ANDREW GALE is against the idea of playing county cricket overseas in an effort to improve England’s Test record away from home.
Leading commentators such as Michael Vaughan have advocated the move following England’s 4-0 Ashes defeat.
Gale believes it would be unfair on supporters who are already watching fewer County Championship matches as it is, with the competition having been cut last year from 16 games per county to 14.
“The idea of playing county cricket abroad has been floated around before, but I think that it would be a disservice to the Yorkshire members,” said Gale, the Yorkshire CCC first XI coach.
“They’d be disappointed to see one or two games less played at Headingley, Scarborough or wherever, and it’s not something that I’d be in favour of personally.
“I’m a big advocate of the County Championship, and I wanted to keep it at 16 games.
The idea of playing county cricket abroad has been floated around before, but I think that it would be a disservice to the Yorkshire members.Andrew Gale
“I don’t think that (playing abroad) is the answer to England’s situation away from home.”
England have lost 23 Tests away from home since 2012 and won only seven.
During that time, they have won 23 Tests on home soil and lost 11, mirroring a trend which sees sides dominating in home conditions.
In an effort to bridge the gap between England’s home and away performance, Vaughan has suggested playing two-to-three county matches overseas in March, just before the start of the English season.
He argues that this would give players experience of using the foreign Kookaburra ball on flat pitches abroad, with many counties already going overseas on pre-season tours as a matter of course.
“The season is too congested to fit everything in starting in April,” said Vaughan. “The players and coaches need more time in between games to work on skill and rehab.”
It is certainly a difficult dilemma, not least because the schedule is indeed more congested than the M25 during rush hour.
As such, touring sides are increasingly deprived of practice matches to adjust to conditions as administrators seek to cram in as many Tests, one-day internationals and T20 internationals as possible.
Rather than play county games overseas to combat the problem, Gale would like to see more English players go abroad during the winter in an effort to gain more experience.
“The only way we can do it is by exposing our players more to these sorts of conditions,” he said.
“So that means getting our players overseas to play, even if it’s grade cricket, a training camp, tournaments, and so on.
“I’m certainly not against us being more proactive and exposing players to foreign conditions throughout the winter.
“At the same time, it costs a lot of money, which is something that would obviously have to be looked at, because counties don’t have that sort of money.
“At Yorkshire, we’re lucky to get on a pre-season tour as it stands without paying guys to go away during the winter, too.”
To the wider question as to how England can improve on foreign soil, Gale believes that, to some extent, it is what it is.
Several factors were blamed for the Ashes defeat, such as the fact that England’s seamer-friendly surfaces do not equip players to perform on the flatter pitches overseas, and that England had no express pace to rival that of the Australian trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
But Gale, who is a staunch defender of county cricket, believes that there is only so much that can be done, particularly due to the English weather and the jam-packed schedule.
“In Australia, the pitches are flatter than they are in England, but the weather dictates a lot of that,” he said.
“Playing April 13 at Headingley (the date of Yorkshire’s first Championship game this year), there’s always a chance of overcast conditions which are going to dictate whether the ball goes sideways or not.
“It doesn’t matter how long you sit on the roller, or how flat the pitch is, if it’s overcast at Headingley in April, the chances are the ball will move around.
“If you’re playing three-to-four games in April and four games in September, that’s half your Championship season played at a time when it’s cold and the weather conditions are tough, so it’s very difficult to get spin, for example, into the game.”
Gale continued: “When England went to the sub-continent the other winter, there was all this talk of how we don’t produce enough spinners in England and we’ve got to change the toss rule and we don’t mind doctoring pitches from now on in. Now it’s suddenly about fast bowling.
“What people have to remember is that when teams come to England, they also struggle in our conditions.
“India struggle on our patch, Australia struggle on our patch, and teams invariably fare better in their own conditions.”