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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2013, 23:19 GMT

    The Main issue now is whether we get that jerk reaction to bluntly, requiring 50 points from our next four games.

    Anything less than 50 points from next four games puts us into an area which nearly always sees sides go down. Would like to see us survive a year in div1 as we have the talent, I just don't agree with a pure rotation policy on arguably some of the best bowling potential in the country, outside of the ENG setup; it makes no sense.

  • Phil on June 19, 2013, 9:20 GMT

    Adams' sacking was always on the horizon, he had a poor relationship with the Surrey management board and the fans. Bizarre selections in early season and poor results just brought forward the inevitable. A bowling attack that is poorly selected for the conditions which then fails to deliver can only go one way - back to Div 2. I watched Dernbach last week at Guildford and Arundel and saw a player with no spirit and no heart! These players forget that we pay money to watch the rubbish that they serve up. Is it time for a proper clear out at Surrey at the end of this awful campaign? Alec Stewart is the man to do it....

  • Michael on June 18, 2013, 17:29 GMT

    I do not like seeing another midseason upheaval. End of season would have been less disruptive. Surrey were at a bad point when he took over and it took time. Many of his early plans as they took shape looked brilliant,like his early signings. A lot of people were surprised when RHB came from Sussex, but this was adventurous and a new adventure.Those who complain about the old men should remember it started as a youth policy with some experience thrown in. It remained a youthpolicy largely till last June. the club were lucky to have Burns and Ansari to call on, but youngsters take time to develop and a system to emerge from. Above all when RHB left was the need of a cohesive driving force- Smith. The club failed to really check on him. Adams like anyone else made mistakes and maybe the winter signings were too much, but I can see reason behind them A coach can only do so much,and yet we are now giving them all the power and most of the credit or discredit. Surrey needs rethinking.

  • Barnaby on June 18, 2013, 15:36 GMT

    I would suggest there would be a few unhappy fans at Hampshire if he went there. He was hardly the most complimentary to the club as Sussex captain and in particular he and Warne really did not get on.

  • Graem on June 18, 2013, 15:13 GMT

    Excellent article George, though I am less certain that he hands over to whoever replaces him a squad with a bright near future. I wonder if Adams fell now because the suits knew that the membership, who had never warmed to him, were hardly likely to criticise the decision.

  • Adam on June 18, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    Some valid points here George and while the number of older players signed has probably gone too far, Solanki has actually had a very solid season with the bat.

    No mention of the treatment of a Surrey legend Mark Ramprakash; after the Maynard incident when experience was desperately required, was told he was not needed.

  • ian on June 18, 2013, 14:06 GMT

    I'm prepared to concede that Adams has been unlucky. The death of Tom Maynard has indeed had repercussions that have extended from last season into this, but the bad luck doesn't stop there. Graeme Smith, who, had he been fit, would have probably have turned the club around & given it a hard professional attitude this season has been sidelined by his chronic ankle problem. Then Gareth Batty, for ever the deputy captain in times of crisis, is himself currently injured. There seems to be something of a curse hanging over Surrey & fate is dealing some mean cards. Whether, however, it's all evil luck is a matter of conjecture. I am genuinely sorry that Chris Jordan left because no one doubted his talent & his outstanding performances for Sussex this year can't all be explained by the sea breeze at Hove. That looks like a managerial mistake. So it the hiring of Keedy when it's obvious that Ansari (if he's prepared to see out these bad days) is the future. Ditto Lewis for Meaker/ Dunn, etc.

  • Cyril on June 18, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Mr Dobell, on the point you raise about the men who sanctioned Adams decisions being partly to blame: yes they are, but this is not an example of them backing the boss? They would be criticised more if they had not allowed Adams to run his team his way.

    But it is now up to these men, in particular Richard Gould, to find the right man to lead Surrey. This will be the decision that shapes his time as chief, not the decision to sack Adams.

    The timing of the sacking is surely a coincidence. Have you any evidence to suggest otherwise?

  • Graham on June 18, 2013, 12:03 GMT

    George, this is a distinctly glass half-full treatment of Adams' distinctly underwhelming tenure, regardless of the Maynard issue.

    Not only have you given him the benefit of the doubt with Chris Jordan, when the huge difference in his bowling is already quite clear, you overlook his often bizarre selection policy (Batty and Keedy in April), the unwarranted sidelining of Tim Linley last year after he played such a key part in promotion and you have been very generous in your assessment of the young players' development. I played against Meaker in 2007, before Adams' arrival and he was already very quick and destined for success. He should be playing international cricket regularly by now with his raw talent but Surrey, or Adams, have failed to get the best out of him. I feel sure that Graeme Welch at Warks would have done a far better job of it.

    Adams would have been classed a failure even without the tragic events at Wimbledon Park station and the change should have come earlier.

  • Michael on June 18, 2013, 11:36 GMT

    I do not think Adams should have been sacked half way though the season, as it just drags Surrey further into uncertainty. The end of the year would have been better sense to me. I can understand the rationale behind most of the signings made and who is to say they were all bad. I think some people regard youth as the panacea for all ills. To play first class cricket a player has to be ready and not thrust in wearing nappies as it were, which is what one or two loose tongued commentators would prescribe. Obviously not all was right and the summary sacking of Ramps was not good. But above all it is worth remembering that Plan A hit the skids on this anniversary and at that time Surrey were playing youth consciously instead of trying to bail out the boat with all speed. The smile left Surrey that day and a lot of hope. The pitches and climate have a certain amount to do with Surey's position and there are a number of things which just are not the coaches' fault.

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