Danny Hall: Jason Gillespie to return to Australia after sealing his place as true Yorkshire CCC legend
It's November 2011 at Headingley in Leeds, and the mood at Yorkshire CCC could hardly be flatter.
The club, shorn of an overseas player for much of the season with financial pressures hitting hard, had been relegated in the County Championship and, ten years after last winning the top title, were staring into the abyss of Division Two cricket.
Yorkshire’s young side, hailed as potential title winners, struggled to cope and dissent among the coaching ranks didn’t help, either. It’s easy sometimes to describe a club as at rock-bottom, but it’s hard to imagine them getting much closer.
Chairman Colin Graves went on the offensive, taking aim squarely at the players. “The performances have been a disgrace,” he raged. “Unacceptable. The players need to take a long, hard look at themselves.”
Something at Headingley had to change and, ultimately, it was the club’s coaches who paid the price. Four left; Craig White opted to pursue a career as an international umpire, the long-serving Steve Oldham, John Blain and Kevin Sharp, who did so much to help the career of Sheffield’s Joe Root, all reapplied for jobs and were turned down.
Enough was enough. And in walked Jason Gillespie.
Gillespie, then just 36 years old, was a left-field choice, his only main coaching experience from MidWest Rhinos, a domestic team in Zimbabwe. The former Australia bowler had also worked with Kings XI Punjab in the IPL and Australia A, but his appointment was Yorkshire’s Hail Mary.
And how it worked. Yorkshire bounced back to win promotion at the first attempt, without losing a game, and then finished second in Division One the year after; just behind champions Durham.
Then, in 2014, came the breakthrough. Adam Lyth scored a remarkable 1,489 runs, Jack Brooks took 68 wickets and Yorkshire, for the first time since 2001, were county champions.
The Gillespie-inspired turnaround was complete, but more was to come; the following season, Yorkshire retained their title in remarkable fashion. Shorn of their England players, Yorkshire finished top of the tree with a record points total, and the most wins ever (11) of any 16-game Championship season, ever.
Forgive the history lesson if you will, but Gillespie’s remarkable story at Yorkshire is well worth repeating. It will come to an end this autumn, though, when Gillespie packs his coaching kit, leaves his Yorkshire sun-hat behind and returns Down Under with his family.
The decision, he admits, didn’t come easy.
“Very tough, because I love my job,” he admitted this week at an emotional press conference alongside his colleague and friend, Martyn Moxon.
“I’m standing down because of family reasons. It’s well known that my wife and kids are now back in Australia. As much as I love this club, my job and living here in Yorkshire, the time is right to step aside.
“The initial plan was for the family to go back and spend a bit of time in Oz and then we’d all come back after the Big Bash and have another season at Yorkshire.
“Once it became clear that wasn’t going to happen and the family was going to stay in Australia, the goalposts shifted a bit.
“I still thought I could come over here and try to get back a couple of times during the summer. But the more I thought about it the more I realised it wasn’t going to be practical from a family point of view.
“I’m a husband and father first. At the end of the day, family comes first.”
The secret of success for Gillespie, now 41, has been about keeping it simple. Liam Plunkett, who joined Yorkshire from Durham after losing his way, remembers his favourite piece of advice from Gillespie.
“Just bowl fast.”
It’s difficult to argue with the results; Gillespie has tasted defeat just five times in 76 Championship games and his side are just five points behind Division One leaders Middlesex.
A hat-trick of titles is well and truly on - and there could surely be a no more fitting send off to the boy from Sydney who came from Down Under as a relative unknown, and returns a White Rose hero.