Yorkshire’s batsmen have been urged to take a leaf out of Alastair Cook’s book when it comes to devising a successful game plan for Championship cricket.
That is the message from new batting coach Paul Grayson, who has highlighted the England legend as the best player he has worked with.
Grayson was Cook’s county coach at Essex, where he spent eight years in charge until 2015.
Ripon-born Grayson, who started his playing career with Yorkshire, is with the White Rose squad in Potchefstroom and knows he is working with a talented group of players.
While Yorkshire have largely struggled for runs in recent years, struggles with the bat have become a much wider issue: “It’s a common theme throughout county cricket and even in Australia,” said Grayson.
“There’s been some low scores in the Sheffield Shield. The same goes for Test cricket.
“Top order batting is hard work. But if you get it right, it’s also very enjoyable.
“I’ve talked to quite a few of the lads already about the best player who I was lucky to work with, Alastair Cook.
“You talk about brilliant strengths, and Cooky didn’t have a lovely cover drive like a Michael Vaughan or an Ian Bell. But, mentally, he was so strong.
“He worked out his scoring options. He had three or four shots and tended to stick to that against the red ball. A good solid defence, cuts and pulls well. When he got in, he may start to a drive a bit.
“He was very smart – he worked out pitches very quickly, what’s a good shot to play on this surface and what’s a bad one.
“That’s the sort of thing we’re trying to get across to our lads.
“Sometimes when you go out to bat, you can have too many shots.
“I’ve seen that a bit over the last few years with some players. They can play every single shot in the book, but actually they don’t need to play them because they can get you into trouble.
“It’s about having a good game plan. It’s also about not panicking early season. There will be a few low scores. That can happen.
“Last year we went down to Essex, got bowled out for 50 and still won the game.”
Grayson started work at Emerald Headingley on March 1 having previously been head coach of the Yorkshire Diamonds women and also at Durham MCC University.
There were encouraging signs for the county during the closing stages of last season’s Championship campaign, with Gary Ballance and Tom Kohler-Cadmore standing out.
But consistency will be the key.
Grayson said: “The talent is there. It’s just mentally adapting from game to game and having that good game plan. It’s up to me to give that confidence back.
“Lads haven’t lost their ability, they’ve just lost a bit of the confidence in that ability.
“We are here as coaches to facilitate, to help and support the lads. But the best lads who I’ve worked with in my career have been very motivated and very driven to push their own careers forwards.
“That’s what we want to achieve with our lads, that they’re not over reliant on coaches and being told what to do. They have to make big decisions for themselves.
“In terms of England going forward for the Ashes, any top order player who starts the season well in county cricket, they’re going to put their name in the hat.
“Anyone who can put two or three scores together, their name will get mentioned. There’s no doubt about it.”
While Cook has retired from Test cricket, Yorkshire will face the Essex opener in this season’s Championship at Headingley (June 3-6) and at Chelmsford (July 7-10).