Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Glamorgan: Season Review 2006.

Off field celebrations at securing an Ashes Test at Sophia Gardens were in sharp contrast to a dismal season in all forms of the game. With captain Robert Croft throwing in the towel, rumours of dressing room disharmony abounding, and financial worries leading to a ‘no overseas’ policy for 2007, the short term future is not great for Glamorgan fans.

When giving any form of appraisal in the workplace, it is good practice to start with the positives, and then focus on the areas for improvement. Unfortunately for Glamorgan C.C.C. in 2006, the latter type of feedback would take far longer than the first.

Overseas, overweight and over here?

Simon Jones in (pre-development) Cardiff

Things didn’t start so badly. Michael Kasprowicz and Matthew Elliott were signed up well in advance of the season. Simon Jones (above), too, was expected to continue his rehabilitation by playing regularly for Glamorgan during the first half of the season.

Then, however, for reasons of international commitment and injury respectively, both Australians were more likely to see the inside of New South Wales rather than its older namesake. Furthermore, Simon Jones played throughout April but then broke down again on May Day in a C&G game versus Ireland.

Mark Cosgrove in Colwyn Bay

As a batting replacement for Elliott, burly Mark Cosgrove (above) certainly looked the part early on. Hard hitting and aggressive, he hit a century on debut and inspired a victory at Derby with a superb 233. After returning to Australia mid season for an A team tournament, Cosgrove rarely hit such heights again.

Kasprowicz’s replacement was New Zealander James Franklin. Useful with the bat, he almost single handedly won a Twenty 20 encounter at Edgbaston; his seam bowling was a major disappointment and hardly ever seemed fit.

Underperformance the dominant force

In theory, Division Two of the County Championship should have proved easier following the 14 defeats in Division One in 2005. It scarcely seemed so. Only basement club Somerset was worse in the four day game and even they completed a two day drubbing of the Welsh county at Swansea in June. The two victories over Derbyshire and Gloucestershire were isolated moments. Northants only won 3 Championship games, two of them against Glamorgan.

The batting often buckled when the pressure was on. Supporters lost count of the different pairs of openers used. Dan Cherry just about justified a one year extension to his contract with some workmanlike performances towards the end of the season, but it was only Mike Powell and David Hemp who passed 1,000 runs for the year. All rounder Ryan Watkins needs to justify his place in one department at least, although he manfully debutised as an opener on several occasions. Nicky Peng, recruited from Durham, was injured for the second half of the season and has much to prove in 2007.

The bowling was hardly any better. David Harrison looked effective in patches, but Alex Wharf has gone backwards and Andrew Davies got a one year contract extension for reasons unknown to many. Out of the younger crop, Huw Waters looks head and shoulders above the rest (predicted here pre season), taking a splendid 5 for 86 at Taunton in August.

2006 beneficiary Darren Thomas was released. Whilst his commitment could never be faulted and his lower order hitting was very effective, “Ted’s” seam bowling had become a shadow of that which earned him England ‘A’ recognition.

No white ball comfort any more

Whilst Glamorgan’s Championship form has always moved in fits and starts, Welsh fans have usually taken comfort from performances in one day cricket. It was only two years ago in 2004 that the National League was wrapped up with 3 games to spare and, together with a Twenty 20 finals day appearance in that year, justified the claim that they were the best white ball side in the country.

That boast now lies in tatters. The C&G South Group was a disaster, with a solitary victory coming over Ireland. Twenty 20 offered early hope in the group stages. New Zealand wicket keeper, Brendan McCullum, played as a specialist batsman as cover for Cosgrove, and helped inspire victories in each of the first three games. It was downhill from there, however, and the campaign fizzled out live on Sky versus Gloucestershire.

Just when it couldn’t get any worse it did. Seventh place in Division One of the Pro 40 meant an end of season play off versus Shane Warne’s Hampshire, and there was only ever going to be one winner in that. The play off would never have involved Glamorgan if skipper Robert Croft had run his bat in versus Durham when only one run was needed to win. With Croft run out, the game was tied and it proved a costly error.

Change at the top

By now, Croft was clearly considering his position and eventually resigned after the home Championship defeat to Northants in September. Described as a ‘professional Welshman’ by former England colleague Alec Stewart, it is difficult to imagine what a proud man like Crofty would have found more heartbreaking; Glamorgan’s woeful displays or ‘losing the dressing room’ in that fashionable parlance. He stepped down with dignity intact. To quote another former England captain, Nasser Hussain, after he had resigned, it seemed as though he ‘couldn’t go to the well any longer’.

As a replacement, David Hemp is the obvious, if uninspiring, choice. He has his work cut out. Short term financial pressures mean that Chairman Paul Russell has already announced that there’ll be no overseas players in 2007. With a young squad lacking in confidence and experience, it’s going to be a difficult few years for Glamorgan as they languish in the wilderness of Division Two in both competitions.

Some hope?

Medium term, the ‘International’ development of Sophia Gardens, or whatever it’ll be renamed under a ‘Brit Oval style’ sponsorship deal, should secure regular pay days long after the Ashes Test of 2009. Unfortunately, it is difficult to stop students of Welsh cricket from drawing the conclusion that the team is suffering in the short term as a consequence.

The decline in membership numbers (and crowds in general) goes on, with only the very loyal, or those hanging on for Ashes Test tickets, continuing to subscribe. The club needs an injection of new life amongst the coaching staff, with Director of Cricket John Derrick’s position surely untenable. An adjustment of coaching responsibilities is more likely though.

The one hope for the Welsh cricketing public is the half a dozen or so younger players making their way through the academy. Keep an eye out for batsman Ben Wright and quick bowler James Harris.

Player of the season:
Mike Powell (below) 1,300 Championship runs at over 51, including back to back double hundreds in mid season, briefly revived talk of international honours.

Mike Powell passes the 200 mark at Cheltenham in July

High: 10 wicket victory over Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in scorching July heat, made possible by 299 from Mike Powell and 13 wickets from Robert Croft, probably still the best orthodox off spinner the domestic game has.

Low: Absolutely spoilt for choice, although the last day humiliation at the Rose Bowl in the Pro 40 play off in front of the Sky cameras took some beating and summed up the previous 5 months – sloppy fielding, wayward bowling and careless batting, all giving the impression of a thoroughly broken team.

This article was originally written in October 2006.

A preview of Glamorgan's 2007 season, with David Hemp at the helm and Jimmy Maher as the 'overseas', will follow soon.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Great season review - and really nice photographs too. Hope David Hemp does Glamorgan proud for Bermuda!