Yorkshire’s very own version of Going to Barbados hit all the right notes ahead of their victorious promotion crusade of 2012.
That’s the verdict of first-team coach Jason Gillespie, basking in the afterglow of helping to inspire the Tykes to an instant return to the top-flight of the LV County Championship at the first time of asking.
Gillespie, appointed by the Tykes last November, has cited the pre-season trip to the Caribbean in March as being pivotal to Yorkshire’s thoroughly successful campaign in both the long and short formats of the game.
Barely a month after arriving at Yorkshire after finishing his commitments with Zimbabwean franchise team Mid-West Rhinos, Gillespie jetted off to the Caribbean with his new charges for a fortnight-long tour.
The last thing it proved to be was a jolly-up with Yorkshire coming back with a trophy in the luggage hold – the Barbados Twenty20 Cup – their first piece of silverware since lifting the Pro Arch Trophy in 2008, having triumphed in a pre-season tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Gillespie’s new charges beat defending champions Warwickshire in the final and also comprehensively saw off Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire with skipper Andrew Gale even collecting the man-of-the-tournament award from none other than cricketting legend, Sir Garfield Sobers.
Gale went onto label the pre-season tour as ‘perfect’ preparation for the new season, with Gillespie also wholly grateful for the time spent in the West Indies, which enabled him to get his messages across, bond with his players and put his game plans in place.
And while it helped sow the seeds for Yorkshire’s thrilling joyride to finals day in domestic Twenty20 and earning a place in next month’s Champions League, Gillespie insists it also had a positive impact for the County Championship campaign.
Gillespie, whose side’s promotion from Division Two as runners-up to Derbyshire was confirmed amid joyous scenes at Chelmsford last week, said: “Barbados was the catalyst.
“Everything thereafter stemmed from that and set us up for a successful season.
“I knew right away, out in Barbados, that we had a very special group of players on our hands.
“The attitude and desire of the squad impressed me immensely, and the groundwork put in over there served us well. Right away, the players were coming up to us as coaches and saying, ‘We want to be better’.
“It wasn’t us going up to them; they were coming to us.
“They weren’t happy with the way things had gone (last year) and were absolutely determined to become better players.
“It was all about their great desire for self-improvement.”
He added: “We set our goals in Barbados and got into the winning habit over there.
“We carried that on in Championship cricket and picked up some excellent wins in the four-day competition.
“For me, the run-chase at Bristol (when Yorkshire chased 400 to beat Gloucestershire in May) was really important because that showed the confidence and class that exists in the side.
“It was a tough chase, but Phil Jaques and Gary Ballance scored superb hundreds and the team seized their chance for victory and stepped up to the plate.”
The performance of Yorkshire’s bowlers at the business end of the season has also not been lost upon Gillespie, a top-class seam bowling for the great Australian Test team for a fair few years.
While Steve Patterson and Ryan Sidebottom proved reliable ‘go-to’ men, Gillespie has also been delighted with the evolution of Moin Ashraf, who looks like being capable of being a real name to watch in the coming years, if he continues his development.
Gillespie added: “I always look at bowlers’ strike-rates and our guys have performed really well in that respect,” he said.
“Moin Ashraf, in the second half of the season, for example, was outstanding; his strike-rate is probably under 50 balls per wicket and his average is low.
“He’s only 20 years of age and will only get quicker, while the likes of Steve Patterson and Ryan Sidebottom have been outstanding too.
“Everyone has contributed at some point or other and managed to deliver when we needed it most.”
While the performances of Yorkshire’s pacemen when it mattered was impressive, it’s no secret that the Tykes are seeking to bolster their fast bowling attack with another addition in the close-season with James Harris the name on many people’s lips.
The England Lions quickie knows Gillespie from his time at Glamorgan, with another potential target possibly being Northants’ star Jack Brooks, who has left Wantage Road.
On the issue of recruitment, director of professional cricket Martyn Moxon said: “We’re looking to bring in a couple of players if we can and it certainly helps in terms of recruitment if you’re in the First Division.
“Players are more likely to want to come and play for you if they can see that you’re trying to go places as a county.
“We’ve got nothing concrete yet as far as new signings are concerned, but we do have a couple of irons in the fire.
“I don’t want to name names because discussions are at a delicate stage, but we hope to sort things out in the not-too-distant future.”
Meanwhile, the future of Tykes veteran Anthony McGrath, who celebrates his 37th birthday shortly, is set to come under the microscope in the coming weeks with the Bradfordian now out of contract.
Skipper Gale has already passed on his recommendation regarding McGrath to club bosses who will discuss the future of the Headingley stalwart shortly.
Moxon added: “We’re going to sit down shortly with Anthony and have a chat. He’s got a number of things to consider, as have we, and we’ll sit down and see where we go from here.”