ALEX LEES is used to cooking up a storm on the cricket field in his role as a talented batsman for Yorkshire.
What is perhaps less well known, however, is that Lees is adept at cooking up a storm in the kitchen too.
“I’ve always cooked,” he says. “I was very fortunate, when I was younger, my grandma used to take me and my brother to cooking classes once a week in Halifax. We did it for years and years, so I have a passion for cooking, I really enjoy it.
“From then on, growing up, living at home, I’d cook a couple of times a week.
“Now that I live in my own place, I do all the cooking really. During the week, I probably cook six nights and then my other half probably she’ll do one night.
“I really enjoy cooking Asian food, Indian, Thai. I haven’t got any culinary qualifications, but I might do a sushi-making course in the future.
“That’s the only thing I’m not too competent at at the minute.”
Lees, 24, was talking at Teppanyaki restaurant in Leeds, where the Yorkshire squad took time out from winter nets to take part in a Japanese cookery session.
Players and coaches were put through their paces by staff and chefs in the first of a number of team bonding sessions planned for the close season.
“It’s a good idea, and it’s good to make sure that we don’t always see each other in a cricketing environment,” says Lees.
Some of the batting was poor throughout the season, but we’ve all been pretty consistent at various times, so I can’t put it down to any single thing.Yorkshire’s Alex Lees
“People are different away from cricket, and if you can enjoy each other’s company away from the game as well, it’s probably going to improve your cricket and also give players more of an insight into each other, their different personalities and characters.
“We’re also thinking of going to a rock-climbing place, and paintballing has also been mentioned, although I think there are a couple of lads who might be targeted more than others.
“Go-karting has also been mentioned, and it just helps to keep us tight as a unit and creates a nice atmosphere among the players.”
Yorkshire’s players are perhaps in need of a lift after a difficult 2017 season.
Having been tipped to challenge strongly again for the County Championship title, they found themselves fighting relegation, with the club finishing fourth but only two points above the relegation zone.
“It was a bad season for us,” says Lees. “Personally, and as a team, we were below average, and that’s something that we all want to put right.
“We’ve still got the squad of players I believe to compete and win the league, and people can perhaps have short memories as well.
“It’s easy to forget about the previous four years where we’ve won, or been in a position to win, the league, and all of a sudden you have a bad year and everybody starts telling you how rubbish you are.
“It’s a reminder of how fickle sport is, and we need to make sure that we keep our work ethic the same and keep pushing each other.
“People don’t see the work and effort that the lads put in during the winter, and hopefully it will put us in good stead for the future.”
Yorkshire’s biggest problem last summer was an ongoing failure to put enough runs on the board.
The only batsman who could hold his head high was captain Gary Ballance, the sixth-highest run-scorer in Division One with 951 at 67.92.
“We were below par” admits Lees, who scored 531 runs at 24.13 and was Yorkshire’s only ever-present player in the Championship.
“Some of the batting was poor throughout the season, but we’ve all been pretty consistent at various times, so I can’t put it down to any single thing.
“The bowling was also below par, though, and we dropped catches as well at important times, so we know that we need to be better in all respects.
“As a batter, I’m just determined to make sure that I deliver and try to cement my place in the team going forward.
“It’s a clean slate for everyone, and whoever scores runs in pre-season is going to play. I want to give myself the best chance of being in the starting XI come the first (Championship) game against Essex.”
With that in mind, Lees has been working hard as he aims for the type of returns that previously led many to identify him as an England prospect.
The left-hander has proven ability in all formats and is aiming for more consistency.
“I’ve tweaked a couple of things,” he says.
“I have changed a couple of things with my hands and also my base.
“I’ve still got my various routines, but I’ve changed a couple of things technically that I’m trying to bed in now, and it’s starting to feel natural.
“I just want to become a better player and more consistent. Mentally, as well, it’s about making sure that I’m approaching it in the right way.”
The hunger is clear among the Yorkshire players and not just when they are in the vicinity of Japanese food.
The determination to taste silverware again is evident as they aim to bounce back strongly.