County cricket June 17, 2013

Adams' failure not all his own making

Problems arguably out of his control contributed to Chris Adams' downfall and have clouded his legacy

It has been a year since the Tom Maynard tragedy, but the episode is still claiming casualties. The seeds of Chris Adams' downfall at Surrey were sown not by his recruitment or coaching policies, but by that sad night in Wimbledon.

No-one is equating the enormity of a bereavement with the loss of a job but the culture of Surrey changed on June 18, 2012 and the incident has influenced every decision made at the club since.

Had Maynard, his judgement impaired by drink and drugs, not made a string of mistakes that night, Adams would have had not felt the need to recruit a coterie of experienced players to guide the chastened squad that weathered the crisis. Adams would have persisted with a youth policy that was beginning to bear fruit and there would have been no need to squander money on short-term acquisitions.

Adams may well still be in a job now and Rory Hamilton-Brown would surely not have spent the last few weeks playing second XI cricket for Sussex. The incident may yet define their entire lives.

Some blame Adams for Maynard's death. There are whispers of rumours and blame. Twice in recent weeks, I've heard it said that Adams has "blood on his hands".

It is a monstrously unfair allegation. An army of investigative journalists have dug for information on that episode and none have found a smoking gun that points towards a failure on the part of the club. A player or two just had private lives that were not compatible with those of professional sportsmen.

Certainly ESPNcricinfo has found no evidence to suggest drug taking was endemic in the rest of the squad and no evidence of a cover-up. Adams was no more responsible than the train driver or the barman. Those who suggest otherwise should produce their evidence or pipe down. It was just awful luck for all involved.

It is worth reflecting on what sort of a club Surrey was before Maynard's death. At the end of 2011, they won the CB40 Trophy and promotion back into Division One after three seasons away. It is true that Surrey had started the 2012 season uncertainly. But that was not unexpected. As Derbyshire have shown this year, it takes time to adjust to the standards of Division One.

They had a group of young cricketers - the likes of Maynard, Steven Davies, Stuart Meaker and Hamilton-Brown - who had realistic England aspirations in the short term. They had a group under that - the likes of Matt Dunn, George Edwards and Jason Roy - who promised much for the future and they had shown, in rehabilitating Chris Tremlett, that they could identify and nurture untapped talent. They were fulfilling their obligations as one of the first-class counties. They were, in short, a happy club with a golden future.

It seems a long time ago. After Maynard's death, Adams sought to add maturity to the dressing room and probably over compensated. While the arrival of one or two role-model cricketers - the likes of Graeme Smith and Ricky Ponting - made some sense, the decision to persist with the likes of Zander de Bruyn (37) while recruiting Vikram Solanki, aged 37 and unable to retain a place in the Worcestershire side, and 38-year-old Gary Keedy, pushed the balance too far.

They already had the likes of Jon Lewis (37) and Gareth Batty (35). It blocked opportunities for the likes of Roy and gave the impression - a false impression, really - that little progress had been made in the previous four-and-a-half years. Those who accuse Surrey of short-termism and chequebook recruitment had all the ammunition they required.

Nor did the signings work as hoped. At the halfway point of the Championship season, Surrey are without a win, while only Scotland sit below them in the YB40 table. The results are not disastrous - they have drawn six of their eight Championship matches and sit just above the relegation position - but bearing in mind the budget that Adams has had, then patience has clearly worn out. Warwickshire, eight points better off in the Championship table, and Somerset, eight points worse, also have large budgets. News of Adams' sacking will have their directors of cricket sleeping uneasily.

A case could be made to suggest that the experience of Chris Jordan might reflect poorly on Adams, too. Jordan first broke into the Surrey side as a teenager of rich promise, but several years at The Oval brought no progress and his eventual release at the end of 2012.

The fact that he immediately proved a success at Sussex suggests that some aspect of coaching or man-management at Hove is substantially better than at The Oval. In fairness, Jordan has found the pitches at Sussex far more to his suiting and it may be best to suspend judgement on his progress. He had previously looked promising in patches.

But a period of retrenchment was inevitable at Surrey after Maynard's death. And if Surrey were right to allow Adams time when he first arrived at The Oval, they may well have been right to allow him time now. Certainly he has had some wretched luck.

Quite apart from the Maynard episode, Adams lost Smith to injury and feels that they were frustrated by poor weather in a couple of games this season. The timing of his sacking, a day before the Maynard anniversary, is intended to show dynamism and decisiveness. Instead it appears crass. The men who sacked him are the men who sanctioned his signings. After guiding his squad through their grief last year, Adams may well feel he deserved rather better. He may well be right, too.

Adams' successor will inherit a far better club than he did. They will inherit a club with a good work ethic, a good youth system and many good characters. None of that was true when Adams arrived.

And it's a key factor. While many high-profile coaches and former players were interested in coaching at such a big club, few were keen when Adams took over. They knew the problems were too deep; the decisions that had to be made too controversial. Few coaches are prepared to get their hands as dirty as Adams was in weeding out unwanted players and instilling a new culture in a club that was, at the time, rather longer on attitude than achievement. It looked an impossible job when Adams took over.

That won't be the case this time. This time the club will have their pick of some of the biggest coaching names in world cricket. They will still require time, patience and realistic expectations from their supporters. But the foundations are in place for a marked improvement in fortunes. The foundations were laid by Adams.

It is worth noting that assistant coach, Ian Salisbury, has been sacked, too. Sometimes, in these situations, there is an attempt to divide coaching partnerships to ensure a smoother transition. It reflects well on both Salisbury and Adams that they remained united and fell together. They will be back, too. There are not so many strong, intelligent and independent thinkers within the English game that a talent like Adams can be ignored for long.

It was, in partnership with Peter Moores, Mark Robinson, Mushtaq Ahmed et al, that those qualities helped drag Sussex from a cosy club by the sea to a period of unprecedented success. Then, of course, he was able to influence events with the bat in his hand, but a return to coaching is still highly likely. The smart money suggests it will be at Hampshire.

Perhaps Adams should take a break before that. The strain has taken its toll. Maybe a period of rest and recuperation will do him no harm.

Either way, it is a shame that Adams' stay at Surrey has ended this way. History tends to be written in black and white and there is a danger that the progress the club made under him and the success they had, will be masked by the undeniably disappointing results of the last 12 months.

But in years to come, we may well reflect that Adams didn't so much fail as become another victim of a desperately sad accident that continues to shatter the lives of those that it touched.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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