ANDREW GALE is confident that he can fill the big shoes vacated by Jason Gillespie and rise to the challenge of coaching the Yorkshire first team.
Gale was yesterday appointed first-team coach in succession to Gillespie on a three-year deal after ending his career as player and captain.
Gale, 32, led Yorkshire to two County Championships under Gillespie, who left at the end of last season after five years in charge.
He described the chance to replace him as “an unbelievable opportunity” that “just feels right” and pledged to build on the Australian’s success.
Yorkshire had missed out in their attempt to land Paul Farbrace, the England assistant coach and former Yorkshire second team boss.
They had 16 applicants after advertising the position internationally, describing some as “extremely good candidates”, but they felt that Gale’s proven leadership qualities and intimate knowledge of the club were preferable as they plumped for continuity over change.
News of Gale’s appointment was warmly received by the Yorkshire players, who served him faithfully in his time as captain, and one of Gale’s first tasks as coach will be to appoint a new Championship captain.
Alex Lees, the one-day captain, will come into contention along with such as England batsman Gary Ballance, although a decision may not be made until after Christmas.
I also understand that Yorkshire are close to signing an overseas batsman, who would not only bolster an inconsistent area of their side, but also help fill the gap left by Gale’s retirement.
Gale will work closely with Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon and the team of support staff, while coach Rich Pyrah will take on a more prominent role with the first XI.
Commenting on his appointment at Headingley yesterday, Gale exuded pride and passion as he said: “First and foremost, it’s an unbelievable opportunity.
“I originally wanted to carry on playing, but I had a disappointing season last season and when Martyn (Moxon) offered me the job, it just felt right.
“It’s probably come a few years earlier than I would have anticipated, but I always said that I wanted to go into coaching.
“Jason will be a tough act to follow because he did a fabulous job and his record speaks for itself, but I want to continue the good work he’s done and hopefully improve and evolve us.”
Gale confessed it was still a “tough decision” as he called an end to his playing days.
He was one of Yorkshire’s best and most successful captains, losing only 12 of 98 Championship games.
In a 12-year first-class career, Gale scored 7,726 runs for Yorkshire at an average of 35.44 with 19 hundreds.
After averaging 21 last season, however, he admitted that he had lost some of his enjoyment and said that he was considering his role as captain in any case.
“Given my form last season, I did have a chat with Martyn halfway through the season, saying that I was struggling and probably not enjoying playing as much as I would have liked,” he said.
“I drove into the ground a few weeks ago and it was still a bit like, ‘Here we go again’. I probably didn’t have that same excitement.
“But, when I drive in now, I’m really excited about the new challenge. I did think about doing both roles (coaching and playing), but I don’t think I’d have been able to do the new job justice.”
Gale promised that Yorkshire will continue to play the same style of attacking cricket and said that he wants them to make further progress in the one-day game. He believes they are in strong shape overall.
“Last season was disappointing because we were the nearly team, but overall we’re in a good place,” he said.
“We weren’t as ruthless as we would have liked last summer – our batting was a bit of a worry – but we’ve got a fantastic bowling unit and we’re the benchmark in county cricket right now.”
Gale’s appointment represents a strong show of faith from Moxon, who is backing him to become an excellent coach.
“We gave it a lot of thought, and Galey’s appointment makes absolute sense,” he said.
“He knows the players inside out, we already know that he’s a great leader, and he can protect and develop the environment that we’ve created in recent years, an environment that has been a crucial factor in our success.
“If someone else had come in, there was always a chance that it could have taken a while to learn the environment, or that they might have wanted to change it.
“For me, Galey is the right man and he’s got all the qualities – he’s bright and intelligent, he’s got great passion, and I’m delighted that he’s accepted the position.”