County news September 27, 2014

Chapple to ponder whether to play on

Glen Chapple will take time to consider whether his future lies on the field or behind the scenes after Lancashire were relegated for the second time in three seasons.

Needing to win against Middlesex they dominated for lengthy periods over the four days but could not hustle out the visitors on the final day to set up a run chase. Chapple took five wickets in the match, to finish with 39 at 36.28 in the Championship season, and also hit a vital 45 to carry Lancashire to the third batting bonus point on the third day which kept their hopes of escape alive.

After the match he said he had not had the season he hoped for but added that, end of season weariness notwithstanding, his body still felt good to hint that there may yet be another year in him to try and haul Lancashire back to Division One if the coaching whiteboards and notebooks do not come calling.

"I still enjoy playing and feel pretty decent," he said. "I've not had as good a season as I'd have liked, but I don't think that's through age necessarily, and I felt good this game and really enjoyed it.''

If Chapple does decide to play on he would have a very good chance of reaching 1000 first-class wickets after ending this season on 975.

One thing is certain, though, in that he will not take on the double role of captain and first-team coach which was thrust his way when Peter Moores departed for England barely two weeks into the season.

A new full-time coach will be appointed over the winter and, despite relegation, a club of Lancashire's stature - coupled with the facilities at the new-look Old Trafford - are unlikely to be short of applicants.

"It's a difficult question. It's not the ideal,'' Chapple said about the combined jobs. "What I would say is this year has been a very good learning curve.''

Paul Allott, a senior figure on the Lancashire committee, admitted it had "probably been too tricky" to combine the roles although added the club's hand had been forced by the timing of Moores' departure.

But the coach can only do so much. It will be the players who Lancashire will look to for a promotion push. There are holes to fill in all areas; a lack of consistent first-innings runs - they passed 350 just twice this season - was a major factor and they have also lost Kyle Hogg's wickets.

The rebuilding of the bowling attack has begun with the recruitment of Nathan Buck from Leicestershire and Tom Bailey showed promise against Middlesex, but should Chapple decide to hang up the boots that would leave a huge void. Signings such as Wayne White and Kyle Jarvis have not had the impact desired.

Following the retirement of Simon Katich, the club put faith in their young batsmen although the mid-season signing of Usman Khawaja was an acknowledgement that had not worked. High-quality, long-term overseas players are like hen's teeth these days, so it is not a given that Lancashire will recruit a big-name batsman although they know a greater output from the top order is vital. The suggestion that Ashwell Prince may reconsider his retirement will be welcomed.

"Whatever would have happened in this game we would have said we needed to improve. We have to be honest with ourselves," Chapple said. "For two or three seasons, give or take high-quality performances from overseas players, we have struggled to put big scores on the board. That's what the team who finish on top of Division One normally do.

"It can only mean 50 or 60 runs extra a game, but we have only done that a couple of times this season. It wasn't that the club weren't open to signing a quality overseas player, we decided to back our own players as much as sign somebody who was a good player."

Quite how much patience the supporters have for the rebuilding process remains to be seen. Already 400 signatures have been put to a petition citing concerns around the club which is enough to force a Special General Meeting. It could yet be a winter of discontent at both Old Traffords.

Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments