New Yorkshire coach Ottis Gibson has hailed an extremely productive 10-day pre-season training camp in Dubai, which comes to a close tomorrow.
Gibson’s squad have played a pair of two day games against Gloucestershire, their opening round opponents at Bristol when the LV= Insurance County Championship kicks off on April 14.
Harry Brook scored an unbeaten 115 in the first game before the second, according to Gibson, was more suited to the bowlers.
“Unfortunately the wicket we played the second game on, you would probably call it a fourth-day wicket in a County Championship match,” said the former West Indies fast bowler.
“It didn’t allow for really good strokeplay.
“You had to graft hard for runs. But guys still got two and a half hours in the middle.
“The numbers at the end don’t really matter too much, it’s time in the middle we wanted.
“George Hill got some good time in the middle, Brooky got another good knock. We shared it around to make sure everybody got some involvement.
“But when we bowled, we bowled really well.”
Yorkshire fly back to Manchester tomorrow before continuing preparations for the new season next week following a few days at home.
Ahead of that aforementioned Division One opener at Bristol, the county play two three-day games against Durham at the Riverside (March 28-30) and Leeds/Bradford University at Weetwood (April 2-4).
“The main event for us is Gloucester in Bristol on April 14 so we work back from there,” continued Gibson. “We have six days of cricket before the 14th.
“We recognise the county season is stacked. For instance, we have six four-day games leading up to our first Blast game. We finish a four-day game three days before our first Blast game. There’s not going to be much preparation time.
“So, between now and April 14, we’re going to have three days of white-ball focus so the guys can also understand the philosophy around white-ball cricket and clarify what our goals are around that.”
Gibson started work at Yorkshire at the start of the month, almost immediately after arriving back from the Pakistan Super League where he was the bowling coaching with runners-up Multan Sultans.
And he has enjoyed his first few weeks in charge.
“I’m very pleased and very happy with the squad of players I’ve inherited,” he said.
“There’s some experienced players there plus the England players to add and some very exciting youngsters.
“We’ve had a really good nine or so days here working really hard, talking about all things around the game, the season, the culture we want to create for ourselves, my philosophy – that sort of stuff.
“I have talked to them about what I expect from them and what they can expect from me. So, really, setting the framework for how we want to operate.
“We have worked hard on fitness over here, that’s one of my non-negotiables.”
Another vitally important aspect to the Middle Eastern tour has been the chance to spend time together as a new group.
Gibson and the playing squad have been joined in the Gulf by new assistant coaches Kabir Ali and Ali Maiden as well as second-team coach Tom Smith.
“The main focus was to get away from England, the weather and play cricket,” said Gibson. “But we’ve also used the time to have some good conversations and share my philosophies.
“We’ve also spoken about the work the players can do with Ali, Kabir and Tom as well and how we’re going to operate as a coaching group.
“The players have had a very difficult winter. A lot’s been said.
“It’s been nice to get away and get stuck into the cricket and gelling as a group.
“Myself and all the coaches are new in the environment, so it’s been about getting to know each other and talking cricket.”
Central to Gibson’s coaching philosophy are a couple of things.
One is teamship, as he describes it.
“I stole that phrase from Clive Woodward (former England rugby union coach),” he said.
“Winning is built around teamship and the values of being together as a group of players and doing something special for Yorkshire whether it is this season or the season after.”
Another is style of play.
“The style of play is going to be positive, to try and win cricket matches,” he said. “We are going to take the positive option on the field in pursuit of winning games of cricket.”
An example of the former – the teamship aspect – has come in Dubai via England duo Adil Rashid and Dawid Malan.
“Adil is with us, and has been a very welcome addition to our camp,” continued Gibson. “He’s been excellent for us.
“I have tasked him with helping our young spinners we have with us, and he’s been spending time with the Sullivan brothers (Josh and Harry) and Jack Shutt.
“He’s been really good for us and has added some value in terms of his work with those guys.
“Dawid is here with us also. He didn’t play in any of the games, but he’s been getting his work done.
“I’ve also tasked him with passing on his knowledge to the young players. He’s been talking to Will Luxton and guys like that. Dawid’s been focusing on getting his work done and also passing on to others.”
Gibson confirmed that he has asked Rashid, who he has known since the leg-spinner was 13, to re-consider his plans to focus solely on limited overs cricket.
“I think we’ve managed to get Adil to bowl about six balls with the red ball, so that’s progress on that front,” smiled the coach.
“But he’s really been focusing on his white-ball skills.
“Of course, we would love to have him (playing Championship cricket), and I’ve told him that.
“I’ve told him that as far as I’m concerned, the door is open for him to come back in and play red-ball cricket if he feels someway down the line he’d like to re-start that side of his career.”
There have been some notable absentees in Dubai, headlined by England Test trio Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Matthew Fisher.
Dom Bess has also been granted a short period of rest following his involvement in the Ashes tour of Australia, while Gary Ballance has remained in England.
“I spoke to Gary before we came away, and he didn’t feel like he was ready to be on tour,” confirmed Gibson.
“He’s at home just trying to look after his health, mentally and physically. He’s still doing his work, trying to get himself ready for the season.
“We have been offering him as much support as we can, not only on the mental wellbeing side but on the cricket side.
“He still has a desire to play the season, and we want him to play the season.
“We’re giving him as much support as we can to get him ready for the start of the season.
“He’s not ruled out (of the forthcoming friendlies). When we get back, I’ll have a conversation with him and see where he is and what the next steps are.”
After a series of international and franchise league coaching assignments, including spells as England’s bowling coach and as head coach with the West Indies and South Africa, Gibson is delighted to back involved in county cricket.
He still lives in Durham, where he finished his stellar playing career in 2007.
“I guess in an ideal world, when you look at how the coaching cycle works, you finish playing county cricket and then become a county coach, starting your education there,” he said.
“Then you go to international cricket and maybe even come back to county cricket afterwards.
“But I was lucky in a sense that when I finished playing county cricket, I went straight to international cricket in 2007 with England.
“Since 2007 to now, I have been on the road constantly. That’s a lot of time on the road.
“The last two years with Covid hasn’t helped, with the amount of time you have to spend in bubbles and quarantine.
“So I was looking for an opportunity to get off the road and be closer to home.
“I live in Chester-le-Street. So when the opportunity came to coach Yorkshire, which is just down the road, I thought about it seriously and had some conversations with my family. We felt, ‘Why not’.
“Also, Yorkshire are one of the best clubs in the country – if not the best – in terms of being successful and having a fantastic stadium.
“So to able to get up in the morning, drive down and work at Headingley, which is one of the great stadiums in the world, is a great thing for myself.”
And in terms of the off-field issues which have surrounded the club, Gibson added: “You can’t ignore what has gone.
“But when I spoke to Darren Gough and Lord Patel about what they are trying to achieve in terms of bringing the club back together and instilling good values, there was nothing about what they said that scared me.
“I’ve played cricket all over the world, in South Africa and other places, and there was nothing there that scared me and made me think, ‘I don’t want to be involved in that’.
“I actually saw it the other way and thought, ‘This will be a great thing to get involved in and help build back this great club’.”