YORKSHIRE first-team coach Jason Gillespie insists that the champions have never been hungrier for silverware as they chase a place in county cricket history.
Gillespie’s men are striving to become the first side to clinch a hat-trick of County Championships since Yorkshire themselves achieved it in 1968.
He believes that the lure of leaving a similar legacy is spurring them forward into the new season.
Asked if he sensed an extra motivation within the squad this year, Gillespie replied: “Yes, I really do.
“That’s something I believe is driving the players forward a lot, to create that legacy.
“They’ve got a great opportunity.
“The ball is in their court, and we’ll support them in any way we can.
“Ever since I arrived at Yorkshire, I’ve heard people talk about the Sixties, which is great.
“That’s part of the history of this club.
“Something that can really drive these players is that they can potentially be the ones that everyone’s talking about in the future, which would be a great achievement for them.
“That’s something they can hopefully leave behind when they’ve retired and gone.”
Gillespie, who is about to embark on his fifth campaign in charge, was speaking at Yorkshire’s annual pre-season media day at Headingley.
The former Australia fast bowler has helped to transform the club along with director of cricket Martyn Moxon and admitted that it feels slightly unreal now to be talking about the prospect of a hat-trick.
“It’s a bit surreal, if I’m honest,” he said.
“I suppose coming here (as coach), and seeing how the players go about their work, it’s just been a pleasure to see them grow as players and as people in recent times.
“I think there’s this real sense of striving for continual betterment, continual improvement, and that’s been the most pleasing thing.
“The lads don’t rest on their laurels.
“There’s no arrogance in terms of, ‘Oh, we’ve made it’.
“There’s a real drive to get even better.
“It’s something we speak about all the time, each and every session that we do.
“Even a weights session, a running session. How can I be a better cricketer at the end of the session than I am at the start? What’s going to allow me to be a better player?
“That’s what drives these lads.”
Gillespie, who turns 41 this month, has been around long enough to know that the game has a nasty habit of kicking you up the backside when you least expect it, so is presuming nothing as Yorkshire attempt to emulate the glory days of Fred Trueman, Brian Close, Raymond Illingworth and Geoffrey Boycott.
In 2005, not too many people gave England much of a chance against the great Australia team of which he was a member, only for Michael Vaughan’s men to prove that there is no such thing as a dead-cert in professional sport.
Yorkshire, of course, start as clear favourites to win the Championship again, and they will have all their England players available apart from Joe Root for their opening match against Hampshire at Headingley tomorrow week.
Gillespie – who has lost only four of 64 Championship games in charge – knows they have a terrific chance of retaining the title, but stressed that no one at Yorkshire is counting their chickens.
“Everyone talks us up about being favourites and while it’s great for people to think highly of us, we’re certainly not taking anything for granted,” he said.
“It’s going to be a hard graft, as last season was, and it’s a very strong division, there’s no doubt about that.
“You just have to look at the teams who have come up (Surrey and Lancashire).
“They’ve got strong squads, and there’s a lot of depth there.
“There’s eight fantastic sides against us, and we know it’s going to be hard work.
“All we can do is control what we can, and the lads have been brilliant.
“They certainly haven’t been dwelling on last year.
“Since they came back in November, the focus has been on how can we better? How can we improve on last year?
“They’ve been working their butts off, which is pleasing to see.”
Yorkshire have proved themselves the best four-day side in the country, but there is still room for improvement.
Last year, they won the title with record wins and record points since the move to two divisions in 2000 despite a general acceptance – not least from Gillespie – that their batting, in particular, left something to be desired.
Collectively, it was not as impressive as it had been in 2014, and Yorkshire were grateful to one or two individuals playing blinders at key times to get them out of trouble.
“In 2014, we had a lot of consistent performers throughout our batting order,” said Gillespie.
“Last year, we managed to score runs in different ways, with more individual contributions at key times.
“We had periods where we got ourselves in tricky situations and then we got a big partnership; Durham at Scarborough was an example.
“We found ourselves about 79 runs in front with five wickets in hand in the second innings, and then Rashid and Maxwell came in and put on 250 in no time, in just over a session, to change the whole momentum of the game.
“Other times, Jonny Bairstow would come in and smack run-a-ball hundreds to change the momentum of games.
“We can certainly get more consistency throughout our batting order, and the best way to do that is to tick off partnerships.
“The pleasing thing last year was that even when we did find ourselves in a tricky situation, someone stood up.
“When we found ourselves in a bit of strife with bat or ball, someone invariably did that, and that’s one of the signs of a very good team.”