Spruced-up Gloucs can look positively at the future
Past Present and Future. That was the theme at the launch of the new Bristol Pavilion on Bank Holiday Monday. And as players of the past, the present and the future lined up on the balcony of the new building, and brightly coloured paper streamers flew into the air, it seemed the perfect statement to launch a new era at Nevil Road.
Players of the past, including Jack Russell, Chris Broad and Mark Alleyne symbolised the success that we have seen, and strive to achieve once more. Players of the present were a reminder of the progress we've made this season, and the young cricketers of the future, along with our new facilities and ability to host international matches, rounded off the symmetry nicely.
As a Gloucestershire fan and a Bristol resident, I'm not alone in being cock-a-hoop at the new Pavilion, it being the first and only international sporting venue in the city. The ten-month build was delivered on time and on budget, a rarity in the modern trend of ambitious refurbishments that land counties in debt in the quest for lucrative international fixtures.
I was lucky enough to get a quick tour inside the pavilion before the launch, and I must say it is an impressive transformation. I was told the aim is to make triple use of every space; on domestic match days, international match days and non-match days.
Much like Mary Poppins' handbag, the building holds a lot more than the outside suggests. A variety of rooms and spaces across four floors have their assigned uses on match days; a photographers room, umpires facilities, press box etc. while they are already booking up on non-match days for weddings, conferences, private parties, and even dinner parties.
I was particularly pleased to hear that the existing ladies toilets on the ground floor have been extended; hopefully combating the large queues that seem to be a mandatory annoyance on busy match days! The only negative that I noted was the sightscreen, blocking much of the view on the first two floors.
With a room allocated as an in-vision studio for Sky, and a large space which will have a purpose built rostrum for 150 press for internationals, it's good to know that the Pavilion is capable of hosting its country, while at the same time not feeling purpose built for it, unlike other venues that have recently upgraded (Edgbaston immediately springs to mind).
The ECB visit this week to sign off on the Pavilion should be just a formality; they have visited us monthly during the build and Gloucestershire staff believe we have ticked all the boxes on that all-important international status list. ECB inspection permitting, we are hosting an ODI against India next year, and another against Sri Lanka 2016.
The launch preceded our must-win Yorkshire Bank 40 fixture against our neighbours and rivals Somerset. We were always the underdogs, facing a batting line up that featured Marcus Trescothick, Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler, and although our captain Michael Klinger went into the game as second highest run scorer in the competition this year, we failed to translate the Pavilion celebrations onto the pitch.
Although our 12-run loss ended our YB40 campaign, we put up a good fight, and I felt it demonstrated the progress we have made this season. While a Finals Day or a Championship promotion would be fantastic, what we really needed to see this year was some development; signs that we are heading in the right direction, and building a squad of talented players who are starting to reach their full potential. With that in place, success will surely follow in the coming years.
Nothing demonstrated that more than our previous game in the YB40, the thrilling victory over Glamorgan that created the winner-takes-all tie against Somerset. Winning with one ball to spare was in no small part thanks to the aforementioned Klinger. It completed four limited-overs wins over our Welsh neighbours, and gave us one of our most exciting games at Bristol this season.
With four Championship games still to play, we are very much still in contention for promotion. Gareth Roderick's superb 152 against Kent in our last game (and a final day washout) secured us a draw, and proved that we have plenty of players capable of stepping up when it's needed.
With our limited-overs season in the past, and Championship promotion our present aim, we can also look to the future with top class new facilities, and a squad of talented players who will ensure that international cricket is not the only thing that puts Gloucestershire back on the map.