JASON GILLESPIE believes the roots of Yorkshire’s return to the County Championship First Division can be traced back to their pre-season tour of Barbados.
The former Australia fast bowler said Yorkshire’s trip to the Caribbean in March – his first assignment as the club’s first-team coach – laid the foundation for what was to follow.
“Barbados was the catalyst,” said Gillespie, who added to his enviably impressive cricketing CV by leading Yorkshire back into Division One at the first attempt. “Everything thereafter stemmed from that and set us up for a successful season.
“I knew right away, out in Barbados, that we had a very special group of players on our hands.
“The attitude and desire of the squad impressed me immensely, and the groundwork put in over there served us well.
“Right away, the players were coming up to us as coaches and saying, ‘We want to be better’.
“It wasn’t us going up to them; they were coming to us. They weren’t happy with the way things had gone and were absolutely determined to become better players. It was all about their great desire for self-improvement.”
Yorkshire played predominantly Twenty20 cricket on their pre-season tour, the format in which they most excelled during the summer just gone.
Yorkshire won the Barbados Twenty20 Cup, which featured a number of first-class counties, and carried that form into the English season as they reached Twenty20 Finals Day for the first time, losing narrowly to Hampshire in the final but booking their place in next month’s Champions League.
Gillespie believes Barbados also had a knock-on effect in Championship cricket and helped to create a winning mentality.
It is a mentality which served the club well en route to five Championship wins during a season when they struggled, at times, to even get on the field due to bad weather.
“We set our goals in Barbados and got into the winning habit over there,” added Gillespie. “We carried that on in Championship cricket and picked up some excellent victories in the four-day competition.
“For me, the run-chase at Bristol (when Yorkshire chased 400 to beat Gloucestershire in May) was really important because that showed the confidence and class that exists in the side.
“It was a tough chase but Phil Jaques and Gary Ballance scored superb hundreds and the team seized their chance for victory and stepped up to the plate.”
As well as praising Yorkshire’s batsmen, Gillespie also paid tribute to the bowling department.
“I always look at bowlers’ strike-rates and our guys have performed really well in that respect,” he said.
“Moin Ashraf, in the second half of the season, for example, was outstanding; his strike-rate is probably under 50 balls per wicket and his average is low.
“He’s only 20 years of age and will only get quicker, while the likes of Steve Patterson and Ryan Sidebottom have been outstanding too.
“Everyone has contributed at some point or other and managed to deliver when we needed it most.”