Wednesday, 9 April 2014

2014 Season Preview: Same same but different?

Here we go, another year and, despite England's monumentally herculean attempts to suck all love out of cricket supporters in this country, the start of the county championship almost seems like welcome respite from the rather unprecedented fall from grace the national team has suffered in the past 6 months.

Gloucestershire appear to have approached the 2014 season with very much a, 'if it ain't fixed, don't….' Oh, hold on. That's not quite right.

The off season has seen has seen Glos manage to successfully add absolutely no new faces to a squad that performed manfully last year without really threatening to look like promotion candidates in the championship or trophy winners in white ball cricket. The familiar lines about young players coming good this year has been heard once more emanating from Nevil Road (behind the sound of the builders)

Gloucestershire fans are now very familiar with this line. We invest nothing in the playing squad, enabling money to be ploughed into the ground redevelopment which will enable us to host the occasional one day international against Zimbabwe or, heaven forbid the Netherlands!

Still, let's not grumble too much. The Jessop Tavern actually supports the idea of investing time in blooding young cricketers and we would certainly much rather watch David Payne be rubbish than Jon Batty. Oh hold on, we did have to watch Jon Batty. It is an admirable approach to building a sustainable cricket club in the modern era, even if the results haven't quite been there.

The squad does have potential. Last year the bowling department really struggled to back up a batting unit that contained 4 men who passed 1,000 runs in the championship. Will Gidman once again led the way with 50 wickets, and whilst Craig Miles burned brightly at the start of the season, he faded in the second half due to a combination of being over bowled and being worked out by batsmen. It will be interesting to see whether Miles continues his progression this season, or if he falls back amongst the Liam Norwells of this world. Speaking of Norwell, both he and David Payne now really need to step up. It has been a few years now since they both emerged, excitingly into the first team. Both have plateaued since and require reviving.

Both Miles Hammond and Graeme McCarter will push them for first team cricket and at least one of these four really needs to have a breakthrough season if Gloucestershire are going to consistently take 20 wickets. Then there is Ian Saxelby. The Sax should be back after injury ruined his 2013 season. Whether he can return to top form will also play a big part in Gloucestershire's season.

In the spin department,…..ah, forget it. Lets not even bother going there. Tom Smith has been retained to hold up an end and Jack Taylor has put his dart board away and learnt how to bowl properly, well at least that's what the ECB say!

The batting, and this is hard for the Jessop Tavern to say, is the strength of the squad. 1,000 runs for captain Klinger, Gidders, O'Mish and Dent should be repeated again this year. Dent in particular needs to back-up finally breaking through as a batsman of real substance in 2013. Benny, the House and Gareth Roderick provide able backup. In Division 2 there is no excuse for this lot not to fill their boots again. This being Glos though we fully expect to watch Klinger wilt under the pressure of setting fields to too many four-ball bowlers, Gidders to score meaningless hundreds late in the season after failing to assert himself at the start of the campaign and for O'Mish to revert back to scoring lots of pretty 30s.

So what can we expect trophy wise!? Last season the t20 was a shambles and it is difficult to see it being any different. The lack of experience or variety in the bowling attack and a lack of firepower in the batting means that it is hard to picture Glos doing much better this season. Still, at least we won't have to watch Dan Christian this year. The return of 50 over cricket is probably the best chance of really challenging for silverware and, if everyone can stay fit, then a promotion challenge is a distinct possibility.

On a final note, it will be interesting to see who else gets blooded from the academy. It is all well and good to invest nothing in the squad and place your faith in an academy system, as we have already said this is a highly commendable way to run a cricket club. However, such sustainability relies on having a convey belt of talent coming from the academy. Who the next young thing will be is perhaps the most exciting thing Gloucestershire fans have to look forward to.

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