Martyn Moxon is confident Yorkshire’s squad is in a good place heading into 2021.
The county’s director of cricket is encouraged by the performances during the Bob Willis Trophy this summer, as Steve Patterson and co finished top of the North Group, only to narrowly miss out on the Lord’s final.
Strength in depth is something which excites the former opening batsman, not just from those who debuted in 2020 but below that level as well.
Moxon has revealed Gary Ballance has been back in training this winter as he recovers from the illness and anxiety which forced him to miss all cricket this summer.
He has also confirmed, in terms of recruitment, the only other arrival will potentially be a second overseas player for the Vitality Blast, joining South African fast bowler Duanne Olivier.
But Olivier will be the only overseas to represent the White Rose in four-day and 50-over cricket.
“Most of this summer was very encouraging,” he said. “Certainly in the Bob Willis Trophy, there were far more positives than negatives.
“We finished top of our group, and you can’t do any more than that.
“We had two games badly affected by the weather (Derbyshire and Lancashire at home), who knows what might have happened in those. Hopefully we would have got three more points, which would have put us in the final.
“From the results and a development point of view, that competition was excellent.
“It gave us opportunities to give debuts to quite a number of players, and none of them looked out of place. That’s very encouraging.
“The T20 ended up being disappointing.
“We had an unfortunate Covid situation that cost us dear going to the second half of the group stage. It was all a bit skewed because of that. But we still learnt some vital lessons.
“There remain areas we must be better in. But, again, it gave players who normally wouldn’t have played an opportunity and a chance for them to see what improvements they need to make for that format of the game. It also showed them how strong mentally you need to be to play first-team cricket.
“Although results wise it was disappointing, it was still useful from a learning perspective.”
Going into the second half of the Blast North Group campaign, the Vikings were right in the mix for quarter-final qualification, only to lose a game they should have won at Leicester before David Willey, Matthew Fisher, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Josh Poysden all missed the remaining fixtures in line with Coronavirus guidelines.
That Leicester defeat was the first of four on the bounce to end qualification hopes as a number of debutants were thrown in at the last minute; Ben Birkhead, Matthew Revis, James Wharton and Sam Wisniewski.
“It was a very frustrating week, but you can only see those young lads who did come in getting better,” said Moxon.
“Some of the lads have been doing extra cricket work pre-Christmas having seen what they need to do to up-skill and challenge for places. There’s been a really impressive intensity to that.
“It’s given the lads themselves and us as coaching staff so much information on what they need to do to get better. There’s a huge desire to do that.
“We’ve been talking about our transitional phase for a number of years, and this year was a bit of an extension of that. We didn’t expect as many youngsters to get cricket, but they did and we can view it positively.
“Going into next year, when we have all of our players available, we look a strong unit capable of challenging for trophies.
“The likes of Jordan Thompson and Matthew Waite, the latter who suffered injury, have had a decent taste of first-team cricket now and will continue to get better, like Ben Coad has been doing for a few years now.
“The key to sustaining success is tricky because older players move on through age or lack of form, whatever, and you have to reinvent yourselves.
“But we’ve come through that tricky couple of years of reinventing ourselves now, and now we’re in a good place. These young lads are ready to compete.
“And it’s not just those players who played first-team cricket this summer, you also have the likes of the O’Sullivan spinners for example, another couple of seamers coming through as well.
“We have already got the potential even below our first-team squad now.
“The plan is now to get those lads ready to push for places and fill in for when the likes of Brook, Kohler-Cadmore, Fisher and Coad all start to get international recognition.
“I feel we’re in an excellent place with regards to squad strength.”
Yorkshire’s players will return to pre-season training at Emerald Headingley on January 4.
The early stages of winter training has seen the senior players spend more time away from Headingley, but they will be back in full time in the New Year.
One senior player who has been in regularly, though, is batsman Ballance, giving all White Rose followers an early Christmas present.
“Gary’s been good and has been attending training sessions. He’s back in the fold, and we’re very confident he’s going to be ok,” said Moxon.
Over the last two years, Moxon and coach Andrew Gale have recruited England duo Dawid Malan and Dom Bess on four-year contracts.
Malan enjoyed a productive first campaign with the county in 2020, including a maiden career double century in the Bob Willis Trophy draw with Derbyshire at Headingley.
Bess, meanwhile, has been signed from Somerset ahead of 2021.
And Moxon has explained the plan for further recruitment: “The only other thing we might do, and it depends on finance and availability, is bring someone in overseas wise for the T20 Blast,” he added.
“But, now we’ve signed Malan and Bess, we won’t be looking for a second overseas for Championship or 50-over cricket.
“We haven’t got very far down the line in that regard yet. The fixture list for the Blast isn’t 100 percent certain yet.
“We’ve spoken about the type of player we want, but we’re still in the very early stages.”