Tim Bresnan, the ex-England allrounder, was at the heart of most of what was good about Yorkshire’s cricket last season. Benedict Gardner spoke to him about what’s changed at Yorkshire over the winter, and about the prospects for the upcoming season.
2016 was a mixed season for Yorkshire. For any other county, a season in which they finished in the top four of all three competitions would be counted as a success. But Yorkshire are not any other county, and any trophyless season is seen as slightly disappointing.
Yorkshire have started this season with a loss, a win, and a draw, and will surely be hoping that with a new leadership structure, new signings, and new players coming through, this season will be different.
Ben Coad (22 wickets in three games at 14) has had a great start to the season. What have you made of him? Has he surprised you with how well he’s done? And what’s changed, if anything?
Yeah, he’s a good little bowler. He’s done really well. He’s bowled a lot of overs, but that’s what you need the young blokes to come in and do isn’t it? Protect us old lads! He’s been coming through for the last three or four years, but was seen as being not quite ready. Then over the winter the coaching staff challenged him to improve his skills; they gave him a bit of a steer in what he needed to do and how they saw his role, and he’s gone away and worked on it and he’s improved massively. This pre-season he stuck his hand up and was probably the best bowler out of everyone. Then he got his opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands.
It’s been all change at Yorkshire this season in terms of leadership. Gary Ballance is the new captain – how’s he been so far?
Gaz has been very good. He’s very tactically astute. He thinks about the game a lot, which is obviously what you want your captain to do, so he’s a good appointment. Gaz also leads from the front – first game he banged out a hundred which is absolutely what you want. He’s not a big talker, maybe he’ll say something five minutes before we go out and then we’ll have a little huddle on the pitch, but it’s pretty much all been sorted beforehand. He’s pretty good in the run up to the game with the tactical stuff, going through the opposition line-ups and making plans and he’s pretty good in his debrief. He’s not a big talker but he leads by example.
And the other leadership change is Andrew Gale, who’s retired from playing and become head coach. How has he started, and how is it playing under someone you spent so much of your career playing alongside?
He’s been very good. It’s good to have that continuity with him going from captain straight into being a coach. He helps the younger guys a lot, giving them direction and clarity on their roles and then allows them to go away, work on it, and then express themselves when they come into the team. He does what’s necessary, but not too much. It is a bit weird having played with him for 12 years and then him coming and telling you what to do suddenly. But we’ve got a mutual respect for each other so it hasn’t been an issue so far, so I think we’ll be absolutely fine.
You’ve got a new overseas player, Australia’s Peter Handscomb. Are you expecting a lot of him?
He’s obviously a good player, and his record speaks for itself – I watched him in a few Test matches and one-dayers and he looked really good. He got a nice 70 the other day too so he’s started well. He’s a good lad as well; he’s going to be good for us I reckon, fingers crossed!
Say it’s October, the season’s over and you’ve spotted something in Handscomb’s technique that a bowler could exploit. Is it your job to say something to Joe Root or whoever, with the Ashes in mind?
I think that’s not really for me. If Rooty or Jonny [Bairstow] wants to look at him, that’s fine. But I won’t be giving any trade secrets away in case we come across any other bowlers or teams out there that want to get him out when he’s playing for us!
On Jonny Bairstow, what do you make of [Andrew Strauss’] decision to give him a rest for the game against Warwickshire, considering he was allowed to enter the IPL auction?
I’m pretty much not interested to be honest. He’s available when he’s available and he’s not when he’s not. Its not for me to say how tired he is or whatever, that’s up to the ECB and Yorkshire to thrash out a plan. As far as I’m concerned they’re England’s players, and when they come back it gives us a boost. As players we don’t care, we just get on with the players we’ve got available. I think that’s the best way to go about it, because it happens to us a lot. We have players on central contracts and others being called up all the time, so if you’re thinking like that it could cloud your judgement and become an issue. We’re not looking for any excuses.
Last year you came close to winning all three competitions, but towards the end of the season fell away a bit. Does that prompt a change of approach?
Well, we still want to compete in all three competitions. Its going to be hard work, but I think it’s going to be easier to plan this year with the season being structured as it is – in blocks. So you can actually plan, prepare, and execute in the white-ball formats as well as you can in the Championship.
What other effects do you think the fixture changes could have on the season?
It might not give other teams places to hide, if they’re putting all their eggs into one basket. It’s obvious who’s doing it, who’s setting their game up for either red-ball or white-ball cricket. It might not give them as easy a ride in the future.
Do you think it could make spin less important?
Well no because we’ve already seen wickets for spinners; down in Somerset we saw spinners take wickets, and in the game against Warwickshire, [Adil] Rashid and Jeetan Patel got wickets. I think the way that the toss is set up, a lot of clubs are leaving their wickets a bit drier to start with hoping that there will be a toss and [the away team] won’t just take the option to bowl and bowl a team out, so that’s why. I do find it weird that the ECB would change the rules to get spinners into the game, and then have more games early season. But I’ll stop there!