Jason Gillespie has promised to bring fun to Yorkshire when he begins his new job as first-team coach but there is very serious business for the former Australian fast bowler to attend to.
Primarily, meeting the expectations of the club’s outspoken chairman Colin Graves, whose demand for an immediate return to Division One of the County Championship, concluded with the words: “There will be some heads rolling if we are not.”
Yorkshire’s response to relegation was not a mass sacking of the playing staff lambasted by Graves two months ago but a revamping of the coaching structure to aid their cause. There can be no excuses now.
The recruitment of coaches from outside the county boundaries – in the process ditching three, Craig White, Kevin Sharp and Steve Oldham, who wore the white rose as players – is not revolutionary. Gillespie’s compatriot Wayne Clark led the club to its first County Championship title for 33 years in 2001. But it took the influence of two stalwarts on the interview panel, Michael Vaughan and Geoff Boycott, to encourage evolution.
In addition to 36-year-old Gillespie – who will re-acquaint himself with Headingley for a week in December before joining the pre-season tour of Barbados after his deal with Zimbabwe’s Mid West Rhinos runs out – Yorkshire have recruited Paul Farbrace, raised in Kent, for whom he was a coach either side of a spell as assistant to Trevor Bayliss for Sri Lanka, to oversee the second XI.
Farbrace, 44, is downgrading and uprooting because, in the words of his new boss Martyn Moxon “he wanted to get his hands dirty again”. Yorkshire were taken by the fact he did not apply for the main job.
Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale played alongside Gillespie during his two-year stint as overseas signing in 2006-07, and recalls the qualities it is hoped will stiffen the resolve of a young, talented squad, a handful of which were branded a “disgrace” by Graves.
“He’s a positive guy to have around, he has an aura about him, a brilliant record as a cricketer and in his short time as a coach he’s done really well,” said Gale.
“When he was around last time he was one of the first to speak up in the dressing room. He was the ultimate professional, loved to talk about the game and always did all the extra work he could do to give himself the best chance as a cricketer. I am sure working hard will be part of his philosophy as a coach.”
Home truths have rocked Headingley since their September 12 demotion, and Gale reckons Graves’ tirade “might have been the kick up the arse that we need”.
Gale’s soul-searching even drove him to question his own position – he shook his head at one rumour doing the rounds that he was off to Lancashire – and bending his predecessor Vaughan’s ear more than his staple once-a-week.
He said: “I felt responsible. Ultimately, I am the captain. But it never crossed my mind to resign.
“As a captain you are only as good as the players that are performing around you. I spoke at length with Michael about it, and ultimately it is down to other players to perform and execute their skills on the pitch. He’s a good bloke to ring up and chew the fat with.”
Gale termed it “disappointing” to lose White, Sharp and Oldham from the set-up – the latter first coached him as a 13-year-old – but the new arrivals in the streamlining under Moxon do offer familiarity. In addition to Gillespie, Farbrace was England Under-19 coach to Gale, Joe Sayers and Tim Bresnan. Another Australian, Phil Jaques, a member of the promotion-winning Yorkshire of 2005, returns on a two-year deal as overseas player.
Nobody can say that Yorkshire are not prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, including those on the field.
“It’s probably a different brand of cricket to the first division but we know what we have got to do,” said Gale. “There are a lot more result pitches. Every time you look on the first day, someone is bowled out by tea, compared to Division One which is more about flat pitches and working harder to win.
“It’s fair to say that some teams aren’t as strong due to the financial implications of their clubs but in no way am I disrespecting those teams. They still have some good, workmanlike cricketers.”
Graves will no doubt be hoping Yorkshire possess at least eleven of the same.