Gary Ballance will seek solace as Yorkshire’s captain © Getty Images
Yorkshire have gambled on the anticipated dwindling of Gary Ballance‘s Test career, at least in the short term, by appointing him captain in all three formats.
Ballance’s appointment represents the first major decision by Yorkshire’s new head coach, Andrew Gale, and ends weeks of conjecture about whether Ballance’s leadership role can remain undisrupted by further England calls.
Alex Lees, who was hailed as Yorkshire’s youngest official captain since Lord Hawke, one of the county’s most iconic figures, when he took charge of the limited-overs formats in 2016, has relinquished the role after only one season.
Ballance, at 27, still retains the drive to add to his 21 Tests, but he has been omitted from England’s line-up throughout the India series, so much out of contention that it is questionable whether there has been any purpose in him remaining on tour.
“When Andrew Gale called me, it was impossible to turn down. Being captain is something that I enjoy doing and hopefully I will do a good job for Yorkshire and follow on from the good work that Galey has done over the years.
“I’m experienced now, I have played a bit of cricket over the years, so I have seen how different captains work. I think that I am a calm person and like to think that I have a decent cricket brain. I’m not a massive speaker, but I will be looking to lead by example on the field and get the lads to follow me.”
It must be challenging nevertheless to accept a job with total conviction when deep down you are hoping that you might bat so well you will make yourself redundant again in no time.
Gale is not blind to the risks but he made no secret of his preference for a captain to cover all formats when he was unveiled as 1st XI coach – indeed, he was not best pleased when his own captaincy career finished in the Championship only – and Ballance was his preferred option from the outset if it was felt that England calls would be limited.
Although England’s middle-order remains far from settled, the emergence of Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings does give England more options at the top of the order, with the possibility that Jennings might fill a role at No. 3, and with the Champions Trophy looming in June there is no Test cricket in the first half of the 2017 summer.
Although, to the outsider, he might not immediately give off the presence of a leader, Ballance commands great respect in the dressing room with younger players naturally gravitating to him for advice.
Gale said: “I wanted to take my time when deciding who to appoint as new Club Captain and Gary is the right man to take the team forward. I am a firm believer in continuity and I am pleased that Gary will captain Yorkshire across all three formats.
“Gary is respected on and off the field, has a good cricket brain and knows the direction that we would like to take the team in. He has led from the front for many years with the bat and his experience speaks for itself.
“Last season, I missed a game against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough with a back injury and Gary stepped in as captain. He showed great qualities as a leader and I am excited about how he will lead the side in the future.”
Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director cricket, has contented himself with an advisory role as Gale, retired for all of a month, made the captaincy call, but Moxon was quick to praise the attributes of Yorkshire’s new leader.
“Gary has captained a little bit in the past and has done a really good job,” Moxon said. “He has got the respect of the players and is a very popular member of the dressing room. He is a hugely experienced cricketer now having played international cricket. Tactically he is astute, so he will be very good at that side as well as managing the lads.”
For Lees, the emphasis changes to making top-order runs and reviving his reputation as one of the most promising top-order batsmen in the country. Captaincy seemed to have come too early for him, although he did rally Yorkshire in mid-season in the NatWest Blast to the extent that, against expectations, they reached Finals Day.
“Galey feels, and I agree, that one captain is the way to go,” Moxon said. “It is an opportunity for Alex to concentrate on his batting and make sure that he is the best batsman that he can be. That is important for his development and for the team if he is stacking the runs up.
“We felt that it was only right that he didn’t have any distractions with that in mind and he is very comfortable with that.”
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo