Winning the Championship will be harder second time around, but Martyn Moxon says Yorkshire are up for the fight. Chris Waters reports.
MARTYN MOXON believes it would be a greater achievement for Yorkshire to win the County Championship this year than it was last summer, when he helped guide them to their first title since 2001.
The club’s director of cricket feels that a combination of England call-ups and the fact that other sides will be gunning to knock Yorkshire off their pedestal means that success this season will be more difficult to accomplish than in 2014.
But the former Yorkshire and England opening batsman is confident the club have the resources to cope as he backed his players to rise to the challenge.
“It would be a greater achievement to win the Championship this year,” said Moxon. “To back up any success is more difficult and it will certainly be a challenge to be without our England players at the start of the season.
“If we can overcome that and still be successful, it would prove to be an even better success, in my opinion. I think we can do it, but there’s a lot of work to be done before we get to that point.”
Last November, Moxon predicted that Yorkshire could lose six players to the current Test tour to the West Indies.
He should have popped down the bookies as, sure enough, Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jonny Bairstow and Adam Lyth were all called up.
It will not be the same in the home international season, when Yorkshire players not involved in the playing XI will likely be available for county cricket.
But the importance of a good start is essential with the West Indies six missing the first three games away to Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire and at home to Warwickshire.
“It’s fantastic for the six lads and fantastic for the club that we’ve got so many players representing England, but it will obviously test the depth of our squad,” said Moxon. “However, I’m not concerned because I do feel we have enough strength in depth to cope with international call-ups. We know that to win a County Championship you can’t afford to lose too many games, and it’s going to be important that we manage those first three games well and come out with a decent number of points.
“There will be opportunities for some of the other lads and I’m confident they’ll do well.”
It is possible that Will Rhodes, the 20-year-old all-rounder who made his first-class debut in the nine-wicket win against MCC in Abu Dhabi last month, will play in the Championship opener at New Road as an opening batsman.
Andrew Hodd, the wicketkeeper who will deputise for Bairstow, is another who could open but the twin demands of opening and keeping would be difficult.
Karl Carver, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner, could come into the side in place of Rashid if Yorkshire opt to go down that route.
It will be a challenging start – Worcestershire are newly-promoted, while Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire could be title contenders.
“I think all three games are difficult,” said Moxon. “Worcestershire have just come up and are on a bit of a crest of a wave, and they’re very confident.
“It’s always like that when you get promoted, and they’re certainly going to be up for that match.
“I don’t think that one’s any easier than the other two games, quite frankly, but the bottom line is it’s how we play that matters. That’s all we can control, and I think we’re in decent shape going into the season.”
Decent shape, in fact, in more ways than one, with the players having undertaken plenty of fitness work during the winter. Indeed, Moxon attributes much of Yorkshire’s success last season to their fitness levels and believes it helped them over the line.
“We pride ourselves on the fitness work we do,” he said. “Obviously you need your cricket skills and they’re the priority, but to perform your cricket skills to a high level for a full season you need to be fit, and the work that people don’t see during the winter months for me played a large part in the success we had last year.
“We won four of our last five games and we almost won the fifth as well, so great credit must go to Ian Fisher, Blaine Clancy and Kunwar Bansil, our physio, for the work that went on – and is still going on – to maintain the lads’ fitness.
“I think it’s really important that we understand that hidden work, if you like, because it’s very significant.”
In addition to working on fitness and the skills needed to sustain another title challenge, Yorkshire have been working particularly hard on their one-day game in the winter.
They have not won a one-day trophy since 2002 and are keen to make more of an impact this year. “Our one-day form is still a work in progress,” said Moxon. “We haven’t fulfilled our potential in that form of the game. But we have been working hard in the winter on our one-day skills – in particular batting against pace taken off the ball on slow wickets, and also on our death bowling.
“It was pleasing on our pre-season tour to Abu Dhabi that a lot of the stuff we’d talked about during the winter and practised hard could be seen out there, where we played three Twenty20 games and won them all.
“This year, we really want to make a big impact in T20, in particular, because we want to win a trophy and because we hope it will help the club’s finances as well.”
Yorkshire head into the new season with justified confidence, and Moxon believes their win over MCC has put down a marker.
“I was delighted that we played so well and dominated the game against such a good side,” he said. “They had the handicap of Graham Onions getting injured early on in our first innings, but for us to dominate a team as good as that was very pleasing.
“For me, it showed that we’re already playing good cricket going into the Championship season. Hopefully, we can carry on from where we left off and maintain and improve the standards we set last year.”