Yorkshire to challenge on all fronts

ANDREW GALE has told his Yorkshire players that last season’s success “counts for nothing” as they go into the new campaign at Worcester this morning.

The Yorkshire captain said the club’s achievement in finishing third in the County Championship and reaching the CB40 semi-finals was “all in the past” and that everyone starts with a clean slate at New Road.

Gale emphasised Yorkshire “still haven’t won anything” and that his team are some way short of the finished article.

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He said he was not going to make rash predictions about Yorkshire “winning this trophy or that trophy” but stressed he expected them to challenge strongly on all fronts.

“I’ve said to the players that last season counts for nothing,” said Gale ahead of the game against promoted Worcester, who have a new captain in opening batsman Daryl Mitchell.

“We had a good season but, at the end of the day, we achieved nothing.

“This year will be a different challenge, but one I think the lads can handle.

“There will be more expectation on our shoulders; we’re not the underdogs any more and we’ll have to perform throughout the season.

“The processes are the main thing for me. I’ve not said to the lads I want to win this, that and the other. That’s not my style. It’s all about the first game and taking it session by session.

“I don’t want to say we’re going to win this trophy or that trophy. I don’t want to create that pressure, but I want us to compete with the top teams and I think we can be one of the top teams.”

Gale faces a tougher task in his second season in charge with Yorkshire having lost – and failed to replace – star batsman Jacques Rudolph.

They have, instead, recruited a strike bowler in Ryan Sidebottom, the former England left-armer who has returned to the county after seven seasons with Nottinghamshire.

With Anthony McGrath a doubt for today’s game with a leg injury, 20-year-old batsman Joe Root could be in line for his Championship debut.

And Gale is confident the likes of Root and Gary Ballance – another young batsman waiting in the wings – can help compensate for South African Rudolph’s departure.

“Obviously losing Jacques is a big thing, but I’m excited about the young lads we’ve got in the squad,” he added.

“Joe Root and Gary Ballance have been exceptional pre-season; they’ve come back different players and I’ve no qualms about throwing in any of the young lads.

“In Yorkshire cricket there’s always scepticism if you lose a senior player, but last year showed that when opportunities come up, the young lads are ready and able to take them.

“Having Ryan back has been a breath of fresh air and he’s been an inspiration to the younger lads.

“He’s so excited and looking forward to the season that he looks 25, not 30-odd. It’s going to be great to have him around the team.

“He’s a terrific performer, his stats speak for themselves and he’s Yorkshire through and through.”

If Yorkshire are to score heavily, it is essential players such as Gale step up to the plate.

Gale made 876 Championship runs at 46.10 last summer and has his sights firmly on 1,000 runs-plus.

The 27-year-old should certainly be capable of hitting the ground running.

Gale was part of the England Performance Programme in Australia pre-Christmas and has only recently returned from a two-month tour of the Caribbean with England Lions.

“Usually early-season you’re a little bit nervous, your feet aren’t moving as well as you’d like and it all feels a little bit alien on grass,” he said.

“But it was only a few days ago that I was playing in a four-day match and I’ve just come off the back of playing seven four-dayers.

“I don’t feel tired at all. I feel really refreshed to be back around the lads. I feel like it’s mid-season and that I’m in good touch. I feel I can really hit the ground running.”

Gale said he enjoyed adapting to the different conditions in Australia and the Caribbean.

“Before Christmas was a really good opportunity to work on my skills in Australia,” he said.

“After Christmas, I put those skills into practice on the pitch in the West Indies and made some good scores for the England Lions.

“The Lions was a great trip and totally different to playing in England.

“The majority of the time in England you’re playing against the seaming and swinging ball early on. Out there, the spinners were on after 10 or 15 overs and then for the majority of the day.

“Playing in different conditions is very beneficial.”