THE sight of Andrew Gale sitting alone and dejected on the balcony outside the visitors’ dressing room at Old Trafford on Wednesday, moments after leading Yorkshire to their first Championship win against Lancashire for 12 years – a win that has practically guaranteed the title – is not one that I shall forget in a hurry.
The crowd had left for home and gulls were gathering across a deserted outfield as Gale stared blankly into space with a thousand self-recriminations running through his mind while his team-mates inside celebrated a magnificent victory.
Moments earlier, Gale had learned the news that he had been banned for the final two games of the Championship season for an ill-advised outburst at the Lancashire batsman Ashwell Prince, which, under the England and Wales Cricket Board’s disciplinary procedure, triggered an automatic suspension due to penalty points Gale had already accrued for showing dissent at an umpiring decision in the corresponding game at Headingley, when he was erroneously given out.
The captain understandably needed a little time to himself outside the dressing room in Manchester before joining in celebrations which will deservedly turn into those of a champagne variety if, as seems likely, Yorkshire clinch the title with a win or a draw against closest rivals Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge next week.
Gale was roused to rage by what he perceived as Prince’s time-wasting on the third evening as Lancashire battled in vain to save the match.
According to sources, Prince was not exactly backwards in coming forwards himself in the verbal stakes in a typically full-blooded Roses contest, and there was an element of handbags about the whole episode as Gale clashed with the South African as the players left the field at close of play.
Unfortunately, the umpires overheard and were duty-bound to report the matter, with Prince also appearing to fall foul of disciplinary guidelines by several times angrily waving his bat at Gale.
However, the days when heads could be banged together and flare-ups sorted out over a drink or a handshake are long gone in this world of endless procedural posturing and holier-than-thou authority, and Gale had no choice but to take his punishment.
Personally, I think he has been harshly treated.
It looked to be six-of-one and half-a-dozen of the other, and although what Gale allegedly said cannot be condoned, you wonder whether a little compassion might have prevailed.
It is certainly a bit rich for the likes of England captain Alastair Cook to encourage James Anderson to continue his colourful sledging on one hand, and for the ECB to punish Gale on the other for similar language.
Cook was quick to leap to Anderson’s defence after his much-publicised spat with India’s Ravindra Jadeja, and there exists an unmistakable whiff of double standards.
In my view, there is no place for sledging and the sort of nonsense that Anderson spouts.
Bust-ups in the heat of battle are a different matter, however, and that is why I feel sorry for Gale.
This is a fellow with many qualities as a captain, batsman and man. When Yorkshire win the title, as they surely must, they will owe Gale a considerable debt of gratitude.