Saturday, 11 April 2015

That time of year again: The 2015 season preview

There's something about the county cricket season that always takes the Jessop Tavern View by surprise. Some of this must be due to the relentless treadmill that world cricket seems to have become these days. There's the fact that the seemingly endless World Cup has only just finished. There's also the latest edition of the IPL, which kicked off this week, replete with the usual glitz, glamour and sponsored everything (do Citi moments of success still exist?)

There's certainly also a shadow cast by the sad news of Richie Benaud's passing, plus the distraction of events in the Caribbean, where England are beginning their tour amid news that Paul Downton has just been relieved of his duties as ECB managing director. Basically, there's just a lot going on in the cricket world.

However, the most likely reason we can think of for our surprise is simply that 2014 didn't end all that well for Gloucestershire and thus we've been burying our heads in the sand to some extent over the winter. Let's recap events as best we recall.

Last season
Championship: 7th Div 2; NatWest Blast: 8th South group; Royal London Cup: quarter-final

None of the above was very good. Neither was it all that surprising, but the end result was that John Bracewell's second spell as director of cricket ended rather ignominiously. The county have since appointed an interest double act to replace him; former Glos (and England) off spinner Richard 'Michael' Dawson is head coach and legendary Australian all-rounder Ian Harvey (batting, bowling and drinking all specialities) is his assistant. Dawson is still only 34, but is highly-regarded and had been coaching at Yorkshire after leaving Nevil Road a season or so ago. He and Harv played together at Yorkshire from 2004-2005 and it will be interesting to see how the new coaching setup works out. As Alex Winter's Cricinfo preview headline states, hopefully the new regime can freshen up Gloucestershire.

The coaching appointments come against a backdrop of the loss of two key players and stalwarts of the county, the Gidman brothers. Will Gidman will surely be the bigger loss to the 'shire. The bowling all rounder is at the peak of his powers and it's understandable that he wanted to test his skills in Division 1. He led the attack with aplomb since joining from Durham in 2011 and he will undoubtedly trouble many a Division 1 batsmen as well as contributing handy runs in the late middle order.

Over the last 13 seasons Alex had been a great servant to the county and was in good form at the end of 2014. Gidders posted back to back 1000 run seasons in the last two years after giving up the captaincy. However, at pushing 34 he's probably not going to get much better. It's a shame he has departed to local rivals Worcestershire, but again the prospect of playing in Division 1 was surely too tempting for him to pass up, especially with Gloucestershire in a state of flux after Bracewell's departure was announced last year.

So, where does all this leave us? Well, we still have a bit of a mess where the captaincy is concerned. Michael Klinger will not arrive until June, meaning that Geraint Jones will captain the championship side until then, after signing on purely as a batsman. This is no bad thing, as a) he isn't a very good gloveman and b) we have no shortage of keepers, with Gareth Roderick, Cameron Herring, Peter Handscomb (see below) and possibly even youngster Patrick Grieshaber(?) all seemingly on the books for 2015.

We have also picked up Australian Peter Handscomb, who we confess to having never seen play. Bizarrely he and Klinger struck the only two Big Bash hundreds last season. Considering we've struggled mightily in t20 over the past few seasons, his addition looks a sensible one, especially with t20 pioneer Harv around to pass on some knowledge. He's also conveniently a non-overseas player, courtesy of a British passport found in a drawer somewhere. Plus he can also keep wicket. It seems that Gareth Roderick's fragile fingers will be the least of our problems in 2015.

The rest of the batting is a mix of the old (O'Mish), the new (Will Tavare, who had a very promising debut season) and the in-between (Chris Dent, Ian Cockbain, Benny Howell, etc). We also landed another British passport holder in Kiwi all-rounder Kieran Noema- Barnett. 'KN-B' is sponsored by Kiwi burger chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen and judging by the picture on the official site, he certainly knows his way around a beef pattie.

We still seem to have a handy-looking bowling attack. Craig Miles is finally fit and has always taken wickets when playing regularly. The 20 year old will likwly lead the attack if he can stay off the physio's table. James Fuller is still around, as are Liam Norwell and David Payne. All three have the potential to take wickets in Division 2. They are also capable of going around the park on any given day (hi, KP). We don't really have a spinner worthy of the name, but Jack Taylor and Tom Smith are both functional players who won't let you down, nor bowl you out all that often.


We've ended this preview feeling a lot more enthusiastic than when we started. The side is maturing and we do still have some talent despite losing the Gidmans. The Jessop Tavern View is too cynical to be dreaming of promotion though. We're inclined to agree with the folks at Deep Extra Cover, whose preview states 'If only because of the presence of big guns Surrey and Lancashire in the second division of the Championship this season it is very hard to imagine that Gloucestershire will win promotion to the first division for the first time since 2003'

That said, is it too much to ask for Dawson's boys to maintain a semblance of a title challenge, while improving on our woeful t20 performances and continuing to mount a challenge in the Royal London 50 over cup?

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