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Willey's formula for T20 success

— 29 May 2020

David Willey should have been striding out at Emerald Headingley proud as punch this evening – his first outing as Yorkshire’s permanent Vitality Blast captain. The Vikings were due to host Durham in their North Division opener.

Instead, the star all-rounder has been sat at home chatting about his plans to take the county forwards in that format rather than implementing them.

After Steve Patterson stepped down from leading the side in T20, Willey, the 30-year-old with 185 career 20-over appearances under his belt, was appointed his successor in February.

A winner of domestic titles in England, Australia and India, and having played in a World Cup final, he has pretty much been there, done it and bought the t-shirt in the all action format.

So what does he believe Yorkshire – a county who have only ever reached Finals Day twice since 2003 and are still awaiting their first title – have to do to turn themselves into serial challengers from constant underachievers?

“I don’t think we’ve had a formula in the past,” said the ex-Northamptonshire man.

“It’s not always your best players who make up your best T20 team. If you look around the counties who’ve won the T20 in the past, they probably haven’t got eleven of the best players on the circuit.

  • Willey has enjoyed stints in the Big Bash for the Perth Scorchers
  • “It’s much more about how you come together to play a role in the side, and I don’t think we’ve done that consistently enough in the past. That’s something I want to make sure we do.

    “I’ve spoken to the management quite a lot about it, and I think we’re all on the same page with that.

    “We’ve under-performed massively in T20, and I was looking forward to this year being different.

    “I’ve pulled my hair out a lot over the last few years about it because I think we’ve got a group of players who should be challenging.”

    Unfortunately, Yorkshire’s recent Blast history has regularly seen them take one step forwards and then two back.

    Record scores and big wins have often been followed immediately by head scratching defeats.

    “That epitomises what I’m saying about us playing roles for the team,” continued Willey.

    “If you look at the games where you’ve gone, ‘Wow, this team’s incredible’, it’s probably been one or two players who have stood up and won the game.

    “We’re fortunate enough that we’ve got players who can do that, but day in and day out over the course of a competition, you’ve got to chip in and play your little role.

    “That could be a quick cameo or doing a boring job through the middle with the ball and not picking up wickets.

    “Whatever it may be, we have to do that, and that’s what we’ve not done individually for the team over the past few years.

    “And that’s why one game someone will get a big hundred and win it and the next we’ll go to Chesterfield where we have to scratch around and someone has to get an ugly run-a-ball 35 and we don’t do it.

    “We’ve also been poor on the road.

    “We know we’re going to get good pitches with a short side at Headingley, and we know how to play on them. We’re successful there.

    “But when you go to different grounds with different dimensions and surfaces, you have to play to another game plan.

    “That’s where we have to do things differently, and with how we were going about it in planning and preparation, I’m confident we’d have seen more consistency in playing those individual roles.

    “I can’t remember where it was, but I’ve already said to the lads, ‘If we’re not making the knockout stages and getting very close to Finals Day, it would have been a failure in my regard’.”

  • Willey has been involved in winning domestic campaigns with Northamptonshire, Perth Scorchers and Chennai Super Kings.

    “Without blowing my own trumpet, I’ve played a fair bit of T20 cricket now around the world and have been in quite a lot of squads who have won things. I’ve seen what works,” said the man who skippered Yorkshire briefly in 2018 as a replacement for injured Patterson.

    “People will look at Yorkshire and say, ‘They’re underachievers’, and I feel like I’m the right man to lead us out there to try and change that.

    “It was a funny one standing in for a couple of games.

    “It was difficult because while you want to captain your way, things had been done differently by the permanent captain and coach and you have to drop in and try to keep that going.

    “Now, I want to be captain and have my own views.

    “I’m quite a strong character in terms of how I want to play T20 and what brings success in this format.

    “I’ll be stepping out there with a lot of responsibility, and I’ll relish that. That’s why I think it’s a perfect stage in my career to take on a leadership role at the club.

    “Hopefully we still get out there at some point this summer.”

    Coronavirus has obviously put Willey’s excitement for cricket and his confidence in Yorkshire’s chances on hold for now.

    A frustrating summer last year left him wanting some time out – a quiet winter at home and time to work on his game away from the limelight.

    But he didn’t expect to have the best part of 12 months away from competitive action.

    “I said I could do with a break after last summer, which was a disappointing one for me in some regards – with (being left out of) the World Cup squad and one thing or another,” he reflected.

    “But I also wanted some time to work on my game, and I pretty much had six months to do that.

    “I was ready to get outside when we landed on pre-season tour in India (in March) and put some of that into practice.

    “So to go back to having the best part of three months off up to now, it’s probably put me back a bit from where I’d like to be.

    “We’re all in the same boat, though, but I’m certainly itching to get back out there and play some cricket.

    “With the squad we’ve put together, not just in T20 but all formats, it was building up to be an exciting summer for Yorkshire.

    “But every cloud and all that, I’ve been able to spend some quality time with my family. We’ve got two young ones, and we are doing some house renovations. So I’ve been keeping myself busy with that.

    “The decorating side of things, I leave to my wife. I’ve got no interest in that.

    “But we’ve had quite a bit of stuff to do in the garden. We hadn’t really touched that since we moved in. I’ve been quite hands on there. It’s generally been heavy labour stuff, which has kept me fit and strong.

    “It’s just the cricket side of things now which I’d love to get going again.”

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