Andrew Gale has his feet firmly on the ground as he targets silverware this summer on all fronts. Chris Waters spoke to the Yorkshire captain.
YORKSHIRE in 2002. Nottinghamshire in 2006. Lancashire in 2012.
What’s the connection?
All were relegated one year after winning the County Championship.
Although it would be silly to suggest that Yorkshire are likely to suffer that fate in 2015, it would also be silly to take anything for granted.
Complacency is the enemy of success and, no doubt, few at Headingley, Trent Bridge and Old Trafford foresaw the relegations that followed title glory.
Indeed, one only has to think back four years to when Yorkshire were relegated for a second time – one year after almost winning the Championship in 2010.
But for a batting collapse on the final day of the season, they would have won the title in Andrew Gale’s first summer as captain, only to finish third.
The message is that not even a good team can afford to rest on their laurels.
It is one that Gale has enforced to his players.
“There’s obviously a history of teams winning trophies and getting relegated the year after or fighting relegation,” he said. “Ryan Sidebottom’s been involved in that with Notts, and the most important thing for me going into the season is that we don’t just go, ‘Oh, we’ve won one title’ and then get relegated.
“The first thing I did when we came back for training was to sit all the senior players down and say, ‘Right, what do we need to do to carry on being successful?’
“It’s something we’ve thought about massively as a group.”
Beyond the obvious of batting, bowling and fielding well – the core attributes that carried Yorkshire to the Championship last summer – what conclusions did Gale and his colleagues reach?
In a nutshell, it is that the little things often make the biggest difference and that everyone must work to stay hungry and focused.
“We said that if we see any slacking or people taking their foot off the gas, we nail it straight away between ourselves,” said Gale. “Nothing to do with the coaches, nothing to do with anyone else, we just nip it in the bud and don’t let it drag on.
“It could be absolutely anything: timekeeping, wearing the right stuff – stuff we’ve always done well in the past.
“But little habits can creep in and we’ve made sure this winter that no-one’s pushed the boundaries.”
Gale’s words are a revealing insight into his captaincy style, which is incisive and inclusive.
His willingness to discuss such matters with his players – rather than dictate terms to them – suggests a maturity that has come with experience.
Trust breeds trust, and the players clearly have trust in Gale, who encourages them to play positive, aggressive cricket.
The mutual respect is obvious.
“When I first got the captaincy in 2009, I perhaps tried a bit too hard but I’m more laid-back now,” said Gale. “I consult the players more – especially the senior ones – and I take a lot from them, and they’re the ones who run the dressing room really.
“All I want is people who are passionate about playing for Yorkshire, which is exactly what we’ve got.
“I’ll never have a cross word with anyone who gives 100 per cent.”
Gale has already challenged his men to join the ranks of the great Yorkshire teams by winning a raft of trophies.
He sees no reason why they cannot compete on all fronts this summer.
“We’re certainly going out to try to win all three trophies,” he said. “We’ve probably got more strength in depth than we’ve had before, and, if you’re going to compete in all three competitions, that’s what you need.
“The Championship is the main thing, and it always will be. But we need to do better in the one-day stuff.”
Yorkshire’s one-day form last year was disappointing.
Despite having signed the world’s No 1 T20 batsman in Aaron Finch, they failed to reach the knockout stages of the T20 Blast, something that might have attracted a good deal more scrutiny from the membership had they not performed so superbly in the Championship.
Finch is back this year to join new signing Glenn Maxwell, and Yorkshire would be disappointed if they did not make only their second appearance at a T20 Finals Day.
Gale is also keen to take the club to a Lord’s final in the Royal London One-Day Cup, with Yorkshire getting no further than the quarter-finals last year.
“Probably in recent years we’ve maybe put the one-day stuff on the back-burner a bit and used the opportunity to rest people, but we’ve got such a good squad that I don’t think we’ll need to do that,” he said. “I’d love to get to a Lord’s final both from a club point of view and a personal point of view.
“In Twenty20, if we’re being honest, we’ve been a 50-50 team for quite a while now.
“If you look at the stats, we only win one of every two games, and that’s the reality we’ve got to address.”
Key to that will be reproducing the fearless brand of cricket Yorkshire play in the Championship.
Their best chance in T20 is to “attack, attack, attack” – something that should not be a problem with men such as Maxwell and Finch on board.
“What I want to see this year is no fear of failure,” said Gale. “I just want us to give it a really good go and enjoy it. If we do that, then the end result will look after itself.
“We’ve only reached Finals Day once, and that’s why the chief exec has shown intent and gone out and got two of the world’s best players because he wants us to be successful in T20.”
Gale will have a part to play in that aspiration as he targets a successful season on a personal front.
Last year, he managed 135 runs in 10 T20 games and 142 in nine matches in the 50-Over Cup, but he averaged over 40 in the Championship and made some telling contributions.
“I didn’t get the mass of runs I would have liked last season, but I still felt in good touch,” he said. “Particularly in Twenty20 and one-day cricket, I’ve been working really hard on that in the nets – more so than ever, really. I changed my technique a bit in Championship cricket last year but it went against me in one-day cricket, so I’ve been working on a few things. I’m determined to be successful and lead from the front.”