Northants wield axe after poor year
The fall-out of Northamptonshire's wretched season in Division One has begun, with the club looking to axe almost half of what started the season as the first choice team.
Northants have accumulated only 70 points from 15 games in 2014 and look doomed to set a new record for the lowest number of points since the introduction of promotion and relegation.
Glamorgan, with 88.5 points from the 2005 season, currently hold one of the more unwanted records in cricket but, barring a vast improvement in their final game against Sussex, Northants will set a new low. Underlining their inability to compete in many games, eight of the 12 defeats they have suffered have come by innings margins.
As a result, the management have decided to rebuild upon a foundation of young, locally developed players and recruit two senior "role-model cricketers" from outside.
Andrew Hall, David Sales and Matt Spriegel have already been informed that their contracts, which expire at the end of the season, will not be renewed, with James Middlebrook - the club's top runscorer and third highest wicket-taker in first-class cricket this season - expected to follow them through the exit.
It is also understood that Kyle Coetzer, Stephen Peters, David Murphy, all of whom have a year remaining on their contracts, have been told they can leave if they are able to find alternative clubs. Peters has been club captain since the start of 2013.
Meanwhile, Northants have already announced the signing of Adam Rossington and Josh Cobb and are confident that Richard Levi will be signed as a non-overseas player. They have also identified South African allrounder Rory Kleinveldt as their first choice overseas player, but it is understood they will not pursue an interest in released Yorkshire offspinner, Azeem Rafiq.
They have also announced a change in leadership. Alex Wakely has been appointed captain in all formats with David Willey his vice-captain. Both men developed through the club's youth system. Wakely was captain of the successful T20 side in 2013 but only scored two half-centuries in 21 Championship innings in the same season.
"The season offered so much and has delivered so little," David Smith, the club's CEO, told ESPNcricinfo. "We simply haven't performed this year and in-action is not an option.
"We were out of Division One for 10 years and it showed. Some of our senior players were a year or two too old and some of our younger players were a year or two too young. While we understand there may be a period of consolidation next year, it must not take 10 years again. We aim to break back into the top division in two or three years.
"We have decided we require a young, more dynamic squad. Yes, our playing budget will be reduced. But we had the largest cricket budget in the club's history this season. We cannot maintain that in Division Two. We expect our membership figures to be impacted by our performances this year.
"Division One cricket is an excellent breeding ground for the Test game. It is hard, attritional cricket, with teams looking to score 450 and bat for well over 100 overs. But the gap between the divisions is big and growing and it is telling that both the teams that were promoted last year look likely to go down."
One man whose job is safe is the head coach, David Ripley. "David has worked with the players at all levels of the academy and beyond and will work very well with Wakely and Willey in setting the right tone in the future," Smith said.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo