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One of the burning questions of the autumn has been resolved as Yorkshire County Cricket Club captain Andrew Gale announced his retirement to become the successor to Jason Gillespie as first-team coach.
This bold move by the county sees continuity within the club with Gale taking over, having led Yorkshire to successive County Championships before narrowly relinquishing the title to Middlesex at Lord’s last September.
He retires with 8,217 first-class runs and that innings of 272 at Scarborough scorched into the record books, coming after a particularly lean spell.
Gale’s career highlights as a player are dominated by those County Championships in 2014 and 2015 while a T20 Finals Day in 2012 that sent Yorkshire to the Champions League in South Africa is the pinnacle in limited overs cricket.
That Lord’s defeat which prevented a hat-trick of first-class titles will hurt but should prove ample fire in the belly as Gale starts his coaching career in professional cricket.
He’s by no means a fledgling coach having set up his coaching business, Pro Coach, back in 2006 that is the official coaching partner of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and has his coaching badges.
In his favour is the fact that Gale knows the club, its people and processes inside out and has earnt the respect of everyone; all real-life qualifications that outweigh any particular coaching grade on a certificate.
Equally, I remember speaking to Jason Gillespie about his battles with coursework and exams as he aimed to complete his ECB Level 4 course but that had in no way prevented him taking the Yorkshire CCC job or being successful.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s Director of Cricket Martyn Moxon saw Gale as the stand-out candidate:
“We had 16 applicants for the job with some extremely good candidates in amongst that list. But at the end of the day, for what I believe we need, Galey was the obvious choice.
He is highly qualified in the way that he has led the team as Captain over the past seven years and has expertise that we didn’t want to lose at the Club.”
The dividing line between leader on the field and coach off it will be the talking point and a dynamic to overcome.
Gillespie was a former player returning to Headingley but one step removed from that familiarity Gale commands.
Like anyone else, he’ll be judged, as will the playing squad, on results and here’s a few pressing issues for his inbox.
Who will replace Andrew Gale as captain?
This is where Gale truly knows his onions, so to speak. Is Alex Lees ready to take the reins in four-day cricket too?
Will Yorkshire choose to split responsibilities?
Gary Ballance is being talked about as captain; given he will be returning to county cricket after failing to convince England – but what happens with another recall?
I’d be tempted to select Tim Bresnan as four-day captain; international and county nous coming out his ears, the respect of the dressing room and in the form of his life.
The wicketkeeper/batsman succession
We can safely assume Jonny Bairstow will be wrapped in a further layer of cotton wool by England for 2017. How often will he play?
Andrew Hodd has moved from able deputy to essential first-team regular with a first-class batting average of 28 and 227 catches to date – but what of Hodd’s understudy?
By courtesy of the fact that he keeps his head down and shys the media, I don’t believe Hodd gets the credit and kudos he deserves; he’s not Jonny Bairstow but nor is a poor replacement and should be around for a few years yet.
But keeping depth is an area that periodically crops up and Yorkshire sometimes find themselves short as with Barney Gibson’s record-breaking appearance at 15 against Durham MCCU in 2011.
Jonathan Reed won Academy Player of the Year Award at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s Annual Dinner after a strong season in the Yorkshire 2nd XI and would be the natural cover.
World-class batting overseas player
Yorkshire’s top six was fragile in 2016 and often rescued by a stubborn late-order with Tim Bresnan once again outstanding.
Signing an overseas player that adds to the quality of the squad for an entire season is becoming increasingly tricky and will sit with Martyn Moxon’s remit but Gale will doubtless have his input.
Do they chop up the season and go for specialists based on format or prefer someone who will bed in and be around for more than a fleeting month?
In my humble opinion, Yorkshire’s recent overseas recruitment has been hit and miss.
Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell might have put bums on seats but they didn’t live up to expectations and yet any of Pujara, Williamson or Lehmann would, you’d imagine, be welcomed back for 2017.
It requires advanced computing to survey the international calendar allied with the county calendar (not yet out) to try and assess the nationality and availability of those who may suit Yorkshire’s requirements.
Beefing up the batting firepower is a consideration but top domestic signings are rare with Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman going to Surrey from Durham while Steven Davies moves to Somerset; any of whom I thought Yorkshire might have bid for.
Anyhow, all this will come out in the wash…for now, congratulations to Andrew Gale; the appointment is already getting a positive response from fans on social media and there is a sense that the county can move forwards and purposefully plan for grabbing back the County Championship and acing it in the shorter formats too.