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April 5, 2013
Features : Warwickshire eye dominant legacy
Graeme Welch, the Warwickshire coach credited with transforming the fortunes of fast bowler Chris Wright, believes his protege's call-up to England's provisional squad for the ICC Champions Trophy can be the first step towards a Test career.
Welch was the driving force in rescuing Wright's career after Essex decided not to renew his contract in 2011, persuading Ashley Giles, then Warwickshire's director of cricket, to take him on loan towards the end of the 2011 season.
The transformation was immediate - a fact now recognised by England with a place in their Champions Trophy 30, a squad that must be whittled down to 15 before the tournament takes place on home soil in June.
Wright had an outstanding Championship season in 2012, taking 62 wickets at 24 runs apiece. Only Graham Onions, at Durham, took more wickets, at a much lower average of 15. Toby Roland-Jones, with 61 wickets at 19 for Middlesex, could also claim to have outstripped Wright, but Welch remains adamant of the qualities of his protégé.
"Chris had a fantastic season for us last year," Welch said, "and the way he bowled in our game against the MCC in Abu-Dhabi - against some good players such as Dawid Malan, Dale Benkenstein and Sam Northeast - I honestly believe he can go right to the top."
Welch was elevated from bowling coach to assistant coach at Edgbaston after missing out to his colleague Dougie Brown as successor to Ashley Giles as director of cricket. Both will see Wright as a key component of their attack as they seek to retain the First Division title which brought a glorious end to Giles' coaching career at Warwickshire.
Giles, now England's one-day coach as well as a selector, will need no reminding of Wright's qualities. But he is already 27 and any recognition by England now would make him very much a late developer among England pace bowlers.
"Chris has all the attributes," Welch said. "He bowls at a good pace, just back of a length and when it swings it swings. And he can hit you on the head without thinking. He has improved a lot against left-handers and he has got fitter and stronger over the winter.
"Someone has already said he is on a par with Graham Onions. If he can make a good start to the season - and the five-for in Abu Dhabi helps in that respect - he is the real deal in my eyes."
Welch had worked with Wright during a two-year stint as bowling coach at Essex before joining the Warwickshire staff, but admits his success has taken even him a little by surprise.
"The attributes were always there and I was urging Ashley Giles to get him for a couple of years before he came here but I didn't realise how good he could be and I don't think he did," he said.
"But he won't rest on his laurels. He was nearly sacked two years ago. He could have been stacking shelves in Tesco so I think he has the attitude now that if you get an opportunity you should give it your all."
Wright's 62 first-class wickets in Warwickshire's title-winning side won him his first England Lions call-up during the winter. The experience has left him with no doubts he can play at the highest level.
"Given where I was a couple of years ago it was amazing to tour with England Lions," he said. "A lot of the reason why you play is to try to represent your country at the highest level and the Champions Trophy squad, like the Lions, is a step in the right direction.
"I think I have the ability to step up to the next level but is whether the other bowlers give you a chance and there are some amazing bowlers around at the moment.
"I think it is one of those situations where you just have to keep plugging away with your county. If I did get a chance hopefully I wouldn't let anyone down."
The 30-man provisional squad for the Champions Trophy, which will be played in England and Wales from June 6-23, will be reduced to 15 next month.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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