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George Dobell at New Road
September 6, 2012
As the champagne flowed at New Road, there must have been very different emotions at Chelmsford. It will not have gone unnoticed by Essex that two of the architects of Warwickshire's 2012 Championship triumph were former Essex players: Chris Wright and Varun Chopra.
Chopra has been the only Warwickshire man to register 1,000 first-class runs - he was also just the fourth man in the country to reach the milestone - in 2012 while Wright has bowled with pace, skill and consistency to claim 58 wickets in 14 Championship matches. Both have gone from being fringe players at Essex to England possibles.
While Essex had wanted to retain the services of Chopra, who left for Edgbaston at the end of the 2009 season, they released Wright a few weeks before the end of the 2011 season. Neither man had come anywhere near realising his potential at Essex, which perhaps raises as many questions about the environment at Chelmsford as it does the one at Edgbaston.
"I didn't think I would get released," Wright said after Warwickshire wrapped up the Championship title with a crushing victory over Worcestershire. "I maybe thought I would have another year. It was a bit of a shock.
"I was released during the Colchester festival, which is when they normally decide on the contracts. But we were playing against Gloucestershire at the time and I knew they were interested, so I had a day in mourning, as it were, but then I had to shake it off because it was set up for me to come here on loan by the following evening. So there wasn't much time to sulk.
"Whenever you get sacked it's a bad time, but the silver lining was coming here.
"I honestly think that, if I'd be given the opportunity before, I'd have enjoyed the same success. I was bowling well last year, but I was doing it in second XI cricket. I just don't feel I had a chance to show what I could do at Essex. If you look how things have gone, it would suggest they made a mistake in not recognising what I can do."
They key to Wright coming to Edgbaston was Graeme Welch, the bowling coach at Warwickshire. Welch had previously filled the same role at Essex and had long been an admirer of Wright. When Warwickshire suffered some injury problems towards the end of the 2011 season, he suggested Wright was the man to fill the void. Wright arrived on loan, claimed two five-wicket hauls in his first four games and was soon signed on a three-year deal.
"It has been a pretty amazing 12 months," he said. "But Graeme Welch had been at Essex for two years and that coincided with my first two years. He was in Ashley Giles's ear a lot about getting me to come and, in end, Ashley came round.
"It's difficult to say what has been different here, but I always wanted to play more Championship cricket and I never had the opportunity to do that at Essex. Here I have played every game and I have been trusted with some important overs. I've felt I was backed 100 per cent."
Wright also credited his bowling partnership with Keith Barker, the left-arm swing bowler who graduated through Lancashire's system before pursuing a career in football. Barker offered first refusal to Lancashire for his services when he returned to cricket but has blossomed under Welch's tutelage at Edgbaston. The pair found themselves sharing the new ball only after Boyd Rankin and Chris Woakes suffered injuries in the run-up to the season.
"It has been brilliant bowling with Keith, who is a left-armer swinging it back, so in that respect we have complimented each other well," Wright said. "But it was a partnership that wasn't necessarily going to happen until Woakesy turned his ankle over badly in Barbados on our pre-season tour and Boyd had a stress fracture in his foot. So it was thrust upon us really. Happily things went well."
The odd thing is that, while Wright and Chopra struggled to make an impression at a club that has played much of its cricket in the second division, they have now played significant roles in one that has won a Championship. In four seasons at Essex, for example, Chopra never passed 650 first-class runs; in three at Warwickshire he has surpassed 1,000 twice.
"Sometimes you need a change of scenery," Chopra said. "Maybe I just needed to get out of my comfort zone. It is no slight on Essex. But even when he was there, Wright showed signs of being a special bowler.
"Ashley Giles is quite a hard taskmaster. A few weeks, ago, during the Middlesex game, he said - after some pretty strong words - 'we need you now' and I've started to hit the ball pretty well.
"I know there is an opportunity for someone now that Andrew Strauss has retired, but my focus is just on Warwickshire. The set-up here is good. It's strong and it's disciplined, but maybe a change is all me and Chris needed."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
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