YORKSHIRE boss Martyn Moxon has praised England star Liam Plunkett for the way he has responded to being dropped for disciplinary reasons and said the decision to axe the pace bowler was a deliberate attempt to drive up standards.
Plunkett was dropped for the last County Championship match against Hampshire at Headingley for missing a training session and an official club photocall.
The 30-year-old was banished to the second team and reacted by hitting a hundred against Kent in Canterbury and bowling well.
Plunkett makes an immediate return to Championship duty against Somerset at Taunton tomorrow after learning a lesson which Moxon explained was essential if Yorkshire are to successfully defend their title and to challenge in the 50-over Cup and T20 Blast.
“Liam has responded very well to being dropped, which was nothing more than we expected of him, and it was important that we took that decision,” said Moxon.
“We’re aware that we’ve got to be better than we were last year to have any chance of winning the thing again (the Championship), and we need to be better in all forms of the game.
“If we let little things creep in like timekeeping and missing a session, then before we know it we’re going to be behind the eight-ball and we’re trying to avoid that at all costs.
“Everything we do has got to be on the money to have any chance of winning three competitions, so we’re very keen to keep drumming away to the players that our standards have to be very, very high.”
Yorkshire’s decision to ditch Plunkett highlighted their professional approach and emphasised that there is no favouritism among the coaches.
Plunkett is highly regarded by the support staff at Headingley – not least by Moxon himself, who previously worked with the player at Durham – but the message is that no one is bigger than the team.
“It’s all about the team from our point of view,” added Moxon.
“We saw that last year when (captain) Andrew Gale left himself out of the game against Middlesex at Lord’s (to accommodate the returning England batsman Joe Root).
“It showed that the team is the most important thing, and Galey didn’t stand in the way of doing what he felt needed to be done.
“He very much set the standard with that decision, and we want everybody else to follow that lead.”
Plunkett’s return this week boosts Yorkshire at a ground where it is traditionally difficult to take 20 wickets.
Fourth-placed Yorkshire will be targeting their second successive victory – and their third in five games to go with two draws since the start of the season –against a Somerset team who gained their first win last week when they beat Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
“The beauty of having Liam back is that he gives us that different dimension with his pace and bounce,” said Moxon.
“When things are a little bit flat, whether down to the pitch or if the game’s just toddling along and in need of a breakthrough, he can change the dynamics of a match very quickly.
“He’s particularly useful in that respect and very much a wicket-taking bowler.
“He is ready to go again now and he’ll be looking to deliver a strong performance.”
Yorkshire remain without their most experienced pace bowler in Ryan Sidebottom, who injured his left calf during the opening match at Worcestershire but who will travel to Taunton as he works his way back to full fitness.
Sidebottom, 37, will start bowling again in the nets at the County Ground and should be back for the following Championship game against Middlesex at Headingley on June 7.
“Ryan will start his return to bowling this week,” said Moxon.
“He’s not going to be involved in one-day cricket, so the plan is that he’ll be available for our next Championship game.
“He’s a big player for us, and it’s important that he comes back because with one-day cricket under way now we’re going to have to manage our seam bowling resources.
“Getting Siddy back will be like having a new player almost, and the timing is good.”
Even without Sidebottom, Moxon believes Yorkshire have the attack to prosper at Taunton.
The visitors have not won a Championship game there since 2008.
“We’ve definitely got the bowlers who can thrive down there and a nice variation to our attack,” said Moxon.
“The important thing is that we get given a decent surface and then get some runs on the board.
“We know that if we get runs on the board in the first innings that we can win games, so we’re confident that we’ve got the attack to get those 20 wickets.
“But we also need to bat really well.”
That objective is sure to be assisted by Glenn Maxwell, the Australian all-rounder who makes his Yorkshire Championship debut.
Maxwell could bat at No 6 with Jack Leaning pushed up to No3, while Will Rhodes returns at the top of the order in place of England’s Adam Lyth.
Although Maxwell is renowned as a limited-overs specialist, he is particularly looking forward to playing Championship cricket.
He plans to use it as a springboard to regaining his Test place.
“I’ve had a good chat to Glenn and it’s obvious that he really enjoys four-day cricket,” said Moxon, who said that Maxwell could potentially stay at Yorkshire rather than go on the Australia A tour of India in midsummer if Cricket Australia decide that would be more beneficial for the player.
“He’s not had much opportunity to play four-day cricket recently and he takes that form of the game very seriously, and this is a good opportunity for him to stake his claim for us and also for Australia.”