September 24, 2013

County cricket

No surprise people are guffawing

Josh Green
Graeme Smith reached 43 not out, approaching his first Surrey fifty, Surrey v Sussex, County Championship, Division One, The Oval, 3rd day, April 26, 2013
Graeme Smith's Surrey spell was brief and he has a big rebuilding job next season  © Getty Images
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Where did it all go wrong? Unless Surrey pull off an unlikely dead rubber win against Yorkshire this week we'll be relegated with even fewer points than we managed in 2008, the occasion of our last ignominious demotion. For a squad that then-coach Chris Adams described as his "best ever", that's pretty rubbish.

There will be much guffawing at Surrey's demise, and why not? We whipped out the chequebook on a number of occasions to sign first Graeme Smith and then Ricky Ponting and Hashim Amla. Not to mention Glenn Maxwell, Kevin O'Brien and Azhar Mahmood. As returns on investment go, relegation to Division Two after splashing all that cash is something of a disaster.

It's hard to put a finger on exactly what went wrong, but our batsmen have many more questions to answer than our bowlers (who shouldn't be without their critics either). Before the last game against Warwickshire we had a run of eight innings where we only passed 200 three times. That is appalling by any standards. So rarely this season have we been able to put teams under real scoreboard pressure, such has been the flakiness of our batting.

We have somehow conspired to be even worse since Adams' sacking than we were when he was still in the post, averaging about a point per game less since he left in June. I am as sure now as I was then that removing him was the right thing to do, but maybe the club should have been bolder in sacking Adams before the season started rather than upsetting the apple cart mid-year.

I struggle to subscribe to the theory that relegation can be good for a club, but it will at least provide an opportunity for a fresh start and a clean slate for the new coach. Surely no one could argue that the time has come now to show faith in the young talent at the club.

In Stuart Meaker, George Edwards and Matt Dunn we have a clutch of seamers who could dominate county cricket for years to come. Teenagers Dominic Sibley and Tom Curran should be backed to learn their trade in the lower tier while Zafar Ansari should be installed as Smith's vice -captain.

The 2008 relegation heralded the arrival of Adams for the following season. When Adams should have shown faith in youth he persisted with players like Usman Afzaal, Alex Tudor, Murtaza Hussain and Pedro Collins. It was an unforgivably short-sighted start to his time at the club and the same mistakes must not be made in 2014.

The management should only wield the chequebook this winter if the right players become available, and even then we're only in need of a couple of players, three at the most: a batsman or two to provide competition for places and the holy grail for all counties - an allrounder who can bat in the top six or seven.

The crushing disappointment of relegation, however inevitable it felt, will hopefully soon be replaced by the optimism that often comes with a new face at the top. Surrey fans and members will be sick to the back teeth of talk of four and five-year plans that became the norm under the previous management, but nonetheless a clear strategy is needed. That the strategy has to start with youth is an absolute no-brainer.

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

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Posted by   on (September 26, 2013, 17:03 GMT)

I disagree on the players Surrey needs. Over the previous two seasons Surrey's bowling averages were topped by the overseas spinner; late in the season at the Oval a world class spinner is vital. I'm not sure any of Surrey's current spinners offer that. A more general problem for Surrey is failure to get the best out of home grown players; Laurie Evans has averaged 50 this season, Chris Jordan took 61 FC wickets, Jason Roy has played only 4 FC games, Meaker has been disappointing (though that may be injury related). Hopefully they can take a look at what's happening behind the scenes and help the players they've still got, as well as the likes of Sibley coming through, to maximise their potential.

Posted by emmersonne on (September 26, 2013, 16:53 GMT)

Having watched Dominic Sibley (18 years old) pile on 220* at last count, it looks like at least one young, Surrey Born player for next year. That brings the total to...one.

Oh well, it's a start.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Josh Green
A relative latecomer to the Members entrance at Surrey CCC, Josh Green only managed to catch the end of the glory years. Since then there have been more crushing disappointments than glorious highs, but his fondness for the club continues unabated. It's best not to talk about his prowess as a cricketer, though one square drive struck for two in 2010 does stick in his mind. @SurreyCricBlog

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