Let's just play - Darren Gough's message as Yorkshire CCC remain in limbo on racism sanctions

READY FOR ACTION: The Yorkshire CCC first-team squad poses for the cameras during yesterday's media call at Headingley.
Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.comREADY FOR ACTION: The Yorkshire CCC first-team squad poses for the cameras during yesterday's media call at Headingley.
Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com
READY FOR ACTION: The Yorkshire CCC first-team squad poses for the cameras during yesterday's media call at Headingley. Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com
THE sense of a cricket department desperate to move forward yet still not able fully to break free from the past was palpable at Yorkshire’s pre-season media day at Headingley.

The positivity exuded by Darren Gough, the managing director of cricket, Ottis Gibson, the head coach, and Jonny Tattersall, the batsman/wicketkeeper-cum-stand-in captain could not have been more obvious as they spoke enthusiastically about the new season, which effectively begins with a three-day match against Leeds-Bradford UCCE at the Leeds ground from tomorrow.

However, that the first question to Messrs Gough, Gibson and Tattersall concerned what was described as the “elephant in the room” - namely, the threat of points penalties hanging over the club as a result of the racism crisis - said everything.

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Yorkshire could have a splendid season but still have little to show for their efforts, with the Cricket Discipline Commission due to announce the results of its hearings into the scandal today, but with sanction hearings for the club/individuals still some weeks away.

Darren Gough, left, and Ottis Gibson believe that the players are in a much better place than they were 12 months ago as Yorkshire target an instant return to the Championship's top flight. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images.Darren Gough, left, and Ottis Gibson believe that the players are in a much better place than they were 12 months ago as Yorkshire target an instant return to the Championship's top flight. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images.
Darren Gough, left, and Ottis Gibson believe that the players are in a much better place than they were 12 months ago as Yorkshire target an instant return to the Championship's top flight. Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images.

Yorkshire have already pleaded guilty to four amended charges, leaving only punishment to be decided and Gough to address that ‘woolly mammoth’ in the room head-on.

“Good first question,” he said. “I think, realistically, the situation definitely affected everyone last year; that was obvious as the season went on.

“But I think this year, with the work that we’ve done as a team, we’re in a much better place, whatever happens, to just dig in, play some good cricket and move forward. That’s my opinion.

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“Last year, we were in the same situation when we thought that something was going to happen (sanctions-wise) and it didn’t - it dragged on throughout the year, and now we’re here again this year.

“I just hope that we’re not here next year as well and saying that we’re still waiting for whatever it is. We don’t know, it’s an ongoing process.

“Nobody has any idea when things will be announced, but the players understand and they’re in a better position to take whatever comes.

"Last year, everybody’s head was everywhere, including my own, and we’re in a much better place to cope with things.”

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Gough’s comments were echoed by Gibson, who admitted that the players were probably affected more last year than he had realised.

Twelve months ago, those players were still coming to terms with the sackings of coaches and backroom staff they respected.

“I only started here this time last year, and I was like, ‘Boys, nothing that’s going on off the field should be your concern, because your job is to play cricket’,” said Gibson.

“But a lot of those guys were here before I got here, so they’d gone through it, and perhaps it affected them more than I’d even noticed myself. What I can say is that this year, that’s completely different.

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"Also, last year, I didn’t have a pre-season with the team, and I was trying to get to know guys during the season. This year, I feel more like it’s my squad.

"Ben Mike has been recruited since I’ve been here, Matt Milnes, Jafer Chohan, and so on. We’ve had a whole winter together, having nets and having conversations, and getting to know people a lot better.

“That’s why I’m far more optimistic and confident that this group of players this time will be more likely to play the type of cricket that I want them to play.”

Tattersall, who stood in as captain towards the end of last season, and is doing so again while Yorkshire await confirmation of the availability of club captain Shan Masood due to Pakistan commitments, is well-placed to voice the players’ perspective.

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The 28-year-old, who has penned a new deal that will keep him at Headingley until at least the end of the 2024 season, with the option of another year, was upbeat.

“Obviously, it’s something that’s always going to stay with us for the lads that were here at the time; it’s something that will always be with you,” he said.

“But, as players, we’ve just been working as hard as we can throughout this winter and are looking forward to cracking on with things.

“You can’t live in the past forever; obviously, you can take the learnings and I’m sure we’ve done that. Teamship, standards and positivity are the buzzwords moving forward as a group.”

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After last season ended in Championship relegation, the priority this year is to bounce straight back. Yorkshire will be strongly favoured if not hit points-wise.

“We hope we can just carry on, play good cricket and win the title,” said Gough.

“That’s the dream.

“But we don’t know what’s going to happen (with the sanctions), and we’d just be guessing.

“When things happen, we can deal with them.

"Until then, let’s just play.”