ANDREW GALE has sent an early New Year message to Yorkshire’s supporters, insisting that the club are desperate to right the wrongs of 2017.
The county’s first team coach said that the players and coaches are working tirelessly to ensure that there is no repeat of last season’s unwanted dalliance with County Championship relegation.
Yorkshire dodged the drop by three points after winning only four of their 14 games, including a crucial victory against bottom club Warwickshire in their penultimate match.
Gale admitted that they were lucky to stay up and said that Yorkshire are determined to challenge at the right end of the table next season.
“We’ve got a lot of wrongs to put right next year,” he said.
“We’ve got a few points to prove.
“It was a tough season. Being involved in Yorkshire cricket, you’re expected to challenge for trophies, so to be fighting relegation wasn’t ideal.
“We were lucky to escape, but the positive is we’re still in Division One, and if we continue to have a good winter and prepare well, who knows what’s going to happen going forward.”
Last season ended ignominiously with a thumping 376-run defeat to Essex at Chelmsford.
It was the heaviest defeat in Yorkshire’s history by a runs margin and came after they were bowled out for 74 in their second innings, their lowest completed Championship total for 18 years.
I expect them to work as hard as they possibly can, I expect them to build team spirit and I expect them to be as fit as they possibly can.Yorkshire first-team coach, Andrew Gale
“We were all bitterly disappointed with last season, particularly the way it finished down at Essex,” said Gale.
“We just didn’t play anywhere near to our potential and that match was embarrassing, quite frankly.
“But they always say that time heals and we got away from each other at the end of the season and put things in perspective.
“The work to put things right is well under way, and, from what I’ve seen from the lads, they’ve come back fitter and stronger than they’ve ever done since I’ve been involved in the club, and there’s a real willingness there to change and move forward.”
While Essex paraded the Championship trophy after that game in Chelmsford, Gale and the Yorkshire players were locked in discussions in the visitors’ dressing room.
The chief topic of conversation was how a club that had won the Championship in 2014 and 2015 under Gale’s captaincy and then almost lifted it again in 2016 had contrived to let their standards slip.
“We were brutally honest at the end of last season,” said Gale.
“Not just me, but the players were brutally honest with each other too.
“It was the manner of cricket that we were playing that we were most disappointed with, and the players felt that they let themselves down and that they let Yorkshire cricket down.
“I’m part of that too, and I want to prove to the Yorkshire public how good these players are and I back them, hence why we haven’t gone and signed a load of new players.
“These are home-grown Yorkshire lads who we back, lads who’ve won Championships in the past, lads who can perform well.
“We’ve put a lot of prep into the pre-season and we know what we need to do, and I can see in the players how much it means to them.
“They know what I expect from them and I’ve reiterated that since the start of pre-season.
“I expect them to work as hard as they possibly can, I expect them to build team spirit and I expect them to be as fit as they possibly can.”
Ultimately, it is about performances on the pitch and the need for players with proven track records to live up to them.
Last season, only captain Gary Ballance did himself justice with the bat and seamer Ben Coad was the pick of the bowling attack in his first full season; otherwise, the batting and bowling returns were mostly ordinary.
Yorkshire will be strengthened by the recapture of New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson for a part of next season, but they will need to find someone to replace the wickets and influence of Ryan Sidebottom.
The former England man, who topped the club’s bowling averages with 25 wickets at 20.72 in an injury-hit final summer in the game, will be a tough act to follow, with Yorkshire now looking to the likes of England’s David Willey to step up to the plate.
“We’ve always talked about Dave Willey one day slotting in where Ryan did, and, with the way the fixtures are, we’ll have a chance to work with him after the England one-day series in New Zealand to give him the best opportunity to play in our first five Championship games,” said Gale.
“With Dave, it all depends on his availability – that’s been the toughest thing for us over the last few years.
“He wants to play more red-ball cricket – his white-ball cricket has always been good – and I believe he’s got a big role to play in red-ball cricket for us in the future.
“But getting him for a period of time long enough to work on his game and give him the confidence in that has been the tricky thing.”
Overall, though, Gale has confidence in the bowling group.
Yorkshire’s biggest problem in recent times has been scoring enough runs to give those bowlers a platform to work with.
“We’ve still got a strong bowling attack,” he said.
“When you look around the squad, we’ve still got six-to-seven seamers who can take 20 wickets.
“That’s never been a problem for us.
“Putting enough runs on the board, however, that’s been our problem.”
Williamson’s return will no doubt assist but, for Gale and the players, there is no attempt to hide the fact that last season’s efforts fell short of expectations.
“We took a lot of criticism last season, some of it justified, and there would be no better feeling than proving people wrong,” said Gale.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself as well, and we’re all looking forward to coming out fighting.”