Following Yorkshire’s record 33rd County Championship title, Captain Andrew Gale spoke exclusively to The Gryphon about the team’s recent triumph and about his route into cricket. Gale became the county’s youngest-ever skipper in December 2009 and has also captained the England Lions side. Having experienced mixed fortunes during his tenure, Gale was clearly delighted with his side’s achievements this year.
First of all, congratulations on Yorkshire’s recent success. How does it feel to have captained your home county to their first Championship title since 2001?
‘It’s immense. The support has been overwhelming – you don’t realise how well-supported the team is until you win something like we have done. I’ve been playing for Yorkshire since I was 10 years old and to finally lead the team to a Championship was a dream come true.’
Can you give our readers a brief overview of the season as a whole and tell me what went right this year after finishing second in the previous campaign?
‘We didn’t perform badly at all last year and it wasn’t a case of us throwing it away. I think Durham won it rather than we lost it, but we did learn some valuable lessons. I think we learnt how to concentrate on the process – we didn’t get carried away with where we were at any stage this year. Obviously, the lads had one eye on the League and it was my job as Captain and the job of the management group to make sure that they didn’t get ahead of themselves. We used the old-fashioned stance of taking it game by game, session by session, ball by ball and we set each other little targets as we went along to make sure that we didn’t get ahead of ourselves.’
Do you think success has been on the cards since the appointment of Jason Gillespie as coach in 2011?
‘You look at Dizzy’s record since he’s come in and it’s fantastic in the four-day stuff. He’s really given us a way to express ourselves and go out with no fear of failure. He wants us to go out to entertain and we play an aggressive brand of cricket now.’
Were there any stand-out performers this year?
‘The two lads opening the batting – Adam Lyth and Alex Lees – were fantastic for us all season, averaging nearly 80 for the opening stand. Jack Brooks got 60-odds wickets in his first full Championship season and was vital for us. Adil Rashid really came into his own later in the season when the wickets were really dry and then there’s Ryan Sidebottom, who also had a great season for us. You could name all of the team really – there have been stand-out performers throughout and it’s truly been a team effort from start to finish.’
How frustrating was it being banned for the last two matches of the season and not being able to receive the trophy? How well do you think the rest of the squad responded to your suspension?
‘It did take the gloss off that day a little bit. As I said earlier, I’ve been representing Yorkshire since I was 10 – I’ve worked so hard my entire career to try and lift that trophy and not being able to at Trent Bridge was difficult. I’ve had a tough time but ultimately we set out to win the Championship and we did that. Joe Root did a great job as Captain and after I got the ban the lads really stepped up to the plate and got the job done.’
Regardless of your suspension, you will always be recognised as having been the captain of Yorkshire when they won the 2014 County Championship. Would you say that that is the pinnacle of your career so far?
‘Yeah, it is definitely the pinnacle of my career. To be mentioned in the same breath as some of the legends that captained Yorkshire to Championships before such as Brian Close and David Byas is amazing. We hadn’t won it for 13 years, so to eventually get it done is a very proud moment for me and all of my family.’
Apart from the successes of this year, what have been the other highlights of your cricket career?
‘Captaining the England Lions, playing in the Champions League for Yorkshire, getting promoted back to Division One in 2012 and getting to the 2012 Twenty20 final are probably the other highlights of my career so far.’
Tell me how you began playing cricket and what your history with Yorkshire County Cricket Club is. Where did it all start?
‘I was pretty lucky really – I started playing for Gomersal and I accidentally turned up for a Yorkshire under-11s trial thinking it was a local district trial. God knows why they picked me – I didn’t get a run until I was 13 years old. I was lucky to be one of the only ones to start my journey from that early on alongside Tim Bresnan. Some of the other lads then started to join when they were about 13, 14 or 15 and there’s a few of us that played in the academy together and against each other for different sides.’
How aware are you of cricket at the University of Leeds? What do you know about Leeds/Bradford MCCU and is there any history of an affiliation between Yorkshire C.C.C. and the University?
‘We see the cricket team around a little bit in training and I know some of the management. We usually play Leeds/Bradford in the first game of the season and I think they have improved a lot over the last few years – they’ve certainly given us a run for our money and it’s always a good workout for us to start the season with.’
What stage of your career were you at when you were the typical student age of roughly 18-23? What advice would you give to any of our cricketers who are looking for a career in the game?
‘I had a bit of a slow start really and I didn’t get much of an opportunity until I was about 20 years old. You’ve got to be really patient and wait for your chance, but when it comes you’ve got to step up and make sure you grab it with both hands.’
Many University of Leeds students know Headingley Stadium well now because of the cricket and rugby that is on offer there. How would you urge more students to get involved? ‘
There are some great deals on for students now. I think if people are still around they should get down to Headingley for some of the Twenty20 games next year because it’s a great night out. There’ll be floodlights, the matches will be starting a bit later at 7pm and I’m sure it’ll be a great occasion for students to come along to. The test matches are always good – you can see on the TV the amount of people that come in fancy dress and have a good drink on the Western Terrace. There’s always a great atmosphere.’
Tell us about the ProCoach Cricket Academy that you set up with Chris Taylor in 2006 and the success that you have had with that project.
‘I set that up eight years ago. I’d been away for a few winters in Australia and I decided that it was something that I wanted to do. I set up some local academies and eventually that expanded across Yorkshire and we ended up becoming partners with the club. It’s gone from strength to strength – we now coach about 3,500 children every year as far up as Tyneside and we’ve got a lot of guys who have fallen out of the first-class game or who have retired who have taken up coaching for us. We run some adult academies as well, mainly based at Headingley.’
Now the season has ended, will you be focusing on your academy or do you have other plans for winter? Are you playing abroad at all?
‘I’m spending about 8-10 hours a week coaching at the moment and it’s something that I’m enjoying doing. I played in Melbourne last year but I’m not going abroad this winter – my second child came along not long ago so getting away is quite difficult.’
You are also a director for icrick. Tell us about how the application works and what it offers.
‘It’s something that I did a couple of years ago and we’ve sold around 4,000 units worldwide. It’s based on improving your cricket technique – we’ve got David Lloyd on it, Adam Lyth has done the demos and there are others involved such as Tim Bresnan. It’s something I’d like to progress further, but I haven’t really had the chance.’
What are Yorkshire’s aims for next season? Will you be looking to add to your record of Championship titles or will you maybe try to add one-day or T20 success to your recent triumph?
‘We want to build a legacy now for Yorkshire cricket. We don’t just want to win it one year and not again for another 13 years. It’s about backing last year up and being consistent so we can win as much silverware with this team as we can. Obviously, international call-ups are going to be key – especially with the West Indies tour at the start of next season – but I still think we have a strong enough academy with players coming through that have the potential to become the next Joe Root or Gary Ballance.
There’s obviously more expectation as you start to win stuff, but I think we’ve got a mature enough squad to really keep consistently pushing for trophies now. I think there’s a fantastic team and work ethic within the team and a real hunger to keep performing.’
Image courtesy of independent.co.uk