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Interview

Shirin Sadikot in Cape Town

We want to be that team people talk about: Gillespie

Yorkshire coach wants his side to play dashing and exciting brand of cricket

The sun was shining brightly over Cape Town. A CLT20 official team bus pulled over at the Newlands Stadium and out walked a few men in white Jerseys with a logo of a white rose carved on the chest. The Yorkshire Carnegie team was supposed to have a training session from 2 pm. But unlike most teams, these men were out on the field, warming up a few minutes earlier than their scheduled time

The warm-ups followed a game of football, fielding drills and an extended session in the nets. The training went on for good three and a half hours. And one man who was right into it, as energetic, if not more, as the players, was coach Jason Gillespie.

The former Australian fast bowler was handed the reins of Yorkshire Cricket Club’s team in November 2011. When he took over, the team was smarting from relegation in the County Championship. In his first season with them, Gillespie brought them back to the top division and helped them earn a spot in the Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa by making to the final of the Friends Life t20.

From coaching Zimbabwean domestic team MidWest Rhinos and being a bowling consultant to the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL to now as a guiding light to Yorkshire, Gillespie’s coaching career has flourished incredibly in a short time. And after a few minutes’ chat with the man, we knew exactly why.

Gillespie’s intent and passion as a coach shone throughout this interview with clt20.com, especially when, with conviction in his eyes, he said, “I think we can win this.”

What has your main focus been since you joined Yorkshire?

One thing that we’ve put big emphasis on this season at Yorkshire is to bring enjoyment to the game. Sometimes, cricketers forget the very reason they play the game for. We’ve put an effort to make the guys enjoy the whole experience of playing cricket – from the training to travel to the actual game. Enjoying the game should be the focus rather than anything else. It’s one of the most important things that the players can have.

The other thing that we have done is have clear guidelines on how we want to approach a game. So, when they walk out on the ground, the lads know exactly what the team is trying to achieve and what role they have to perform. That clarity of game plan has been very important for us.

Did playing for Yorkshire for a couple of years (2006 to 2007) help you in understanding the team dynamics as a coach?

It helped me understand the club more than anything else. There aren’t many players in the team that I played in, which is a good thing. There is a lot of adjustment needed in coaching the players that you once played with or against. It didn’t hurt being familiar with Yorkshire county cricket club.

Have you brought the Aussie brand of cricket to an English team?

We want to be a team that people talk about; we want to be a dashing, exciting side that plays positive cricket. It’s always easier to enjoy when you’re winning. But to play positive cricket has been one of our points of focus.

The intensity of the team’s training session showed how much this tournament means to the players. How huge is it?

It means everything to these players. We’ve got some experienced players but have a relatively young group. For some of these guys this is the highlight of their career. Yes, we hope they have more highlights in the future, like representing their country. But this is their opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best players to have ever played the game and test themselves against some wonderful cricket teams around the world. Just the opportunity for Yorkshire to be part of this tournament is absolutely sensational. Before this some of these guys hadn’t seen the Newlands in their lives; they just saw it on TV. Now they’re practising there and sitting in the change room there. All these little things are so exciting for them.

How would you describe your growth as a coach?

My experience in Zimbabwe taught me a lot. There I had to do certain things as a coach that you probably don’t have to do with teams from Australia, England or India. There are many challenges having to deal with individuals and situations off the field in a Third World country like Zimbabwe. But that taught me the importance of playing the game in a simplified way. I’ve very firm with my belief of how the game must be played but at the same time you have to adapt to the new team, new players.

What’s the difference between coaching KXIP and Yorkshire?

At KXIP I was in the assistant role and had arrived just before the tournament started. Also, the team had players from all around the world. In a single team you have seasoned veterans who’re coming at the end of their careers, you have guys coming out of injury and trying to win a place in the national team again and young Indian guys relishing the opportunity to rub shoulders with the greats. In that situation it’s really difficult to impart too much coaching knowledge and you have to keep things as simple as possible.

Have you carried your attributes as a player in your coaching?

What’s interesting is that I wasn’t that structured a player in terms of my preparations and things like that. I just went and bowled, fielded and batted a bit. But as a coach I have my set ways of how I want to do certain things. I like to have my sessions planned out. I always try to put on a perfect training session. It’s never going to happen but that’s my goal every single time we have a training session.

In whatever we’ve seen of Yorkshire in this CLT20, one gets the impression that these guys really believe they can do it. Was this belief already there when you joined or is it something that you’ve instilled in them?

I’ve got no doubt that these guys can take a challenge. When I got in all the guys had the talent to be successful. It was just the matter of them going out there with a clear mind and playing with that passion and hunger. You can never crystal-ball the result but we encourage our players to do well the things that we have a control on, such as preparation and implementation of game plans. If you do that with a smile on your face and a big effort, more often than not you’ll come out on the winning side.

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