October 11, 2000

Bracewell signs up for another three years

John Bracewell's curriculum vitae is starting to get a distinct bulge in it and Gloucestershire continues to be the main beneficiary of his expertise.

Bracewell, the former New Zealand off-spinning all-rounder, has just extended his contract with the county by three years and will have the added responsibilities associated with his new role of director of cricket.

Not only will he have direct responsibility for coaching the county's 1st XI; he will also oversee the club's development and youth coaching programme.

Bracewell told CricInfo New Zealand from his Bristol home today: "I've still got a lot more I want to achieve here.

"It fits in with what we want to do in our lives here as well."

Bracewell has had an outstanding impact on Gloucestershire since taking up his coaching role and while its success has been confined to limited overs cricket, it is all part of the master plan.

The club won its fourth successive NatWest Trophy this year, an effort which has seen its success compared to those at Warwickshire during the 1990s when coach Bob Woolmer and captain Dermot Reeve were such a force.

"We had to shake up the attitude to cricket in the club. Previously they had looked at hiring someone to win them a trophy, rather than doing it themselves.

"We had to learn to do it on our own. The turnaround in attitude has been quite remarkable.

"For 14 years Courtney Walsh had the club looking to him to provide the inspiration. Everyone had forgotten how to compete while basking in his shadow. It was Courtneyshire and before that it was Proctershire under Mike Procter.

"They were great professionals who served the county well, but they also provided a facade behind which the home players were always supporting actors," he said.

Bracewell said it had not been the easiest of decisions to leg someone like Walsh go from the club but the sooner it was done for the county to become self-sufficient the better it would be.

Once he had gone the chance was there for players to express themselves and show their skills.

Bracewell acknowledged the county did not possess the resources to make an immediate impact in the county championship, so settled for the short-term benefit of producing a competitive limited overs side.

That policy has been borne out with an unprecedented four successive trophies.

"To win the county championship you need to have an attack that hit hard on four fronts throughout the whole season. At the moment we have an attack that can do that for two-thirds of a season," he said.

The Gloucestershire club's winning attitude has been rewarded in other areas. It was the first venue to host a floodlit One-Day International in England and it will be the first club outside the Test arenas to host an England-Australia One-Day International next summer.

"There is a real buzz around the place.

"Every day is an adventure," Bracewell said, "and when it stops being an adventure, that's when I'll come home."

Support for the development plan he was involved in with the club's management had been accepted by the club's members.

"A large majority of the members are older and, initially, it was hard to accept that we would have to take a couple of steps back in order to go forward.

"Our one-day stuff is a short-term thing, but a step on the way to creating a side that is strong enough to win the championship," he said.

That would take time but there was now a realisation of what the goal was.

It is difficult because of the 18 counties, Gloucestershire has a ranking of 17th for its playing population.

"Don't forget we are also closed in by Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Somerset and they are all very competitive," he said.

However, the limited overs success has helped change the attitude towards success and there is a buoyancy about the county now that was not there when Bracewell started as coach.

"There is especially a change in the psyche among kids and they are growing up wanting to be part of Gloucestershire cricket."

It was a situation tailor-made for Bracewell who admitted, to the surprise of no New Zealanders who know him, that he is "a bit on the side of the underdog."

"We hadn't won any trophies for 22 years. People seemed to discard Gloucestershire by saying that's West Country for you. But they can notice an awesome change now.

"And the locals are riding along liking the thought of winning, not fearing it," he said.