ANDREW GALE is confident he can bounce back from a disappointing season with the bat to help mastermind Yorkshire’s attempt to win the County Championship in their 150th anniversary year.
The Yorkshire captain suffered his leanest summer since he became a first-team fixture in 2008, scoring 487 runs in 15 first-class games at an average of 30.
Gale had averaged over 40 in each of the previous two years to raise hopes of breaking into the full England side.
But the magic temporarily deserted him last summer and he is desperate to make amends in 2013.
“Last year wasn’t a year I anticipated in Championship cricket in terms of my own performance,” said Gale, who managed only two 50s in 20 innings, with a top score of 80 against Leicestershire at Scarborough.
“In recent years, being captain of Yorkshire has raised my game, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t quite go my way last season.
“It’s the first sort of blip I’ve had with my own form since I started in the first team really, and it’s about how I bounce back from that now.
“I want to have a real crack at winning the title next season and I’m determined to play a big part myself with the bat.”
Gale, 29, said he never really felt out of form last summer.
That is backed up by the fact he reached double figures in 15 of his 20 Championship innings.
“Every time I went out to bat I felt in good touch,” he said.
“I didn’t get out for nothing too often and regularly seemed to get to 20, 30, only to then find a way of getting out.
“I’ve questioned the concentration side of things and whether that’s something I need to improve on.
“But there was nothing technical I could put my finger on; I kept getting starts but never really kicked on.”
As his own biggest critic, Gale knows he did not do himself justice in 2012.
However, his one-day form was typically impressive, and he remains one of the most versatile and adaptable batsmen around.
“My form was good in Twenty20 and one-day cricket and my stats were good,” said Gale, who averaged just under 40 in the Clydesdale Bank 40 and approaching 30 in the Twenty20 Cup.
“I seem to have found a game plan that works for me at the top of the order in the one-day game and I enjoying playing in those formats.
“It was in Championship cricket that things didn’t go my way, and it was just one of those seasons, to be honest.
“I was only one or two big knocks away from having a really good season instead of a below-par one.”
Gale’s No 1 target, of course, was to lead Yorkshire back into Division One of the Championship – an objective he achieved with flying colours.
Having been hampered by poor weather for much of the year, Yorkshire came with a late flourish to clinch the second and final promotion position.
“It was a massive achievement to go straight back up, particularly with all the bad weather that was around,” said Gale, whose side won five and drew 11 of their 16 matches.
“I’d like to think that if the weather had been good all year, we’d have been promoted long before the end of the season.
“You thought at some stage that the sun was bound to come out, but it never did and we were always fighting against the elements. But, when we did have some good weather, we played some excellent cricket and played teams off the park.“
Gale believes a continuation of that form will make his side strong contenders next summer.
Yorkshire are aiming to win the title for the first time since 2001 and to mark their 150th anniversary in the best way possible.
“I’m sure that if we continue the kind of form we showed last season that we’ll be up there challenging in the First Division,” said Gale, who so nearly led Yorkshire to the title in 2010 when they exceeded expectations to finish third.
“We certainly won’t be going into Division One just to make up the numbers. I believe we’ve got a squad of players who are good enough to give it a real good go.
“As long as our attitude is right, we’re good enough to compete with and really push the best sides in the country.”
Vital to their hopes will be Gale himself. He has had a roller-coaster ride as captain so far.
In his three years at the helm, he has almost won the Championship, suffered relegation, won promotion, taken Yorkshire to their first Twenty20 Cup final and to their first appearance in the Twenty20 Champions League.
“It’s been a massive learning curve but a hugely enjoyable experience,” he reflected. “In that first season, back in 2010, it all seemed so easy; everything went to plan and my own form was good.
“Then 2011 didn’t go to plan and I got injured as well, while last season was a difficult one for me personally but a good one for the team.
“It’s been an eventful period, and I’m extremely excited about next summer – not just because it’s the 150th anniversary, but because we’ve got a real chance, in my view, of doing well on the pitch.”