IT is commonly held that honesty is the best policy.
You would not find Jason Gillespie disagreeing with that, for the Yorkshire first-team coach believes that his players’ willingness to hold honest heart-to-hearts has been key to their impressive start to the season.
Yorkshire go into tomorrow’s game against Lancashire at Headingley third in the table after two wins and two draws from their opening five matches.
Gillespie believes it is not only what they have done on the field, however, but what they have done verbally behind closed doors that has been responsible for Yorkshire’s positive progress.
When Yorkshire suffered their only Championship defeat to date, against the current leaders Middlesex at Lord’s, there were plenty of glum faces in the visitors’ dressing room.
There were bound to be; Middlesex had just knocked off 472 to complete the third-highest chase in Championship history.
From a match-winning position, Yorkshire had bowled poorly after starting the season well with a draw against Somerset and a victory against Northamptonshire.
It prompted some heartfelt discussions among the team of the type Gillespie and the coaching staff actively encourage.
“We encourage the lads to be completely honest about their individual games and the team as a whole, and the lads don’t shy away from those honest conversations,” he said.
“Our lads are absolutely honest and everything we do on the field stems from that.
“It can be a tough thing to do, to sit down in a dressing room and chat about what’s happened; what can we do to be better, and so on.
“But it’s important to be open and to have those conversations.”
The chinwag at Lord’s paid handsome dividends.
According to Gillespie, the consensus among the squad was that Yorkshire had lost discipline with the ball and paid the price.
They went to Durham for the next match and bowled much better, dominating the champions in a high-scoring draw.
They followed that with victory over Warwickshire in their last Championship outing, when they produced as good a bowling display as any during Gillespie’s two-and-a-bit seasons in charge.
“The lads felt they needed to improve their discipline after Lord’s and we saw signs of an improvement at Durham,” said Gillespie.
“We didn’t quite get over the line there, but we asked the lads if they could improve further and they felt they could be even more disciplined and ruthless.
“That culminated in a fantastic bowling effort by the group against Warwickshire.
“For me, the lads have shown immense character in the way they have bounced back after that Middlesex defeat, and, as coach, you can’t ask for more.”
Gillespie clearly has complete trust in a squad that will be without Tim Bresnan, Joe Root and Gary Ballance this week as the trio are on one-day international duty.
Alex Lees and Ryan Sidebottom – who was rested for the last Championship game – are set to return as Yorkshire take on a Lancashire team who have only won one of their first five matches.
Sidebottom’s absence from the Warwickshire game highlighted Yorkshire’s enviable strength in depth.
Gillespie likes to rest and rotate his pace bowlers, keeping them fresh for the various competitions.
“When you’re in a position where you can rest a legend of the game in Ryan Sidebottom and you’ve still got guys who can come in and do a job for the team, that’s a pretty good place to be as a squad,” he said.
“No one wants to miss out, no one wants to be rested, and Siddy wants to play every game that he can.
“But we saw an opportunity to give him a bit of a rest for the Warwickshire match and he acknowledged it was the best opportunity looking at the programme.
“He’s come back fit, fresh and strong and everyone in the squad knows that what we’re trying to do is in the best interests of the team and each individual.”
Gillespie added: “When you look at it, everyone has chipped in so far this season, which is the sign of a really good team.
“We don’t want to have to rely on one or two players to make all the runs or take all the wickets.
“We know that in Division One there are nine counties all striving to be at the top of the tree and you can’t rely on one or two players to do all the work. It has to be a team game.”
Gillespie is relishing this week’s contest.
It will be his first Championship match against Lancashire as coach.
“It’s the first time I’ve come up against them in a four-day game in my coaching career, so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
“We’ve been in different divisions since I’ve been here at Yorkshire, so it’s something I’m looking forward to personally as well as team-wise.”