ANDREW GALE believes that Yorkshire have turned a corner after a difficult season on-and-off the field.
The first-team coach feels that they are over the worst of a challenging period in which players have either left the club, suddenly become unavailable, or generally been unsettled by events behind the scenes.
Yorkshire have struggled this year against a backdrop of external factors and wide-ranging discussions with out-of-contract players as they budget and plan for next summer and beyond.
Some have left/are leaving, such as Liam Plunkett, Jack Brooks and Alex Lees, while others, such as Tim Bresnan, have only recently agreed a new deal as the club look now to tie up new contracts with England stars Adil Rashid and Jonny Bairstow, with Rashid close to recommitting his future.
As such factors have played out above his pay grade, Gale – whose side have rallied strongly in the last fortnight to effectively end any threat of County Championship relegation – admitted it had been a trying few months.
However, as Yorkshire look ahead to their final game of the season against Worcestershire at New Road from Monday, needing only a maximum of two points to guarantee their Division One survival after yesterday’s final day against Hampshire was washed out to leave the match drawn, Gale believes that the dark clouds are now in the distance.
“I think we’ve turned a corner because guys have signed contracts and things are a lot more settled now than they were before,” he said.
“We’ve got a more settled dressing room than we’ve had and there are some good blokes in there, and we’re very much looking forwards rather than backwards.
“It’s taken us a while to do that, but I feel that people are a little bit more comfortable in their own skin.
“Sorting out the contract situations has helped, because someone like Brez (Tim Bresnan), for example, has had that hanging over him all season and struggled with that, while Brooksy (Jack Brooks) has performed strongly of late, even though he’s going to Somerset, because his situation has been sorted too and there was a lot of stuff that was going through his mind.
We’ve got a more settled dressing room than we’ve had and there are some good blokes in there, and we’re very much looking forwards rather than backwards.Andrew Gale
“There’s been a bit of uncertainty in people’s minds, and people have maybe lacked confidence on the back of that as well.
“It’s been difficult, but we’re over the worst of that now and can start to look forward – Brez, for example, looks a different player with his recent performances.”
While the contract situation has rumbled on, Gale has had a myriad of other problems to contend with.
“I’ve found this year difficult because I’ve always prided myself on being a good organiser, and there’s been so much stuff that I haven’t been able to account for,” he added. “Right from Rash (Rashid) at the start of the season (quitting red-ball cricket), which left us without our main spinner, then the two lads (Plunkett and David Willey) going to IPL, the Billy Stanlake situation (when Cricket Australia cancelled his contract), New Zealand cutting Kane Williamson’s stay short, and so on. You think, back in February, that you’ve got all your ducks in a row, the team set out, beautiful, we’re doing everything right, and then within three weeks everything’s changed.
“We’ve had injuries too, which is part and parcel, and you can sort of take that on board, but there’s been so many external factors which have been tricky to handle and upset the dynamics in the dressing room at times.”
Now, as those factors have gradually subsided, Yorkshire have looked more settled on the field. A good draw at Notts was followed by a vital victory over Lancashire at Headingley last week, a result that effectively kept Gale’s men in Division One.
Indeed, the chances of Yorkshire not collecting at least two bonus points from their trip to Worcester are practically nonexistent, while they will probably need no points at all given that the two-point requirement only applies should Lancashire fail to take maximum points at Hampshire. But although Yorkshire are safe in everything but name, Gale is determined that they end the season strongly.
“We want to finish on a high,” he said. “Some players are currently in their best form of the season – Gary Ballance, Adam Lyth, Brezzy, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, and so on, and we want to build on that. We wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice if we went to Worcester and thought, ‘It’s the last game of the season, we’ll go through the motions, get the two points and not play to our best’, so we’ll be making sure that everyone’s right on it.
“Of course, we know there’s going to be challenges coming up, going into next season, because we are giving our own lads a chance, and some of the older players have left and the squad has broken up.
“But, over time, if we keep backing our young players, I believe that they will become top-quality Championship and even international players.”
Play was abandoned yesterday after a post-lunch inspection with Yorkshire 287-5 in their second innings, leading by 314, with Lyth unbeaten on 134.