Rebuilding at The Oval

Unfortunately, not every article I have written has been published online which is extremely disappointing. After spending hours composing an article it is quite disheartening when this happens, especially when you don’t even receive a reply. I am very passionate about my cricket, yet there are few quality cricket blogs on the internet at the moment. I sent this article off to ‘The Full Toss’ and to ‘ESPN Cricinfo: The Inbox’ but to no avail. I have learnt with writing about cricket, unless you write about international cricket or Twenty20, then nobody is particularly interested! This article is about my beloved Surrey CCC and the crucial rebuilding process they must go through this winter. Note that this piece was produced at the end of September, and therefore before the release of Rory Hamilton-Brown, and the signing of Gary Keedy and Graeme Smith.

Image

As the days become shorter and the nights chillier, so draws an end to another domestic cricket season. At the conclusion of an exciting, yet rain savaged campaign, players will embrace a long break away from bat and ball. None more so than the squad at Surrey. Back in June when the club were rocked by the tragic news of young batsmen, Tom Maynard’s death, cricket became insignificant for the London based club. Maynard was such a key pillar stone at the Oval, both as a player and as a man. It speaks volumes of the personality that the Welshmen was, that he became such a colossal part of the team after only joining at the beginning of the 2011 season.

A team of special talents and unbelievable team spirit were torn apart. Under the guidance and nurturing of Chris Adams and stand-in skipper, Gareth Batty, the club knew that as cruel as the idiom read, the show must go on. The squad performed admirably, when it would have been so easy to lie down and feel sorry for themselves, and secured Division 1 survival. If it hadn’t have been for the rain, they would have had a chance of reclaiming their CB40 Trophy. The players deserve the upmost respect for standing up to their fears and battling on in the face of adversity.

After signing as manager at the end of the 2008 season, Chris Adams took over a squad which simply was not of the calibre a club such as Surrey merited. It had underperformed and was in need of a major shake-up. The former Sussex stalwart realised immediately that he could not turn this team into world beaters overnight and that it would be a process that would take time. Picking up the CB40 Trophy and securing promotion to Division 1, in 2011, showed signs that this team was really going places. Surrey boasted a formidable batting line-up to rival any county on the circuit, and a functional bowling unit featuring players on the cusp of international honours. Moreover, Adams had assembled a unified squad of players who believed wholly in their abilities, who played the game in and exciting and aggressive manner.

However, Adams finds himself facing perhaps the toughest and most decisive close season of his reign. With the departure of Mark Ramprakash and Maynard, and the likely exit of former captain, Rory Hamilton-Brown, the batting line-up is in need of a major refurbishment. It truly is tragic, the manner in which Maynard’s death has crushed Hamilton-Brown. The role he played in the revival of the club is understated. He managed to pioneer a harmonious dressing room, in charge of players with years more experience, who could win cricket matches, at such a young age. He was perhaps on the cusp of England, yet now he faces a huge task in rebuilding his career. As a Surrey fan, I can only hope that his future remains at the Oval, though his wish for a fresh start should be respected.

At the present moment, Surrey’s only real experience in the top order comes from Zander De Bruyn and Steven Davies. De Bruyn did not have the best of seasons by his very high standards, yet his nous and knowledge of the game will be vital in Surrey’s middle order. Moreover, his medium pace is more than a useful weapon in tricky early season conditions. The former Worcestershire wicketkeeper, Davies, is another player who has struggled to come to terms with events of this season. At the beginning of the season, Davies was installed as Matt Prior’s understudy, yet after averaging just 15 since Maynard’s death, he found himself dropped from the Surrey side and Jonny Bairstow’s rise has pushed him further back in the pecking order. Without doubt one of the most talented wicketkeeper batsmen on the circuit, it will be crucial for Davies to truly regroup over the winter and come back stronger. An exciting player to watch, his form next season could have a huge bearing on how Surrey performs.

There is certainly a cause to suggest that youngsters, Rory Burns, Arun Harinath and Zafar Ansari will be rewarded for their promising performance in tricky circumstances in 2012, with prominent roles next season. Furthermore, more responsibility will be placed on Jason Roy next time around. He will be expected to capitalise on bright starts with better shot selection and experience of how to build big innings. Roy possesses immense ability and is capable of achieving big things in the game.

