June 17, 2013

Adams' removal a gamble worth taking

No other county coach has had the resources Adams had at his disposal but ultimately there has been very little evidence of progress

The times they are a changing. Changing coaches mid-season is always a big gamble, but this one is a gamble worth taking.

It is of course all too easy to forget now the latter half of 2011 where we secured a last-ditch promotion to Division One and then days later lifted the CB40 title. You have to give Adams his due, the CB40 victory was in large part down to his approach. He persisted with a spin-heavy attack which often meant our tail began at No. 6 or 7, but it paid off handsomely.

Promotion was also a magnificent achievement but had Alec Stewart and Anil Kumble not come together to secure the inspired signing of Pragyan Ojha for the final four games of the season we would probably still be in Division Two now. Aside from those heady weeks in the September 2011, have Surrey really got a lot to show from the last five or so years?

In my view, no. Chris Adams has had unparalleled resources and a chance to rebuild a squad not once, but twice. He arrived in 2009 with what seemed to be carte blanche to build a Surrey side all on his own. He had an opportunity, with the club at something of a nadir having been relegated from Division One in 2008 without winning a game, to pack the side full of Surrey youngsters. But he didn't quite do that.

Scott Newman played two more games than Arun Harinath, Pakistani offspinner Murtaza Hussain played seven games while Simon King played just two and while Matthew Spriegel played six games, Alex Tudor played in four. He also brought in Richard Logan and James Anyon on loan who were poor and at times replaced a fit Stuart Meaker who, while still a very raw talent, was clearly worth persisting with over loan signings. We saw the same a year later when Steven Cheetham was signed and again played ahead of Meaker.

Of course the second rebuilding of the squad was down to the desperate turn of events almost exactly a year ago. It was clear there was a lack of discipline among a small group of players. Adams is of course not to blame for the tragedy but discipline comes from the top down and something did seem to have gone awry.

Ultimately there has been very little evidence of progress in 2012 and 2013. In the early games of 2012 there was plenty of evidence of the "soft" dismissals that Adams pledged to cut out. Yes we beat a good Sussex side in the opening fixture but even then, in the decision to promote Chris Jordan as a Championship opener, there were signs that clear heads were not prevailing. As for 2013, well we are languishing in seventh place without having won a game despite further significant splurging on the playing staff.

Arguably no other county coach has had the resources Adams had at his disposal. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were splashed on big name signings (and big name contract terminations) like Steven Davies, Gareth Batty and Chris Tremlett. While individually, those players have produced fine performances, the team has not gelled. That's not to mention some overseas flops like Iftikhar Anjum, Andrew Symonds and Grant Elliott to name just three.

Sixteen Championship wins in four and a half seasons is neither good nor terrible, but what is more damning is that after 71 Championship games in charges Adams' men were still all-too-often looking short of guidance and strategy in the field. There was also the abrupt termination of Mark Ramprakash's stellar career last June after he was told by Adams that he would not play again while he remained in charge. Ramprakash, of all people, deserved better.

Attention turns to who should replace Adams. For what it's worth I would dearly love to see Graham Thorpe return to the club and academy director Gareth Townsend be given a more prominent role, both under the tutelage of Stewart. In reality the Surrey top brass will probably want a bigger name and, intriguingly, one of those, Gary Kirsten, will soon reach the end of his time as South Africa coach. Whoever they appoint will need time and space to corral a group of talented individuals into the team they really ought to be.

Josh Green has been riding the Surrey cricket blogging rollercoaster since 2009. He tweets here