Yorkshire only have eyes on defence of title

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JASON GILLESPIE says there has been no talk among the Yorkshire players about last season’s title triumph – only what they must do to become even better.

Gillespie said the players’ feet are firmly on the ground as they look to defend their Championship crown.

Yorkshire head coach Jason Gillespie.

Yorkshire head coach Jason Gillespie.

As Yorkshire left for their pre-season tour to Abu Dhabi yesterday, Gillespie said he had been “hugely impressed” with the players’ attitude since they returned for winter practice and revealed that they are driving the club’s training routines as much as the coaching staff.

Gillespie’s willingness to allow players to take responsibility for preparation is also a telling insight into the methods that have made him one of the game’s most sought-after coaches – and the fancied contender should England sack Peter Moores after their World Cup exit.

However, Gillespie’s focus is solely on Yorkshire as the countdown continues to the opening Championship game at Worcestershire on April 12 – and he is brimming with enthusiasm for their chances after what he has witnessed behind the scenes.

“I can’t tell you how much I’ve liked what I’ve seen since we came back in during the winter,” he said.

“The lads have taken it upon themselves, quite frankly. They know what they need to work on to be better, and there’s been a lot of talk about how we can be better than we were last year.

“In fact, there’s been no talk about last year at all. The only time the lads have ever spoken about the Championship title is when they’ve gone out to local clubs to promote the game, to promote our club.

“Obviously, questions have been asked about the Championship win and that’s the only time they’ve really reflected on it.

“Their feet are firmly on the ground and it’s important that we are like that if we’re going to move forward and improve.”

History shows that Championship-winning sides cannot afford to take their foot off the gas – not even one as well-stocked as Yorkshire.

After the competition was split into two divisions 15 years ago, they were the first club to be relegated one year after winning the title – a fate that has since befallen Nottinghamshire and Lancashire.

Gillespie encouraged his players to celebrate what they achieved last season, when the club won eight of 16 Championship games and finished 17 points clear of second-placed Warwickshire.

But what really impresses him is that the players have drawn their own line under that feat as they look to take their game to the next level.

“I thought it was really important that the lads celebrated winning the Championship,” said Gillespie.

“It’s not something that happens every day, and they should rightly be very proud of themselves.

“They had that period of celebration at the end of the season and they celebrated well, as they deserved to do, but once we came back into work it was all systems go and the lads themselves were saying, ‘Right, the hard work starts now.’

“They themselves were saying, ‘We’ve had our fun, we’ve enjoyed it, but that’s in the past now and it’s time to start working on what we can do to be even better next time.’

“It showed they’ve got the right attitude.

“The lads have been working on everything – not just the Championship stuff, but also the one-day and T20 because we under-achieved in those competitions last year.

“We felt we were good enough to progress beyond where we did and we need to play better in one-day cricket next summer.”

Gillespie relishes the fact his players are self-motivated and is happy for them to put across their ideas as much as possible.

He believes this encourages them to take greater responsibility and extra pride in their performances.

“The lads don’t need to be told by any of the support staff what to do,” he added.

“In fact, we tend to ask them, ‘What are you working on today? How can we help you work on that?’

“That’s how we like to go about things.

“What I like about our lads is that they’re all very clear on what they want to work on in every session that comes along.

“My job – and the job of the support staff – is just to help them in any way we can.

“The key is, we’re here to support.”

Yorkshire’s two-week trip to Abu Dhabi gives them the chance to put their training routines into practice and incorporates the prestigious Champion County game against MCC (March 22-25).

Yorkshire will face a strong side at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, including England Test captain Alastair Cook.

“Cookie obviously got dropped during the winter and he’ll be looking to put in a good performance before the Test series in the West Indies,” said Gillespie.

“MCC will provide quality opposition all round, and we’ll have to work hard to compete in that game.

“The key for us is to enjoy the experience.

“It’s great preparation for the Championship season, and it’s deserved reward for what the lads did last year.”