ANDREW GALE has not given up on his dream of representing England but insists his main focus is helping Yorkshire back into the First Division of the County Championship.
The Yorkshire captain is determined to break into the international side and fulfil a life-long ambition to play for his country.
But he stressed his priority is to help Yorkshire back into the big-time after they were relegated last season to Division Two.
The 28-year-old said his players were determined to make amends for a disappointing summer and give Yorkshire’s supporters something to cheer.
Gale, who has been there or thereabouts in terms of England selection, accepts his twin ambitions go hand-in-hand.
“My main target is to help Yorkshire back into Division One,” he said.
“We were all very disappointed with what happened last season and are determined to bounce back as quickly as possible.
“Of course, if I can perform well for Yorkshire on a daily basis, then my England ambitions will come into play.
“I am desperate to play international cricket but, at the same time, it all boils down to how I perform in county cricket.”
Despite missing the final quarter of last season with a broken arm, Gale remains firmly in the selectors’ thoughts.
He has averaged 40-plus during the last two seasons and, at the start of 2010, led England Lions on their tour of the United Arab Emirates.
Geoff Miller, the England national selector, said Gale “ticked an awful lot of boxes” as a leader and a player.
Now Gale wants to use that experience as a platform to representing the full international side.
“It was a wonderful experience to play for the Lions and obviously I want to kick on from there,” he added.
“I still feel as though I’m developing as a player and that potentially I have a lot to offer.
“I haven’t really spoken to the selectors this winter; I was due to sit down with Geoff Miller at some point but I think he’s been quite busy.
“Last winter I was still around the Lions’ set-up, so it was different then.
“Prior to getting injured last season, I felt as though I was there or thereabouts in terms of England.
“If I’d had a really strong finish to last season, you never know what might have happened, but, unfortunately, the injury came into play.
“At the same time, England are in a rich vein of form at the present moment and it’s difficult to break into the side.
“You have to earn the right to get the shirt because they don’t chop and change like they used to in the 1990s.”
One of Gale’s greatest attributes is his versatility.
Not only is he capable of backs-to-the-wall innings in Championship cricket but also more expansive, aggressive contributions.
Gale’s talent as a one-day performer is also clear.
There are few better strikers of a ball at the top of an innings – particularly in the Twenty20 format in which Gale has been comfortably Yorkshire’s best player in recent seasons.
“Early on in my career I was perhaps a bit one-dimensional as a batsman,” he conceded.
“Now I feel as though I can play all sorts of roles, be that in Championship cricket or one-day matches.
“At the same time, I’ve still got improvements to make and a lot to learn.
“Hitting the ball better through the offside is something I’m trying to work on, because I’m predominantly a leg-side player, and I know I need to get better at manipulating spin.
“It’s all about trying to take the game away from the opposition, whether you’re facing spin or facing pace.”
Gale believes a good start next summer is imperative – not only for himself but also for Yorkshire.
“We didn’t have a good season all-round with the bat last time and that needs to change,” he stressed.
“I think the lads will all have the bit between their teeth to do better and will be looking to convert scores of 70, 80 into big hundreds on a more consistent basis.
“No disrespect to the teams in Division Two, but they will obviously not be as strong as those in Division One.
“There are probably more younger players in the lower division and there should be more opportunities to score more runs.
“I know from my own point of view that I’ll be looking to cash in as much as I can.
“I’m determined to hit the ground running next year and to try to lead from the front as much as possible.
“Although I’ve been happy with the way things have been going for me on a personal basis, I don’t just want to be averaging 40-plus in county cricket.
“I want to be averaging 50-plus or even 60-plus, and that’s the target I’ll be setting myself.”
Jason Gillespie is today set to meet the Yorkshire players for the first time following his appointment as the club’s first team coach.
The former Australia fast bowler will link up with the squad at Headingley Carnegie after making a flying visit to England from Zimbabwe, where he is coach of the franchise Mid-West Rhinos.