Chris Adams has signed Vikram Solanki for the beginning of the 2013 season which could prove to be a shrewd acquisition. His leadership skills and vast experience will prove beneficial for the team and in particular the youngsters mentioned above. Although not enjoying the best of seasons in 2012, averaging 23.60 in 13 matches, Solanki still possesses the class required to perform in all competitions. The former England one dayer’s signing, mirrors that of Jon Lewis the season before, who has been signed not only to have an impact on the playing field, but to provide invaluable knowledge behind the scenes and in the dressing room.

There is certainly room for at least one more experienced batsman to be brought in over the close season. I would be tempted to bring in an overseas professional with bags of experience in English conditions. As we have so often seen in the past, it takes players a little while to become accustomed to the county circuit and the indifferent early season pitches. Rather than bring in a marquee, world class signing, Surrey would be better bringing someone such as Phil Jaques, Chris Rodgers or give Jacques Rudolph another go, in spite of a relatively unsuccessful early season stint in 2012. These types of players know what it takes to excel in England and can guarantee at least 1000 first class runs a season, in addition to vast experience.

It will be interesting to see the role Kevin Pietersen has to play in 2013, after benefitting from his unresolved international future in the back half of 2012. However, his involvement is not one Adams will be relying upon as it seems unlikely that Pietersen will slog out a full county season program. Adams will build his side based on the premise that Pietersen may only play a cameo role, if any, in 2013.

Interestingly, last week Adams relinquished the services of the all-rounders, Matt Spriegel and Chris Jordan. Spriegel was an ever present in the limited overs form of the game, as part of Surrey’s middle order whilst also providing valuable overs of off-spin. He was a key player in the capturing of the CB40 Trophy in 2011. His decision to leave seems to be based essentially on his frustration at lack of Championship cricket at the Oval. In regards to Jordan, it appears that Adams feels he has failed to live up to his evident potential. In his time at Surrey he has certainly shown signs of coming of age, yet injury problems and inconsistency in form seems to have prematurely ended his career at the club. This season he averaged just 12.81 with the bat from 12 innings and picked up 10 expensive wickets at 51.70. Whether these players are replaced from within the Surrey set-up, by players such as Tom Jewell, or by outside acquisitions is yet to be seen.

In terms of the bowling attack, Adams will only need to make minor changes with maybe another addition to already add to a successful unit. Graced with pacemen of international pedigree in Jon Lewis, Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker and Chris Tremlett, Surrey certainly have an attack to be reckoned with. It is vital that Tremlett can regain full fitness for the 2013 campaign. The 2011 Ashes winner, has the ability to trouble the world’s very best batsman. Tim Linley is a capable understudy for when the younger seamers go off on international duty, and Adams is blessed with a wealth of fast bowling talent in Jewell, George Edwards and Matthew Dunn, who will hope to have more involvement next season, after already showing signs of what they can do in the first eleven.

It is in terms of spin that Adams will have to look closely. In the one day form of the game, Matt Spriegel regularly bowled out his overs economically and these overs need to be replaced somewhere. The 2012 season showed that Zafar Ansari is being considered seen more as batsman than as a left arm orthodox spinner. This leaves the head coach with just stand in captain, Gareth Batty, who showed in this season that he is more than capable of ripping through a batting line-up on conducive wickets. Muari Kartik was magical in his short spell at the club and Adams will be tempted to secure him for another season. However, this boils down to how the former Sussex stalwart decides to use his precious overseas slot. Since the days of Ian Salisbury and Saqlain Mustaq, Surrey have always favoured fielding a combination of spin bowlers, and I don’t think this will change. A bowler like Adil Rashid, out of favour at Yorkshire, could potentially fit the bill.

In short, Surrey certainly has a bowling attack capable of firing them to the top of the Championship and to other domestic trophies. However, it is crucial that Chris Adams is equally adept at assembling a batting order proficient at elevating the side into match winning positions and less prone to the all too often collapse. The Surrey manager will be working hard over the winter to do this. In a recent interview with Surrey TV, Adams comments, “there is a need to repair, but there’s also a need to take stock of what we have, rather than what we haven’t got”.

With a couple of exciting acquisitions and a bringing in of experienced heads to provide balance to a undoubtedly talented side, the Londoners should certainly feature in the hunt for medals in 2013. After a tumultuous 2012 campaign, a refreshed, recharged and empowered Surrey side will be back to proceed with the revival, so admirably kick-started by Hamilton-Brown and Adams.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s