Klinger key to continued improvement
6th, CC Div 2; 6th Midlands/West Div, FLt20; 4th Group C, YB40.
2013 in a nutshell
The ground development at Nevil Road has dominated everything about the club for the past few seasons. The playing budget has been severely squeezed, a number of senior players left and Gloucestershire slumped to the foot of the County Championship in 2012. But with planning permission secured, there was more breathing space last season and the signing of Australian Michael Klinger was a glorious acquisition.
Klinger was more than anyone could have hoped for. He took over the captaincy from Alex Gidman, refreshed a young dressing room and led from the front with over 2,000 runs across all competitions. He was so good Gloucestershire tried to sign him as a domestic player on a Hungarian passport.
He led an improvement in the County Championship, where Gloucestershire won only one fewer match than promoted Northamptonshire, had four batsman score over 1,000 runs - including young left-hander Chris Dent - and again had Will Gidman leading their attack superbly. Perhaps more pleasingly Craig Miles returned a physically different specimen two years on from his remarkable debut as a 16-year-old to take 43 wickets.
Gloucestershire were also well in the hunt for a Yorkshire Bank 40 semi-final and actually beat Glamorgan, who qualified, twice. But there was little excitement in the Friends Life t20 where only three victories left them bottom of their group and a points deduction for a poor pitch at Cheltenham of all places means they start with a handicap in 2014.
There is definitely a case to be made that things are coming together at Gloucestershire. Nevil Road has been transformed and new chief executive Will Brown has arrived to lead them forward. Securing more international matches is essential following their investment so a close eye should be kept on the next round of bidding for England games from 2017.
On the field, the squad is settling down and young players who previously might have been selected out of necessity now have useful experience. Benny Howell has emerged as a very effective allrounder and the wicketkeeping conundrum that has rumbled on since 2011 appears to have been solved by Gareth Roderick.
The upturn in form of several batsman was a major plus last season, they got full value out of Hamish Marshall and Alex Gidman for the first time in several seasons, and Gloucestershire can now put out a solid batting order.
But they need to find depth in the bowling attack. Liam Norwell and James Fuller could both mature into fine fast bowlers, both suffered with injury last year, and left-armer David Payne has potential. Tom Smith could provide a long-sought after reliable spin option. If they can bring together a more potent attack and the batting again produces, Gloucestershire could be the unexpected side to have a dart at promotion.
In one-day cricket they have no players with a fear factor but given their solid showing last season and the addition of a quarter-final phase in this season's Royal London Cup, it would not be a surprise to find Gloucestershire in the knock-out stages. But it would be a Northamptonshire-esque turnaround if they even made it out of the group stage in the NatWest T20 Blast.
Klinger earned himself Gloucestershire's player of the year award for 2013 and his adopted county have clearly made progress under his leadership. His runs were especially important in one-day cricket, where the rest of the batsman collectively only made one more score above fifty than he managed in the whole competition. Essential to the club's limited-overs fortunates, Klinger could also lead a dark-horse challenge for Championship promotion.
Bright young thing
Dent and Miles are both home-grown youngsters whom Gloucestershire will hope can mature into consistent performers but wicketkeeper Roderick, born in Durban, could be the most exciting prospect in Bristol. He seized the No. 1 role with the gloves last year and showed plenty of ability with the bat in consecutive match-saving centuries. Gumption and technique demonstrated, he was given a chance up the order at the end of the season.
Klinger returns to lead the side and, with his contract up at the end of the year, Gloucestershire will give serious thought on trying to extend his stay in the West Country, although a bowling overseas option could be a future route. John Bracewell is still pulling the strings behind the scene but he has lost a second highly-rated member of his backroom team with Richard Dawson becoming Yorkshire assistant coach, following bowling coach Stuart Barnes switch to Surrey the previous winter. Mark Thorburn, who played briefly at Hampshire, is the club's new high performance analyst and bowling coach.
Nothing extraordinary should be expected from Gloucestershire, particularly in one-day cricket, with their bowling attack the chief cause for concern. But in the Championship if their batting fires again they have potential to follow the lead of Worcestershire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire in previous seasons for a tilt at promotion.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo