Yorkshire has been declared winner of the County Championship in England for the second season in a row, a fine achievement for this most famous of cricketing regions. We look at how the team managed to repeat its success, and what problems it had to overcome in order to do so.
Jason Gillespie, in his playing days, was a nuisance to every English cricket supporter, his curls bobbing in the wind as he celebrated wicket after wicket for Australia in Ashes tests. Injuries took their toll, as is usual with fast bowlers, and "Dizzy" had to retire in 2008.
The next chapter in Gillespie's career was experience gained coaching in Zimbabwe - a place with plenty of raw cricketing talent, but not much in the way of infrastructure. Working there would have required a confident communicator, who relied on a good eye rather than banks of laptops and statistics. Gillespie moved from there to King's XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League.
He was perhaps fortunate to get the Yorkshire job, in spite of a relative lack of experience in top-level cricket coaching, but Gillespie took over the then-Division Two side in 2011, got it back up to Division One, and made Yorkshire a contender yet again. There was nothing fortunate or surprising when he was tipped to step up as the new England coach, though he always insisted his focus was with Yorkshire.
There are few nicer or more respectful men than Gillespie, at least when facing the media - and he takes his job as a talent-finder seriously, noting at one point that his role as a county coach was to prepare players for the national side. Showing firm leadership of his players, but also a willingness to listen to points of view, Gillespie is the perfect coach for Yorkshire.
Considering the justified irritation Gillespie had expressed at the start of the season when England called-up six Yorkshire players for its tour of the Caribbean, the later magnanimity he showed was a measure of the man. Yorkshire was so worried about the effects of travelling on its players that, after the one-day international against Ireland in Dublin, players selected for the following county match were flown back on a private jet, in a show of attention-to-detail.
Nonetheless, Yorkshire, which has always been a cricketing hotbed, has a particularly rich crop of talent in reserve right now, and showed remarkably little effect when losing key men to England during the summer. Even when county cricket's top batsman, Jonny Bairstow, was called-up, there was little change in the engine room. All counties have to be prepared to lose players - Lancashire has hardly seen its best player of the past generation, James Anderson, since he was called-up age 20 by England - but Yorkshire showed how to handle the change best.
Yorkshire had the benefit of some seriously good innings from Bairstow, who had his confidence back after a challenging couple of years, before his mid-Ashes intervention with the national team. However they also benefited from England's decision, bizarre at the time, not to use Adil Rashid until the one-day series, meaning the county game's most talented spinner was free to play.
Of course, not all counties have Yorkshire's budget - and others have lost key players and fared far worse as a consequence. However Yorkshire seems likely to remain a force for the next few seasons, thanks to good planning and preparation over a number of years.
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