Being denied the County Championship title last year has ensured director of cricket Martyn Moxon has returned more determined than ever to succeed, as he outlines to Chris Waters.
YORKSHIRE lost only two County Championship matches last year and played some of their best cricket since the Silver Sixties.
But they only finished second in the table.
Durham pipped them to the title on the back of their victory over Yorkshire at Scarborough in August.
It was proof, were any needed, that the Championship is a marathon rather than a sprint and how difficult it is to land the prize.
The equation for director of cricket Martyn Moxon and his staff this year is evident.
How to find the extra few per cent necessary to go the full distance?
Yorkshire won seven Championship fixtures last year and very often destroyed their opponents.
But they effectively paid the price for two poor games – the one against Durham at Scarborough, and the defeat against Sussex at Headingley in their opening match.
“Last year highlighted just how hard it is to win the Championship,” reflected Moxon.
“The lads played some brilliant stuff for most of the year but it was just two games that cost us dear.
“The lesson is really just ensuring that we stay focused for every ball this season, every session.
“If your mindset is slightly off in a couple of games, or you’re not quite on it, that’s all it takes to make the difference.”
As ever, a good start is vital.
Yorkshire did not make one last time, losing by an innings and 12 runs to Sussex, and it ultimately came back to bite them along with the Durham game.
“We lost to Sussex and then we were also poor in the first half of our next match up at Durham before fighting back to win that one,” said Moxon.
“The important thing is that we learn from what happened and concentrate on starting really well this time around.”
It would be some surprise if Yorkshire do not once again challenge strongly for the Championship.
Indeed, some might even make them favourites to win it, with Durham potentially affected by England calls to Ben Stokes and Graham Onions, and no obvious other standout contender.
“Durham have got a few issues and obviously if they’re missing Stokes and Onions then they are big holes for them to fill, but you can’t write them off for one minute,” said Moxon.
“They’re used to winning, which is very important, and they’re always particularly strong at their home ground of the Riverside.
“Like last year, I think the Championship is going to be extremely difficult to call, and my experience of First Division cricket is that there are no easy games at this level.
“When you look down the list of teams, you can go right down to the likes of Northants, who had a really good year last year and won promotion, to see that anyone can potentially be competitive on their day and mount a strong challenge.”
The destiny of the title may be difficult to predict but Moxon is convinced of one thing: the former Yorkshire and England opening batsman feels that this is the strongest squad the club have possessed since he returned to Headingley in 2007.
“When you look at the squad we’ve got now, we’ve got all bases covered really,” he added.
“On paper, it’s a really strong collection of players, and it’s why I’m really looking forward to the forthcoming season.
“I enjoyed watching a lot of the cricket we played last year in the four-day competition, in particular, because there were some outstanding performances along the way.
“I didn’t enjoy too much of the one-day stuff, it has to be said – and we’re determined to improve that area of our cricket this year – but there’s a real buzz about the club going into the new season.”
Yorkshire’s one-day form was as abject as their four-day work was admirable.
They made no impression in the 40-over and 20-over tournaments, which pretty much passed them by.
However, it has to be said that they did not prioritise those tournaments either, choosing instead to blood young players in the 40-over stuff, especially, as they purposely rested key Championship performers such as pace bowlers Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Patterson.
But with the signing of Australian batsman Aaron Finch for Twenty20 this year, and with Yorkshire’s supporters demanding more value for their buck in one-day cricket, Yorkshire are making a concerted effort to win all three trophies.
“We’ve got to aim to win every competition – that’s the target,” said Moxon.
“Winning is a good habit to be in, and I firmly believe that you can’t try to pick and choose which games to win; you’ve got to try and win them all.
“Last year, we wanted to do well in all of the games, even though we rested a few people in the 40-over stuff.
“However, we certainly want to be competitive in all three competitions this summer and ideally to win some trophies to boot.”
With Yorkshire having performed so well in the Championship last summer, part of Moxon’s task now is to manage expectations.
It is hard to get away from the sense that the team could be on the brink of achieving something special, but Moxon is keen to keep matters in perspective.
“We’ve got to avoid any type of complacency,” he stressed.
“If we turn up thinking, ‘oh, we had a great year last year, we’ll be all right’, then we could find ourselves struggling.
“The message that myself and the coaching staff have really been trying to hammer home to the players is, ‘yes, we played well last year, but we’re going to have to play even better this time to get our hands on some silverware’.
“And one of the most important things, as I say, is that we need to stay focused for every ball of every game.”