Gallian promises Red Rose revival

`I want to be able to play on fast or slow pitches, and save games or win them'
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The Independent Online
Derek Hodgson on Lancashire's bright young hope for the new cricket season

When Lancashire last reigned supreme in English cricket, in the triple Championship years of 1926-28, their sharp edge was the tall, laconic Australian fast bowler Ted McDonald, the greatest of his time. McDonald, to Lancastrians, was the Crocodile Dundee of his era although Emmott Robinson, one of many thousands of frustrated Yorkies around that time, once derisively dismissed him as "that bloody Tasmanian".

Less easy to dismiss is the Australian who might see Lancashire to their first Championship for 65 years. Jason Edward Riche Gallian, born in Manly, just down the Harbour from Sydney, the son of a Stockport rail engineer, is a former captain of Oxford University who was, according to one seasoned observer, "head and shoulders above the others" on the recent A tour of India. Those others included Mark Ramprakash, Nick Knight, David Hemp and Michael Vaughan.

Gallian's appetite for runs has been likened to that of Mike Gatting although Gallian, six feet and 23, is lean and Lineker-like. It seems likely that the Lancashire order will begin Atherton, Gallian, Crawley which, in terms of the quality of strokeplay, is a first three that can at least be compared with what Neville Cardus once described as county cricket's best ever: MacLaren, Spooner and Johnny Tyldesley at the turn of the century.

David Lloyd, now Lancashire's chief coach, cannot remember quite that far back but he is confident that "we have now a squad that in quality and depth is the best Lancashire have seen for many many years". The public seem to have spotted it too, for, pre-season, Lancashire have already registered 10,000 members and expect the figure to rise to about 14,000 by June.

It is the addition of Gallian, Crawley and Glen Chapple, the bright hope of youth, to an already formidable but inconsistent team that makes Lanc- ashire's followers as keen to see a new season as they are a quarter- mile over the Chester Road at Manchester United.

Great teams have to be built and the builders need luck. In Lancashire's case they were fortunate to sign and keep Gallian. His place at Keble College, reading Diplomacy and Social Studies ("a course that allowed me time to play cricket in my third year"), his father's own cricket (playing for the Central Lancashire League side Stockport) and the meeting with Charlotte, a fellow Oxford student, all combined to send Gallian down the M6 to Old Trafford.

He scored 746 runs in his 10 Championship matches last summer (and took 10 wickets, at 29, with his frisky medium pace) but it was his career average of 40 that persuaded the selectors to draft him into an A tour. Plus 40 is reckoned to be the average of a Test batsman; plus 45 is that of a great player.

If he does play for England this summer he will have followed two other recent Australian-reared recruits, Craig White and Martin McCague, all a powerful advertisement for the Australian development system and for the Australian Academy.

Gallian explains: "There is a big push to get Australian boys into grade cricket. By 14 or 15 they will be playing fifth grade along with some old first-graders, even one or two who might have played Sheffield Shield. They progress until at 17-18-19 they are playing first grade, two-innings matches over two days, along with Shield and maybe former Test players.

"They do reach a higher level of competition, among better players, earlier than English boys. At 19 they will be playing for Australia Under-19, which has high prestige over there and if they are good enough they will spend six months at the Academy before filtering back into their Shield sides with the hope of perhaps getting a Test selection. They do get into good habits earlier."

He mentioned the other great advantage: "The weather. The pitches out there are much faster and harder at club level than English pitches. That means that older players find it more difficult to stay batting, bowling or fielding, than they do in England, where on slower surfaces, and in a milder climate, the older player can, by his experience and despite his slower reactions, hang around."

All grade clubs field five teams, few English clubs field more than two, yet Gallian believes that there is enough opportunity in the English system: "England has so many more clubs, plus the universities. I am sure that whatever the differences the best players will still come through."

India has been the big moment so far: "It was the toughest challenge and the most enjoyable. It was the first time I'd played five-day cricket and it was compelling cricket, so much so that the days flew by, the games were so tight. We won because, man for man, we were the better side.

"The balance and direction of the team was superb. We were all young, we all related well, team spirit was terrific and we played the Tests on the basis of aiming to win each session." A personal hero is Ramprakash: "I train with him in London. A very kind and helpful man who I believe has a great part to play in English cricket."

Should there be some doubt as to how Gallian actually sees himself (batsman, all-rounder, captain?), he explains: "I want to make myself into a batsman who can play on fast or slow pitches, who can open or go down the order, who can save games or who can win them. As a bowler I'm more of a partnership breaker than one of the one-day five; I know I haven't much chance of breaking into the regulars here. This Lancashire attack is now awesome."

Ambitions? "To be consistent, win a winter tour". Captaincy? "I enjoyed the responsibility at Oxford but anything further is a long way off. There are a lot of captains in front of me here." Charlotte now works for a wedding list company in Kensington. Wedding? He grins: "Not yet. We're waiting to see where we're going."

Gallian will not bowl like McDonald nor bat like Archie MacLaren, who admonished his pupils: "Never permit a bowler to bowl to you without a long-on and a long-off". What he will do is give extra gloss to a Lancashire team, and club, that now seems to have put everything into place, including the best four-day square in England. This could be the summer of the Gallian Red Rose.