Gillespie on mission at Strikers to develop T20 skills

Jason Gillespie.
Jason Gillespie.
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WHEN Jason Gillespie missed out on the England coach’s job earlier this year, his disappointment did not last long.

The former Australia fast bowler already felt he had the perfect role – that of Yorkshire first team coach and, for a short time in the winter, coach of Adelaide Strikers.

It is the Strikers job to which Gillespie is now turning his thoughts after Yorkshire gave him permission to lead his home-town T20 Big Bash League franchise.

The 40-year-old signed a two-year deal with Adelaide in April, and Yorkshire believe the few weeks he will spend Down Under each time will be mutually beneficial, with Gillespie improving his T20 coaching experience which, in turn, should assist Yorkshire, whose record in the format is poor.

It is a forward-thinking approach from all parties – not least from Gillespie, who is keen to expand his coaching horizons.

Part of the reason he did not get the England job – perhaps the only reason – was because the eventual appointee, Trevor Bayliss, had a CV brimming with one-day success: two Indian Premier League titles, one Big Bash title, and runners-up finishes with Sri Lanka in the 2009 T20 World Cup and the 2011 50-over World Cup.

Gillespie, whose record in first-class cricket is remarkable (two County Championships, one runners-up place and one promotion in four years in charge, and just four defeats in 64 Championship games), is still targeting his first one-day trophy.

The closest he came was in 2012, when he led Yorkshire to their solitary appearance at a T20 Finals Day, but he has found it predictably hard to mastermind success in all formats at once, although he believes a coach must be judged on his overall record.

On appointing Bayliss, Andrew Strauss, the England director of cricket, openly prioritised success in the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup, both of which take place in England, and Gillespie reflected: “At the end of the day, a coach is judged on the performances of the team in every format. I’ve got no problem with that.

“You’re not judged on one form of the game; you’ve got to be judged on all forms. Personally, I want success for Yorkshire in all forms and will strive to do whatever I can, while this chance with Strikers is a great opportunity.”

For someone who speaks often of “challenging players”, Gillespie applies the philosophy to himself.

There are underlying reasons for Yorkshire’s poor one-day record – the club do not base their entire summer around one-day cricket like some counties (some of whom struggle badly in the Championship), while Yorkshire face a difficult balancing act to manage their resources, with the need to keep bowlers fresh for the Championship.

But Gillespie insists Yorkshire can still be successful in all formats and even blames himself for their failure to prosper in T20 this summer.

Yorkshire finished second-bottom of the T20 North Group, losing eight of their 14 fixtures.

“We did some good things in the 50-over comp, but our T20 form last summer was unacceptable,” he said.

“Performances weren’t up to scratch, we weren’t getting basic skills right, and there was also a bit of chopping and changing around with the side.

“As coach and selector, I have to take responsibility for that, and if I had my time again, I’d strive for more consistency with selection.

“Sometimes, that’s a challenge when you have lads coming and going with England, but I still think, looking back over the season, I could have been a little bit better in getting those combinations right.”

If that is a measure of the man shortly to be coaching the Strikers, it would be inaccurate to say that Gillespie is going home solely to “learn”.

The Strikers may be among the outsiders with most bookmakers, but they reached the semi-finals last time and boast a number of talented players – not least Yorkshire and England leg-spinner Adil Rashid.

“We’ve got a very good squad, and it’s just about letting them go out and play with a bit of freedom,” said Gillespie.

“On a personal level, I’m excited for a number of reasons – the chance to see how the Big Bash operates as a competition, to see what I can learn over there, and to bring those learnings back to Yorkshire for the benefit of our county.

“But I’m also quite a competitive b******, and I want to win something.

“If there’s something I can do to help the boys play some really good cricket and win games, that’s my ultimate aim.”

Gillespie has been in regular touch with Tim Nielsen, the South Australia high performance manager, to formulate strategy for the coming campaign.

The competition runs from December 17 to January 24, with each franchise playing eight group games and the top-four sides qualifying for the semi-finals.

Strikers open with a match against tournament favourites Melbourne Stars at the Adelaide Oval on December 18.

Gillespie flies out on December 5, with the Big Bash squads meeting up about a week before the tournament after the final round of Sheffield Shield games.

“I’ve been in regular contact with the franchise and, in particular, Tim Nielsen, and we’ve talked a lot about the squad and so on,” added Gillespie.

“There’s not much time to prepare, and it’s a short tournament, so I’m going there with an open mind and to have a bit of fun with it really.

“That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. T20 is about entertainment, getting bums on seats, and attracting more people to watch the sport.”

Gillespie’s enthusiasm for the Strikers’ chances is not unfounded.

They have a good blend of youth and experience, not to mention a coach driven to enhance his own CV.

“Our main overseas player is the West Indian Kieron Pollard, and we all know how destructive he can be,” said Gillespie.

“He’s been with Adelaide for a while now and he’s signed an extended contract.

“We’ve got Brad Hodge, who has played franchise cricket all around the world, and who is also assistant coach, as well as Craig Simmons and Tim Ludeman up front as an aggressive batting combination.

“We’ve got Kane Richardson, who has played international cricket for Australia as a fast bowler, and a big, tall lad from Queensland – about 203 centimetres – called Billy Stanlake, who might be able to force his way into the side.”

Gillespie returns to Yorkshire at the end of January to prepare for the new English season.

Since last summer ended, he has been studying hard for the industry-standard Level Four coaching qualification.

“I’ve been full-on with that since the start of October, and I have my final assessment on November 30,” he said.

“I’d probably already be in Australia if I hadn’t been finishing that course, so I might look to go back a little bit earlier next year.

“The next few weeks promise to be a great experience, and Yorkshire have been brilliant.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity and determined to make the most of it.”