Ottis Gibson has urged his Yorkshire players to head into their season opener against Leicestershire with confidence but not over-confidence.
Gibson’s charges are the overwhelming favourites to win the LV= Insurance County Championship Division Two title and with it promotion.
In a survey of the 18 county captains just released by the ECB, for example, 13 of them have tipped Yorkshire for an immediate return to Division One.
But that doesn’t matter. It’s what happens out on the pitch that does, and that starts when the Foxes visit Headingley tomorrow morning (11am).
“I don’t think we will start expecting to win,” said coach Gibson, who will hand a debut to fellow Bajan Shai Hope after signing a short-term overseas deal with the county.
“We expect to play four good days of cricket, and hopefully at the end we’ve done enough to win.
“The thing in the second division, there are teams who have taken a long time to get out. Nottinghamshire had been in there for a while and Middlesex. They didn’t just go down and come straight back up.
“It would be wrong to just expect that we will go down and come straight back up, but of course that’s what we want to do.
“We know we have to play well and be a positive team if we are to get results. The second division is not an easy place to play. Absolutely, we want to get out of it at the first attempt, but our mentality has to be right.
“We can’t just go in and take it for granted because there are some tough teams, and everybody’s trying to do the same thing.”
Yorkshire’s preparation for 2023 has been excellent, though not without the odd speed bump here and there. There have been question marks surrounding overseas availability, chiefly club captain and new signing Shan Masood as he awaited news of Pakistan selection.
He is now going to be unavailable for the first four rounds of the Championship due to limited overs commitments against New Zealand, likely arriving in time to face Durham at the Riverside on May 11.
Jonny Tattersall will stand in as captain, though he faces a late fitness test on the little finger he injured in the weekend University friendly against Leeds/Bradford.
Gibson continued: “I’ve said to the guys in the dressing room that I came in this time last year and, of course as a coach, you’re trying to build relationships and trust as quickly as possible.
“I didn’t have the opportunity for a pre-season, and I had to trust them. This year is different. I’ve had six months with them in the indoor school and have seen them grow as people, practice and work hard.
“I know now where they are, I know their characters a lot better, and I know when I can push their buttons to get more out of them.
“I’ve answered a lot of questions over the winter, and from my point of view I’m more confident that we will play the way I want us to play.”
Paul Nixon’s Leicestershire head up the M1 bidding to better last season’s winless, bottom of Division Two campaign.
Wicketkeeper Lewis Hill captains a side which includes England leg-spinning whizkid Rehan Ahmed. They have signed overseas duo Wiaan Mulder and Peter Handscomb, the latter a former Yorkshire overseas player.
There is actually a strong Foxes connection within Yorkshire’s cricket department, with assistant coach Ali Maiden, second-team coach Tom Smith and all-rounder Ben Mike all having moved to the club from the Uptonsteel County Ground.
Gibson was also a Fox during his playing career, while high performance coach Tim Boon played for and coached the county.
“I was in an Academy role at Leicester,” said Maiden. “I spent two or three years there, and what would be nice is if there are two or three of the lads I had in the Academy playing this week.
“Rehan is one of those. It would be nice to see him play after the winter he’s had. There is also a lad Josh Hull, a left-arm seamer, who came through the Academy when I was there.
“It will be nice to see Nico and the boys and say hello. It will be a good start.”
One man, amongst many, who will be key to Yorkshire success this summer is George Hill, the all-rounder who scored his first two Championship centuries last summer and claimed a six-wicket haul with his skillful seamers.
“It’s been a really good winter,” said the 22-year-old. “I went to India on the batting trip and then South Africa. I feel like everyone’s prepared really well for the season.
“I’ve been working quite hard on my bowling this winter to try and make it as close to 50/50 as I can with the batting. I definitely do want to bowl more.
“It kind of takes the pressure off my batting.
“Say I bat and don’t get many runs on day one, I still feel like I can contribute with the ball. It’s the same the other way. The more I can do of both, I’m hoping it will help push my game forwards.
“I feel like I should have scored more runs last year, but I just didn’t kick on from making the starts. I got 11 or 12 twenties and thirties. I’d do the hard work and then give it away. I don’t actually think I was got out by too many good balls.
“I’m just desperate to win some games for Yorkshire.
“I’ve only won three Championship games in my time (debut in 2021). Fingers crossed we can do that and get back to Division One.”