ENGLAND’S defeat to the West Indies in the first Test in Barbados proves that Yorkshire are by no means the only side struggling for consistency with the bat.
Just about every county team has the same problem, with the difficulties witnessed at Kensington Oval – where England were routed for 77 en route to a humbling 381-run defeat – indicative of a prevailing trend in the English game.
Last season saw the lowest runs-per-wicket ratio of any since 1974 (26.28) despite one of the hottest summers on record when batsmen might reasonably have been expected to make hay while the sun shone.
But a combination of indifferent pitches, a steady decline in old school batting due to the increasing prevalence of white-ball cricket, and the unsatisfactory structure of the season itself – with the County Championship shoehorned into April and September – went some way towards explaining why only five men passed 1,000 Championship runs and why 19 bowlers took 50 wickets or more.
Yorkshire’s attempt to address a problem that afflicted them even in their trophy-winning years during the middle of the decade has resulted in the appointment of Paul Grayson as batting coach. The former Yorkshire and England all-rounder, who had been coaching Durham University and the Yorkshire Diamonds women’s side, will start his role in March ahead of the club’s pre-season tour to South Africa.
Yorkshire have not had a batting coach per se since the reshuffle in 2011 that saw Kevin Sharp depart, although they have had two former batsmen on their coaching staff in the form of director of cricket Martyn Moxon and first XI coach Andrew Gale.
However, with Moxon now overseeing all aspects of the club’s cricketing operation and Gale responsible for all facets of the first team, Grayson has been brought in to work under Gale and alongside bowling coach Rich Pyrah as the club strive for greater consistency from their top-order.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the appointment is not so much that Yorkshire chose Grayson, whose CV includes an eight-year spell as Essex head coach from 2007, but who they did not choose.
Among those interviewed was the former Warwickshire and England batsman Jonathan Trott, who retired from playing at the end of last season, along with ex-Yorkshire and England all-rounder Craig White, with 27 applying for the role after initial attempts to land Paul Collingwood and Grant Flower proved unsuccessful.
It would have been easy, perhaps, for Yorkshire to have appointed Trott, who represented his country 127 times in all formats and who scored more than 30,000 runs in a glittering career, a persuasive track record.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the appointment is not so much that Yorkshire chose Grayson, whose CV includes an eight-year spell as Essex head coach from 2007, but who they did not choose.Chris Waters
England have still not recovered from his departure at No 3, or that of opening batsman Andrew Strauss, proving the old adage that you invariably appreciate something more when it has gone.
Yorkshire could have gone for the ‘big name’, so to speak, the one that would have attracted the greater headlines and, quite possibly, enthused their supporters to a greater extent, too. By comparison Grayson is not such a household name, but the club were not looking to win any popularity vote.
Rather they wanted an experienced coach as opposed to someone in Trott who is just starting out in a coaching capacity, no matter his outstanding success as a player.
At 37, Trott is only a year older than Pyrah and two years older than Gale, and too many young coaches might have spoiled the broth. Indeed, Grayson, 47, has been brought in not just to work with the batsmen from the Academy side upwards, but also to assist Gale in particular.
The last two years have not been a particularly smooth ride for the club’s former Championship-winning captain with Yorkshire battling relegation both times, and it makes sense to have an older head around, one who has effectively performed the same job at Essex.
Increasingly, Moxon, 58, is tied up with administration – in a sense he is Yorkshire’s answer to Ashley Giles, the new managing director of England men’s cricket, who frees up the likes of head coach Trevor Bayliss to focus on his role.
The opportunity for county DoCs to perform hands-on coaching is ever more limited as the game moves increasingly into complicated waters caused, in no small part, by the growth of T20 franchise leagues, and Moxon is more of a sounding board rather than a full-time coach/manager of the first team.
This situation is not singular to Yorkshire. At Nottinghamshire director of cricket Mick Newell undertakes similar duties while Peter Moores runs the firsts.
The game is becoming increasingly professional, intricate and detailed.
Yorkshire hope that Grayson will prove to be the final part of the jigsaw.