ANDREW GALE is convinced Yorkshire have retained enough experience to get them through a transitional phase and back on the road to competing for silverware once again.
After what has been at times a testing first two years as the club’s first-team coach, the former captain approaches the 2019 campaign in buoyant mood.
Currently in Potchefstroom, South Africa for the second successive pre-season tour, Gale and his players are putting the finishing touches to their preparations for when the season opens with a County Championship encounter at Nottinghamshire on Friday, April 5.
At the end of last season, Yorkshire lost two key players in the shape of experienced pace bowlers Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks.
Plunkett joined Surrey after six seasons with Yorkshire, while Brooks took up the offer of a three-year deal from Somerset after Yorkshire were only willing to offer him two.
Although Plunkett’s time with Yorkshire was intermittent given his England limited overs duties, to lose the services of two such experienced players at the same time was something which caused some concern among the club’s supporters.
These are guys who have been around for a long time and know what it is all about and the younger players will feed off that.Andrew Gale
Yorkshire have moved to address the gap in their pace bowling department with the controversial signing of South African international Duanne Olivier on a three-year Kolpak deal.
While Yorkshire may be heading into the new campaign with the increased likelihood of relying on the next generation of players – the likes of bowlers Ben Coad and Matt Fisher along with batsmen Harry Brook and Tom Kohler-Cadmore – Gale is relaxed about the level of experience that remains on board to help guide those younger heads through.
“We’ve still got some good, experienced players around here,” said Gale. “There’s obviously Bres (Tim Bresnan) whose achieved everything there is to achieve in the game and is probably the most decorated player in the English game at the moment.
“There’s also Patto (captain, Steve Patterson) Gary Ballance and Lythy (opening batsman Adam Lyth).
“These are guys who have been around for a long time and know what it is all about and the younger players will feed off that. The most exciting thing for me, though, is those younger players that will be around them.
“They keep coming through our Academy system and they are only going to get better by having opportunities. So we need to back them and be patient with them and they are only going to improve by playing lost of first-team cricket.”
Gale is expecting the fortnight in South Africa to act in part as something of a rehearsal stage, giving the players the opportunity to audition for a starting role for when that opening game at Trent Bridge comes around.
The winter preparations have gone well as far as Dewsbury-born Gale is concerned, with the chance to swap the indoor nets and the gymnasium for playing and practising outdoors the main reason the team have once again headed to the southern hemisphere for a second year running.
“As we’ve gone on since the turn of the year, we’ve started to up the intensity on the skills front for the players and started to put them under a bit more pressure,” explained Gale.
“It just gets to that stage where there is only so much stuff you can do indoors without the scoreboard pressure, the pressure of selection, the pressure of the opposition, so I think this is a good time to get outside and get into some competitive situations.”
Gale said he hoped to return to Headingley with a clearer picture in his mind as to what his likely starting XI will be for the opener, injuries permitting.
“For us as the coach and the captain, you want to go back with a clear plan on what the team is going to look like in the first few weeks of the season,” added Gale.
“Hopefully, we can get back injury-free because we always have a couple of injuries here and there.
“Ultimately, you want guys to come back with confidence and form, that’s why we want to play games. We want them to express themselves and show the progress that they’ve made during the winter and go back with confidence and put their names in the hat for that first game.”
Today will mark the first time Olivier has met his new team-mates, when he arrives at the training camp in Potchefstroom, with Gale keen to start working with the 26-year-old.
“Duanne is a world-class performer who is right on top of his game at the minute,” said Gale. “He has had a big workload this winter, so we’ll manage that, but we wanted him to get him to Potch – partly because it’s not too far for him – but just to keep him ticking over.
“He’s going to come over to Yorkshire a couple of days after we get back. I’m sure the ground will be a lot softer in Leeds than it is in South Africa, but we’re excited to get him on board and get him in and around the players.”