be either as they finished second in the table last summer.
“At the same time, the facts are the facts and there’s no point moaning.
“If we do have that number of players out in the West Indies then, who knows, it might give a young player an opportunity like Jack Leaning last year, a player who came in and took his chance and went on to become an established member of the team.
“I think we have to look at it as an opportunity for other players as opposed to all doom and gloom that we’re going to have several players potentially missing.
“The way the fixtures are it would be a challenging start to any season, but we’re the champions and our challenge is to show why we’re champions and try to repeat it.”
Despite the tough start, Yorkshire will once again be the team to beat and are likely to take some stopping.
Moxon and the coaching staff have built a strong squad with a nice blend of youth and experience, while most counties are affected by England calls to a certain degree.
They are also affected by a fixture list that typically makes Spaghetti Junction look like a deserted country lane.
As ever, the fixtures come thick and fast with some demanding spells travel-wise and precious little time for rest and preparation.
“The schedule is unavoidable and it’s always a challenge,” said Moxon. “Physically and mentally, it’s tough for the players, and there’s not much chance to recover and practise.
“By and large, though, I’m happy with the fixture list, and although there are some busy periods it could have been worse.
“We do have a strong squad and will be trying our utmost to compete on all fronts.”
Yorkshire fixtures: Page 8.