Yorkshire racism crisis – Darren Gough, Ottis Gibson look to the future after Yorkshire’s winter of discontent

Yorkshire racism crisis - Darren Gough, Ottis Gibson look to the future after Yorkshire's winter of discontent
On Thursday morning, Yorkshire had wondered if they were at risk of bankruptcy. Twenty-four hours later, Headingley shone with positivity after the county’s members had given their restructuring plans thumping approval with more than 80 percent in favour. A lot remains to be done, but with Darren Gough and Ottis Gibson at the helm, there is positivity and affability in abundance and it could be a perfect antidote to any lingering resentment or self-pity after the upheavals of the winter.

Gough, on loan from TalkSPORT as interim managing director of cricket, has exchanged the microphone for a calculator as he now finds himself overseeing player budgets. Gibson, his choice as coach, has called time on most of the past 15 years on the international circuit in the hope of a more settled lifestyle – even if he will now faces a 100-mile commute from Chester-le-Street into the eye of the stormiest county club in the land.

Their challenge – to establish harmony and win cricket matches – is a daunting one, as Gough realised the first time he met up with the squad. Azeem Rafiq’s distressing evidence to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last November was still fresh in the mind, and as arguments raged, the Yorkshire dressing-room was presented by some as a vision from hell.

“When I took over in January, I saw almost fear and confusion in the players’ faces,” Gough said. “They have been through a lot, particularly in the past 18 months. But I am immensely proud of what they have done in the past three months.”

The education process is underway. A shift in White Rose values, unity drawn from shared endeavour, and an attempt to bring more empathy to a county that has historically taken pride in being the most straight-talking and uncompromising in the land.

“The one thing we have done as a squad is we have listened,” said Gibson, who counts a spell as England bowling coach among an impressive CV. “We have listened to what was being said about us and then we decided what we can do in that regard to help bring about that change.

“We went to Dubai in pre-season and had a lot of conversations about how we can do things better and look out for each other better,” he added. “There was talk about inclusivity, how we can make sure that we’ve got each other’s backs, not just on the field but off the field, the language we use to each other and so on. Trying to address those things is an ongoing process.”

Gough says he has not lost friends – he is not a Machiavellian sort, which helps – he is a deeper thinker about the game than many imagine and he has an open mind about the length of his stint as interim director. That future, in any case, will be determined by a largely independent board – and 600 applicants for that board have given Perrett Laver, the international head-hunting company, quite a task.

That board must address a never-ending financial predicament – albeit there is optimistic talk of sponsors flooding back after the vote. But their prime task, an immense one, and not achievable overnight, will be not just to provide the development pathways for young, talented, minority-ethnic cricketers, but to find solutions to the cultural challenges that cause those pathways to be thick with brambles.

“Last night’s EGM proved there’s 85 percent on all three resolutions who are with us,” Gough said. “They understood that not just Yorkshire, but I think cricket in general, needs to change. Sport, society, needs to change. All I can do is put things in place, along with Ottis and the players. We’ve been educated on a daily basis, by people that write articles, by reading, by watching, by communicating.

“People are going to make mistakes; they’re going to continue to make mistakes. But it’s about forgiveness, it’s about education, it’s about moving forward together to make us great again. We want to be on the front and back pages for the right reasons, and we haven’t been. It’s sad what’s happened, we can never take it back, we can’t forget what’s happened, it’s about learning from it, moving forward and making sure that situation doesn’t happen again.”

Talking of forgiveness, Yorkshire remain uncertain about the timeline of any further ECB investigations and potential points deductions and, this being English cricket, there is no certainty that any such deduction would be applied before their opening County Championship fixture at Bristol on April 14.

“Discussions will probably go on all season,” said Gough, “but the way I look at it, we start the season on zero and if we get the most points we win the Championship.” Compared to a few months ago, when they were too low for zero, that sounds like a step forward.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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