COLIN GRAVES has thrown down the gauntlet to Yorkshire’s cricketers by insisting that nothing less than promotion will do next year.
The Yorkshire chairman said he expected them to bounce straight back into the First Division following the humiliation of County Championship relegation.
Graves said he planned to sit down with the squad before the start of next summer to outline what he wants from the players.
And the tough-talking supremo said his message would be simple: “You’ve got us into this division, you’ve got to get us out of it.”
Graves said that with the quality of talent at Yorkshire’s disposal – including new overseas signing Phil Jaques – failure was not an option.
Yorkshire have also appointed a new first-team coach in Jason Gillespie, who will run the first XI along with captain Andrew Gale.
Graves is confident all the ingredients are in place for a successful season as Yorkshire look to hit back at the first attempt.
He believes it is nothing less than the supporters deserve.
“I expect us to go straight back up into Division One next year,” said Graves.
“With the players we’ve got, the new coaches we’ve got and the significant investment we’ve put in, I would expect nothing less.
“When you take all that into account, you would expect us to come straight back up, and I think a lot of other people would expect us to come straight back up as well. If we don’t, that wouldn’t be good enough in my view because we’ve got enough quality to come straight back.
“It’s not a case of putting pressure on anyone or anything like that.
“It’s simply a question of outlining what is required, just as you would outline what is required in any business.
“In any business, you’re expected to perform, and, if you don’t, questions are asked.
“Professional sport is no different in my view, and that’s the message I’ll be putting across.”
Graves’s comments follow on from his forthright assessment of the county’s performances last season.
Yorkshire sank into the bottom tier for the first time since 2002 after winning just three of their 16 matches.
In an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Post, Graves laid the blame for relegation firmly at the players’ door.
“It’s down to the players who have been on the park – nobody else,” he said.
“The performances have been a disgrace; they have been unacceptable.
“The players need to take a long, hard look at themselves as far as I’m concerned.
“We’ve given them everything they wanted – contracts, salaries, we’ve given them everything, so they can’t turn round and say that Yorkshire’s done this or Yorkshire’s done that.
“In the past they’ve blamed the Headingley pitch and said we can’t get a result pitch at Headingley.
“Well, we’ve had result pitches this year, but we kept losing on them.
“Don’t blame the bloody pitch, it’s not the pitch.
“It’s the fact they can’t play on it, that’s been the problem.”
Graves does not regret his hard-hitting remarks.
They drew a largely positive response in the Yorkshire Post and strengthened the impression of Graves as a man who is not afraid to shoot from the hip.
Graves said he is now looking for a positive reaction from the team and that he has been encouraged by what he has seen so far.
He believes the Headingley players are as anxious to make amends as he, himself, is keen for them to do so.
“There’s a good feeling around the place at the moment, a new spirit,” said Graves.
“I think there’s a determination among the players to do well next summer and I will be making my expectations known to the squad.
“I intend to get them all together before the start of the season to tell everyone what I want and expect from them.
“I might go to Barbados with them on the pre-season tour; if not, I will be speaking to them all at some point before the season starts.”
Although Graves has pinpointed promotion as a minimum requirement, he accepts that does not mean the mission is likely to be simple.
There are some good sides in Division Two – as Yorkshire found out the last time they played in this division, when it took them three years to get back into the top flight.
“It won’t be easy, and no one’s saying it will be,” he added. “There are some competitive teams in that Second Division and there will be no easy matches, make no mistake.
“At the same time, I expect us to do very well and it’s important we hit the ground running,” said Graves..
“There’s a number of Championship games squeezed into the start of the season and it’s important we get off to the best possible start.”