Cricket: Andrew Gale's complacency warning as Yorkshire prepare to kickstart their defence of title
Yorkshire begin their battle to retain the Specsavers County Championship title against Hampshire at fortress Headingley on Sunday where they have not been beaten in the competition since the first match of the 2013 season.
Sussex were the victors on that occasion but it was a rare setback for Yorkshire under coach Jason Gillespie’s command and their only defeats over the past two title-winning seasons have both been against Middlesex at Lord’s.
Now Andrew Gale is looking to become Yorkshire’s first captain to lead the side to a hat-trick of Championships since Brian Close did so 48 years ago.
But Gale insists he is taking nothing for granted and he believes the task in hand will be much tougher for Yorkshire than it was in either of the two previous seasons.
“To be honest, I am getting sick of being asked if we can win three in a row because it’s not as cut and dried as some people make out,” he said.
“There are some strong teams out there and for me it is all about keeping the lads focussed game by game.”
Regardless of whether Yorkshire can make it three out of three, Gale has already done enough to rub shoulders with the White Rose club’s greatest captains as he begins his seventh season in charge.
In his first season at the helm in 2010, Yorkshire finished third in Division One and they would have been champions if results had gone differently on a dramatic final day.
The low spot came the following season when they were relegated but they shot straight up in 2012, lost out to Durham in 2013 and since then have been in a league of their own.
If Gale succeeds again he will be in exalted company because only four Yorkshire captains have managed this particular hat-trick - Lord Hawke, Brian Sellers, Brian Close and the much less remembered Geoffrey Wilson (1922-1924).
Since 1960, Yorkshire have had 14 home grown captains (Australian Darren Lehmann was the other one) and the four of them to win titles have all been left-handed batsmen, starting with Vic Wilson and followed by Close, David Byas and Gale.
If Gale manages three in a row this summer, he says it would be an honour to follow in the footsteps of Close who died just after Yorkshire had retained the title last year.
“It would be quite unbelievable. To win three on the bounce in modern day cricket is pretty unheard of because the game is so wide open.”
When Close took over from Vic Wilson he was the automatic choice for the job but Gale was quite bold in taking over from Anthony McGrath at a time when there was no obvious successor.
“It was a bit of a shock to me at first because I had only established my place in the team for a year or two,” he said.
“I knew that Maggs was stepping down and I just asked the question in an appraisal as to who would take over? Then Martyn Moxon told me that his recommendation to the Board was that it should be me and it is not something you think about twice. I wanted to prove myself from the go and I put a five-year plan in place and presented it to the chief executive at the time.
“To win back-to-back Championships is more than just icing on the cake. Part of the plan was to create a Yorkshire side made up largely of home grown talent that could compete year in and year out and I think we have achieved that for sure.”
Yorkshire know they can go a long way towards retaining the title by getting off to a flying start with all their England players available. Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Gary Ballance and new signing David Willey are all in contention for Sunday and Joe Root can join the ranks come the third match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
The only downside to Yorkshire’s pre-season preparations is the calf injury to all-rounder, Tim Bresnan, who will be out for the next month or so but Gale is certainly not short of options to replace him.