Yorkshire increase attempts to sharpen mindset to boost batting

YORKSHIRE's players are to have extra sessions with a sports psychologist in an effort to resolve the club's batting problems.

Wednesday, 28th March 2018, 6:53 am
Yorkshire's Cheteshwar Pujara celebrates his century. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Players will have at least three sessions each year with Dr Mark Nesti, a specialist in applied sports psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, in an attempt to achieve greater consistency.

Yorkshire’s batting has been a problem for several seasons in the County Championship, and director of cricket Martyn Moxon believes that this is a way to tackle the issue.

“We’ve got to be better batting-wise in the Championship,” he said.

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“We’ve found it difficult to adapt from white ball to red, because the mindset and techniques are totally different.

“We had a lot of strong conversations at the end of last year, and the players have been very open and honest.

“Everyone believed that we produced well below what we’re capable of producing, so the batsmen have stripped back their games and gone back to basics.

“This started in November when the lads reported back for training, but we’re looking not only at the technical aspects of the game but also at the mentality of batting.”

New Zealand's Kane Williamson will be back with Yorkshire this summer. Picture: AP/Ross Setford

That is where Dr Nesti comes in, a man who has helped out Yorkshire in the past.

Now the club will make more use of a specialist who has worked with a number of sports, including football as the first-team sports psychologist at Hull City, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers.

“Psychologists are a big part of any sport, and although psychologist support has always been available at Yorkshire it’s been very much a case of players have it if they choose to take up that option,” added Moxon.

“The big thing we’re doing now from a psychological point of view is that every player is going to have at least three contacts with Mark every year, from Academy players right through to the first team.

NO STONE UNTURNED: Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

“We’re trying to leave no stone unturned to make sure that not only are we technically better, but also mentally better, so that we can get back to scoring the runs that we need.

“It will also help us adapt to the different formats, which present batsmen with different challenges throughout the game.”

Not since 2014, when they won the first of two back-to-back titles, have Yorkshire scored consistent runs in the Championship.

In Cheteshwar Pujara and Kane Williamson they have recruited two overseas players ideally suited to playing the sort of long innings needed in four-day cricket. However, they are also hungry for white-ball trophies.

New Zealand's Kane Williamson will be back with Yorkshire this summer. Picture: AP/Ross Setford

“At the end of the day we want to win all three trophies – that’s our aim – so we have to be able to adapt to the different demands,” said Moxon.

“Yes, the Championship is still the biggest prize, if you like, but we want to be successful in all competitions.

“We’ve signed good overseas players this season in Cheteshwar and Kane, who will certainly help us in the Championship, along with Billy Stanlake in the T20 Blast.

“Fingers crossed we’ll get back to playing the four-day cricket that we know we’re capable of.”

Moxon has been pleased with the players’ attitude in pre-season with the squad having recently returned from a tour to South Africa.

“The lads bonded well and that’s something that we wanted to work on,” he said.

NO STONE UNTURNED: Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

“We didn’t enjoy losing last year, and when people are struggling individually with their form it can become a negative environment if you’re not careful.

“But the players have been outstanding. They’ve all regrouped and are in a great place.”

Moxon believes that the tour was also important in terms of developing the blossoming partnership between first-team coach Andrew Gale and captain Gary Ballance.

That partnership was interrupted at times last year when Ballance was injured or playing for England, so it still remains in its relative infancy.

“The lads are being well-led by Andrew Gale and the other coaches and support staff, and it’s fair to say that both Andrew and Gary learned a lot last season, their first year together as coach and captain,” said Moxon.

“Their relationship will grow and develop over time, and I think that with support and patience they will become a very successful partnership.

“It’s a long-term project at Yorkshire, and we’ve got a bit of a transitional period going on at the minute, and, inevitably, there will be bumps in the road.

“But the talent is there and we’ve got some tremendous young players coming through, along with a hardcore of top-class professionals and senior players.”

In addition to improving their Championship batting, Yorkshire are keen to made strides in the T20 Blast – specifically when it comes to batting second.

“We’re talking about how can we better structure our innings batting second in T20 because we’ve been better in the past at setting a target,” said Moxon.

“It was particularly good that we chased down a total against Notts on the pre-season tour, and we’re also looking to improve our form away from home in T20 cricket.”