IT was Mark Arthur who put it best.
Reflecting on Jason Gillespie’s impending departure as first-team coach, with the Australian taking charge of Yorkshire for the final time against Middlesex next week, chief executive Arthur said: “I’m sure that Colin Graves and Martyn Moxon must be pinching themselves.
“They appointed him at the end of 2011, and they must be pinching themselves now as to how things have turned around for Yorkshire in Championship cricket.”
Graves, the then Yorkshire chairman and the current England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, along with director of cricket Moxon, put their faith in Gillespie after revamping the coaching set-up following relegation to Division Two.
It was one of the shrewdest decisions in Yorkshire’s history, triggering a run of success not seen for years.
Regardless of what happens against Middlesex, and whether Yorkshire succeed in their quest to give Gillespie the perfect send-off with a hat-trick of titles, the former fast bowler’s influence on the club has been astonishing.
In his first season, Yorkshire won promotion and went unbeaten. In his second, they finished runners-up in Division One. In his third and fourth seasons, they won the title and now hope to do so again.
As Arthur says, it is pinch yourself stuff. Although it has been a true team effort of players and coaches, with everyone playing their part in recent triumphs, Gillespie has done a remarkable job.
In five short years, Yorkshire have gone from a sleeping giant to the strongest force in county cricket, a club consistently challenging for silverware – and winning it too – despite contributing more players to England than any other.
Unless you actually play under Gillespie, unless you have watched him at close quarters on the training field or in the dressing room, it is impossible to know exactly what makes him such a successful coach.
All you can do is observe from a distance, as we do in the media, and as supporters do in the stands, talk to him and listen to other people talk about him.
Eventually, a picture begins to form which, although it can never be completely accurate unless you actually work for someone and know their methods intimately, is nevertheless a good barometer of what makes them special.
My own conclusions, for what they are worth, can be summarised as follows…
Gillespie is brilliant at creating the right environment for players to perform. He encourages them to play with freedom and backs them to the hilt.
As a great player himself, he appreciates that it is players who win games and that support staff are exactly that – there only to support.
His lack of ego as a coach is one of his biggest qualities; he does not demand the centre of attention but peels back from it deliberately, which is by no means true of every sport’s coach.
He is tactically astute, an excellent man-manager, and a highly personable character, albeit with a ruthless streak that the best sportsmen invariably possess and a competitive instinct to match.
He is, as the late Bob Appleyard once astutely pointed out, “a winner”, continuing the winning mentality he learned as a player.
He will be sorely missed, not least by this correspondent, to whom he has been unfailingly helpful.
Yorkshire cricket owes him a big debt of thanks.