ANDREW HODD admits it is effectively Yorkshire’s County Championship to lose as he prepares to face Sussex in a four-day match for the first time since leaving the club to join Yorkshire in 2012.
Hodd, who played for Sussex from 2003 before joining Yorkshire following the departure of fellow wicketkeeper Gerard Brophy, believes Yorkshire are in pole position to land back-to-back titles.
They head into today’s game at Hove 38 points clear at the top with a match in hand on all their rivals, each of whom have four fixtures left.
And Hodd, who is taking advantage of first-choice wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow’s absence with England, believes Yorkshire can take another big step towards silverware if they can claim a seventh successive Championship win.
“We’ve got ourselves in such a good position that it’s ours to lose a little bit now,” said Hodd, who has played in five of the club’s 11 Championship games this summer. That’s not to be complacent or to say that no one else can put a run together.
“We saw in the past, for example, with Durham, that teams can put together a good winning run, and we need to make sure we keep doing the right things.
“But everyone is coming to the party for us in red-ball cricket, and it’s just about trying to get so far beyond everyone else that we can’t be caught.”
There would seem little chance of that happening.
However, Hodd is taking nothing for granted, and the 31-year-old admits he will have a few butterflies going back to his old stomping ground.
“I am a bit nervous about it to be fair,” said Hodd.
“Going back, it will be fine with the Sussex players, and it will be nice to see them, but some of the other people around the ground it might be a bit different.
“Being a Sussex boy and having been there for quite a while, when I left it was quite a hard time for me.
“That doesn’t mean my memories of the place are bad, but coming here (to Yorkshire), I’ve fallen back in love with cricket again.”
Hodd has never let Yorkshire down when called on and has improved as a player since heading north.
He believes that is partly down to the difference in cricketing philosophy.
“I do feel like I’ve improved,” he said. “I’ll never use it as an excuse to say I was held back at Sussex, because that’s not the case, but the mindset, attitude and ethos around both places are totally different.
“I feel I’ve kind of thrived in this environment much more than I did there, and it would be nice to go back and show what I can do.
“Hopefully, we can pick up a win.”
When pressed on what the differences are, Hodd said: “Here, because it’s such a big club, and Yorkshire is such a big and proud county, it’s sink or swim.
“You either find a way or someone will take your place.
“It’s ruthless like that but, as a cricketer, you’ve got to think on your feet because if you don’t then someone else will.
“Down there (at Sussex), I found a lot was done for you; it wasn’t player-driven and you were told what to do and how to act, which works fine for some people but, for others like myself, it can be quite hard.”
Hodd relishes the fact that Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie encourages his men to take responsibility.
“You’re given responsibility and if you don’t perform it’s your neck on the line,” said Hodd.
“As a player, you don’t want excuses or to blame anyone else.
“If it’s your choices, then you’ve made them.
“It encourages players to do the right things.”
Gillespie will choose from a strong 13-man squad boosted by the availability of Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid, deemed surplus to requirements at the fifth Ashes Test.
Glenn Maxwell is set to play his final match for Yorkshire before joining up with Australia for next month’s one-day series against England.
Maxwell’s impending departure is offset by the return of Aaron Finch, who will be available for the rest of the season after he was not selected by Australia for the one-day series.
As Yorkshire’s main overseas player, Finch – who has recovered from the metatarsal injury that cut short his stay last month – is consequently back instead of New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson, who had been lined up for the final four Championship games had Finch been on international duty, although it remains to be seen whether Finch will play any Championship cricket.
The ECB have confirmed that Yorkshire’s Royal London Cup quarter-final against Essex will take place at Chelmsford on Thursday (2pm start).