ANDREW GALE could be forgiven for walking around the dressing room prior to tomorrow’s match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge and introducing himself to the Yorkshire team.
It seems so long ago since Gale last played a County Championship game that the players could be forgiven for forgetting who he is.
One jokes, of course, but it will be 228 days tomorrow since the Yorkshire captain last appeared in a four-day match, a sequence not helped by the winter break but one that equates to almost two-thirds of a calendar year.
Gale was suspended for four games in total after his verbal altercation with Ashwell Prince during the Roses match at Old Trafford last September, and banned from lifting the Championship trophy.
The details of their spat in Manchester have been so well documented as to warrant only fleeting reference here.
Prince angered Yorkshire with his sledging and time-wasting tactics and Gale, in a moment of regrettable red-mist, told him to “f*** off back to your own country, you Kolpak f*****”.
What happened next elevated the bust-up to unnecessary status. The England and Wales Cricket Board banned Gale for the final two games of the season and, deciding that his comments might have had a racist connotation, prevented him from lifting the trophy when the title was won – ironically, given the scene of Gale’s comeback tomorrow – at Trent Bridge.
When the ECB predictably failed to make the racist charge stick, with Kolpak simply being a term to categorise certain non-EU cricketers, they slapped Gale with a further two-match ban for the start of this season in what smacked of a blatant attempt to save face.
But what hurt Gale more than the four-game ban and the chance to lift the trophy was the suggestion that he is racist, a point the ECB only tacitly denied when they were ultimately forced to back down.
Finally, the whole sorry saga can be put to bed when Gale returns to Championship duty tomorrow at the ground where Joe Root lifted the trophy last September.
Incredibly, the ECB only told Yorkshire that Gale would not be allowed to lift the trophy a few hours before they actually won it – an unforgivable action.
To their credit, Yorkshire have maintained a diplomatic stance on the affair, with coach Jason Gillespie saying only that Gale’s return tomorrow will give the side a massive lift.
“It’s hard for me to comment on what happened,” said Gillespie. “He’s missed a lot of cricket during his ban and we can debate all we want as to whether that’s fair. I don’t want to say anything on it other than it’s been a challenge for him. But Galey is a positive character and he’s been a massive support to the lads.
“This is his team and he’s just chomping at the bit to get back out there. His coming back is a massive boost. At the end of the day, the lads love their captain. They were shattered for him at Trent Bridge last year; we all were. First and foremost, he’s a human being and he has feelings. Hopefully, he can put this behind him.”
Gale’s ban will have run from September 3, 2014 to April 19, 2015 – roughly seven-and-a-half months.
Had he robbed an Old Trafford supermarket, he would probably have received a lesser sentence.