ANDREW GALE has launched a strong defence of county cricket following criticism that too many players lack ambition.
The Yorkshire first team coach has hit back at remarks in the wake of England’s Ashes defeat that players are happy to coast along.
Former England wicketkeeper Matt Prior said recently that too many players are “floating around in county cricket having a nice life with actually very little ambition to push on” and represent their country.
“There is a huge responsibility on the counties to create that level of ambition from English cricketers,” he declared.
But Gale, who branded such comments “absolute garbage” on social media, insisted that he does not recognise that attitude on the shop floor and believes it is a soft option to blame county cricket for England’s woes.
“It frustrates me because I think county cricket is a great product,” Gale told The Yorkshire Post. “I’m a big believer in it. We’re producing good players. The format is good, and it disappoints me whenever England struggle in Australia that everyone turns on county cricket and blames county cricket for it.
“I believe that we had the players certainly to compete with Australia and not be involved in a drubbing, and it all comes down to players playing better under pressure. Australia did that, and whenever they got a slight advantage, they hammered it home.
“England aren’t the only ones to struggle in Australia, just as a lot of teams struggle when they come over here. Teams go to India and they struggle, and it riles me that county cricket gets the blame for England’s poor form.
“I’ve nothing whatsoever against Matt Prior. He’s got a voice just as everyone else has. He’s not the only one who’s said what he’s said, but when you question people’s ambition in county cricket, I can only speak for my players and say that my lads, day-in, day-out, are pushing the boundaries as much as they can. That doesn’t guarantee success by any means, but I know that my players are determined and ambitious.”
For Gale, ambition is defined in different ways.
I think most of them (plauers) have got ambitions to either play for their country, play for their county, be successful for themselves and win trophies for their county.Yorkshire first-team coach, Andrew Gale
“I’ve got players who are 34/35 years of age whose ambition has passed in terms of playing for their country, but they still turn up and train and give 100 per cent every day to what Yorkshire are trying to achieve because they want to be successful for Yorkshire,” he added.
“Otherwise, it would be pointless them turning up.
“At the other end of the scale, I’ve got people who, in the long scheme of things, have ambitions to play for their country, but their first ambition is to try to break into the Yorkshire team and to take it from there. I don’t see a lot of players in county cricket doing it just to put food on the table.
“I think most of them have got ambitions to either play for their country, play for their county, be successful for themselves and win trophies for their county.”
Prior, who retired from playing in 2014, believes that “this isn’t about winning a County Championship or a domestic competition – this is about being the best you can be and going and winning a trophy for England or winning the Ashes or the World Cup”.
But Gale believes that county cricket is a top product in its own right – one traditionally savoured by the Yorkshire public.
“It’s not always about England being successful,” he said. “Yes, we want England to be successful. Yes, we’ll produce as many players as we can for England to do that. But I’ve got players for whom that opportunity has been and gone.
“You look at someone like Tim Bresnan, for example. He’s had a fantastic career for England, but he’s come back to county cricket, he trains hard and he always gives 110 per cent. Andrew Hodd is very similar, doing extra gym sessions throughout the winter, extra batting sessions – he’s 34-years-old. He doesn’t have to do that.
“He’s probably earned a nice living out of the game but he wants to play for as long as he can because he’s still got ambitions to win trophies for Yorkshire.
“At the other end of the scale, you’ve got someone like Alex Lees who’s desperate to do well for Yorkshire, but probably his main goal is to play for his country.
“But ambitions differ from player to player.”
Gale believes that county cricket is more professional than ever and insists that players could not survive simply by turning up and cruising along.
“Players take very good care of themselves,” he said. “They’re expected to be as fit as they possibly can be, and if anyone is carrying extra weight, then that will be flagged up. The pace of the game – particularly the white-ball game now – means that anyone running slow and sluggish stands out like a sore thumb.
“There is a lot of professionalism. Gone are the days when you could be out boozing the night before a match. That just doesn’t happen, and I think it’s going to get even more professional. I see a huge amount of ambition and desire on the county circuit.”
Comment: Chris Waters on ECB & Ben Stokes – Page 21.