YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale has fired a warning to the rest of English cricket by insisting that his record-breaking team can improve by “15 to 20 per cent”.
Yorkshire smashed several records last summer en route to winning their second successive County Championship under Gale.
They gained the most points (286) and the most wins (11) since the competition was split into two divisions in 2000, while their winning margin of 68 points was the biggest between the champions and runners-up since 1979.
Yorkshire also completed their longest unbeaten run in the tournament (26 matches) since 1946, overpowering opponents despite repeated drains on resources due to international call-ups.
Yorkshire were streets ahead of the rest despite freely admitting they did not always play to their optimum, which gives Gale reason to believe they can raise their game further in 2016.
“I think there’s another 15 to 20 per cent to come from us,” he said.
“I think there’s still a lot more left in the tank.
“Although we broke some records as a team last summer, by no means did anyone break any records individually apart, perhaps, from Jonny Bairstow.
“Jonny had a great season with the bat, as did Jack Brooks with the ball, but we can still improve both individually and collectively.”
Gale believes Yorkshire must play better next year to achieve their cherished aim of a hat-trick of Championships.
No team has done the hat-trick since Yorkshire themselves under the late Brian Close in the Sixties, and Gale believes sides will be even more fired up next season to knock the White Rose off their pedestal.
“I think teams will be gunning for us more,” he said.
“Some teams will also play differently against us, probably playing not to lose, and we saw that a little bit last season with some of the pitches that teams were producing against us.
“The bottom line is, we’re going to have to find a way to deal with that.
“We’re going to have to find a way to win on flatter pitches.”
Gale and his colleagues return for pre-season training on Thursday after a well-deserved break.
The club gave the players an extra two weeks off this year, with Gale and his team-mates asked to keep their fitness ticking over before training starts with a vengeance now in the run-up to Christmas.
Most of the training until the end of the year will be fitness-based, with the skills work starting after the New Year period.
Gale revealed that discussions have already taken place among the Yorkshire hierarchy as to how the club can improve next summer, which suggests that no one at Headingley is resting on their laurels.
“We spoke as a management group last week about how we’re going to improve and the importance of making sure we do that,” he said.
“We talked about the areas we want to improve in general, and also the areas in which individual players can improve as well.
“As players, we know that we’re going to have to work even harder this winter than we did last winter.
“But I don’t think it will need me to say that when we turn up on Thursday; the lads will know that themselves, and I think they’ll naturally look for that extra 15 to 20 per cent that I’m talking about.”
Gale senses a genuine eagerness among the squad to get back to business.
That enthusiasm was palpable yesterday when several first-team players were present at a special reception at Leeds Civic Hall, where the club’s achievement in winning the men’s and women’s Championship – along with the success of its junior sides – was celebrated by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Judith Chapman, before a distinguished gathering of dignitaries and guests.
“The lads have had their time off, and I know they’re looking forward to getting back into it now and a bit of routine,” added Gale.
“The celebrations were a lot calmer this year than they were last year – it was pretty manic at the end of the 2014 season going here, there and everywhere with the trophy – and it’s been a bit more relaxed this time.
“The extra time off has given us all the chance to reflect on what we’ve achieved as a group, and also what we want to achieve going forward.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to work.”