2010 in a nutshell:
2010 was a somewhat disappointing year overall for the Gladiators. In the County Championship the club finished fifth in Division Two after a fairly disastrous end to the season. Once again it was generally the bowling which was the stronger suit for Gloucestershire, so much so in fact that two thirds of their 2010 County Championship wickets came from players who have been drawn away to supposedly bigger and better things. The biggest negative for Gloucestershire was undoubtedly the ease with which they were turned over on no less than nine occasions (matched only by Warwickshire). At home they won just two County Championship matches, not good enough. In the T20, Gloucestershire finished bottom of the Southern Group, enough said. It was a slightly better story in the 40 Over League, where the Gladiators narrowly missed out on the knockout stages, finishing third by just one point in Group B. Overall, it was a season to forget, although there were glimpses of the potential residing at this club of great history.
Departures galore across the disciplines will hurt the Gladiators, but not perhaps as much as people first may think. A promotion challenge is an outside possibility, but without a top quality spinner in the County Championship, and with a number of inexperienced players throughout the side, the consistency of performance will probably not match that required for a serious push. Much more likely is success in the T20, aided by the signing of the magical Murali, somewhat of a miracle for a club so strapped of cash. This alone would be a welcome change from last season, when the club faired so badly. A lot will depend on how quickly the new youngsters and new overseas signing, Kane Williamson, adapt to county cricket.
The top order has undergone a bit of an overhaul, as in been replaced! Kadeer Ali was let go and William Porterfield is now plying his trade at Warwickshire. Allrounder Rob Woodman and very surprisingly, wicket keeper Steven Snell, were also released. Finally, James Franklin has been replaced by fellow Kiwi Williamson, a destructive player with bags of potential. Ian Cockbain, Richard Coughtrie and Chris Dent face a tough time in their first full seasons with the club and this is why I expect the batting to once again be the county’s downfall across the competitions. Will Gidman meanwhile will hope for more action than he had at Durham, now that he has been reunited with his brother once again. The burden will rest largely with Captain and talisman Alex Gidman and overseas player Williamson, who will bat at three. Hamish Marshall along with veterans Jonathan Batty and Chris Taylor will also be looked to for significant contributions across the three formats and a bit more consistency than they were able to muster last year.
The departures have been plentiful. Steve Kirby has moved on to Somerset in the hope of international honours as he approaches the twilight of his career. The great find of last season, Gemaal Hussain rather did the dirty on the club that gave him a chance and joins Kirby at Somerset for this season. Franklin hasn’t come back this year and even Anthony Ireland has moved on to Middlesex. However, what appears depressing to begin with could in fact become a major positive for the club. Young fast bowlers are coming through the ranks and there are high hopes for Liam Norwell (right arm fast-medium) especially, along with David Payne (left arm fast-medium) and Ian Saxelby (right arm medium, who can bat). Led by the evergreen Jon Lewis, who is fast becoming an allrounder it seems, there is real hope for the seam attack this year, so expect the bowling to remain pretty strong despite the departures. The problem then? Spin, or the lack thereof yet again. Gloucestershire will again be dependent on the inconsistent twosome of Vikram Banerjee and Richard Dawson (now also the spin bowling coach), apart from when Murali arrives for the T20 of course. If only he could play all year...
A. Gidman (c)
An all pace attack is likely more often than not in the County Championship, given the relative weakness of the spin options available.
My pick is Alex Gidman, Captain, talisman and a supremely talented and dangerous player, who has been on the verge of England selection for the past few years. He can be a destructive player, whose allround contribution and leadership of those younger players will prove decisive on many occasions for Gloucestershire this year. He will have to massively improve on last years’ efforts though, when he averaged just 23.
Liam Norwell is a young right arm English bowler capable of making the breakthrough this year and more than that, making a real contribution to the county’s success. If he performs as well for the Gladiators as he has for the youth team then the county will find themselves with a more than adequate replacement for the likes of Steve Kirby and Gemaal Hussain.
Captain and Coach:
Alex Gidman has already been mentioned a lot, indicating the county’s reliance on him. As a Captain he leads by example and hopefully the younger additions to the side will follow in his stride. As for the coach, John Bracewell, he has always been considered as a bit of a one day specialist, but he will be desperate to improve the clubs fortunes in the longest and shortest versions of the game. His nurturing of the young talent in this side will be key to Gloucestershire’s chances of success and he will need to get the blend of experience and youth right throughout the season.
Just outside the promotion places in the County Championship and progress to the knockout stages of the T20 Cup. Finals day is a possibility if the batting clicks for the Gladiators, but it rarely does. The 40 Over League will probably be used as a breeding ground for some more youngsters meanwhile.