County previews April 4, 2013

Surrey dusted off to go again


Last year 7th, CC Div 1; Group stages, T20; 2nd Group B, CB40

2012 in a nutshell: A season overshadowed by tragedy. While it would be an exaggeration to suggest all was progressing well before the death of Tom Maynard - Surrey's form had been modest - the club faced a desperate struggle to retain equilibrium afterwards. That they retained their Division One status and missed out on a CB40 semi-final by the skin of their teeth might be considered admirable. Amid the shock, few individuals progressed. Surrey utilised 24 players in the Championship alone, seeming unsure who was best at the top of the order and rarely batting with assurance. The bowling of Stuart Meaker, who was not flattered by his figures, was a bright spot but Jacques Rudolph was a disappointment, Steven Davies and Chris Jordan were dropped and Jon Lewis, Jade Dernbach and Chris Tremlett either rarely played or struggled to make an impact. All have strong mitigating factors, but there is no avoiding the fact that 2012 was a dark year in the history of the club.

2013 prospects: Surrey look a very different team in 2013. Gone is the old captain, Rory Hamilton-Brown, gone is the mainstay of the batting for a generation, Mark Ramprakash, and gone are several of the bright young things (Maynard, Chris Jordan and Matt Spriegel) who it was hoped would form the spine of the team for years to come. Recognising that more maturity was required in the dressing room, the club brought in Vikram Solanki (37 on April 1) and Gary Keedy (38) to join the likes of Zander de Bruyn (37), Jon Lewis (37) and Gareth Batty (35) as well as big name overseas signings Graeme Smith (32) and Ricky Ponting (38). Some good young players remain: George Edwards and Matt Dunn are among the most promising fast bowlers; Jason Roy and Rory Burns are talented young batsmen and all can be seen as products of the club's youth system. But the balance between youth and experience has swung sharply. A trophy seems unlikely - the batting looks a bit fragile for that - but decent limited-overs form and the comfortable retention of Division One status should not be beyond them.

Key player: While Surrey have other wicketkeeping options in Gary Wilson, Steve Davies could be seen as a barometer of this side. He typifies the Chris Adams regime: recruited on a large salary and amid much expectation, his career has not progressed as some predicted. His talent remains undoubted but Surrey - and their director of cricket, Adams - could do with him producing more to justify the investment they made.

Bright young thing: George Edwards, 20, is a strong fast bowler with some ability with the bat. Given sustained fitness and opportunity, he could develop into a top-quality player for club and country.

Captain/coach: It was always going to take time to turn things around at The Oval. Just as things were, at long last, improving, the club were thrown into turmoil by the death of Maynard and the team required rebuilding. This is Plan B for Chris Adams. How much time he will be given to get things right this time remains uncertain but the club have backed him to the hilt by bringing in Smith as captain. Such investment is likely to demand a return.

Cricinfo's verdict: It may frustrate supporters, but Surrey enter this season at the start of another rebuilding process. Having lost several of those seen as the future of the club, it may take time for others to settle in their place. How much patience will be shown towards Adams and co. remains to be seen but the squad is deep and experienced and, led by Smith, they will surely prove tougher, more obdurate opposition.

Read our supporters' network preview on Surrey. ESPNcricinfo will be publishing a fan blog for each of the 18 counties as we build up to the 2013 season.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Michael on April 4, 2013, 22:08 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer- If you include Ramps and Kartik in your calculations, the difference is not too bad. It depends how much youth you want. Youth is always enthused about in sport till it lets down the side,simply because it is not the real thing. If the younger players can take the grade it's okay,but if it is just a matter of getting more money back then forget it. The old ones serve a purpose of holding the fort till the younger players come through properly. Lewis is the odd one for me because he keeps Linley out of the side, who takes far more wickets. On the whole numerical age is just that-numbers.

  • Mark on April 4, 2013, 20:07 GMT

    @maximum6 Compare the average age of the players who left at the end of the season with the average age of the players signed. You will not have enough fingers for the result (source: The Surrey Blog). Yes, part of it is obligatory, but one wonders why you sign two 38 year olds and a 37 year old if they are not going to play and add them to a 37 year old who has been your regular new ball bowler for two seasons and has been retained.

  • Michael on April 4, 2013, 19:11 GMT

    Last season and for the previous 2 Surrey had the youngest captain in the championship-hardly a geriatric policy. Maynard too was pretty young. They have had to resort to other ideas this season but Graeme Smith at 32 is hardly in his dotage though he has captained SA in over 100 Tests. Players like Burns, Ansari and Harinath are hardly drawing their pensions.Of the older signings Keedy is replacing Kartik and Solanki Ramprakash. Having a side where youth blends with experience is quite a well trusted formula. Of the bowlers Meaker, Dunn, Edwards are young men,Dernbacjh quite young. Only Lewis really is old. Youth policies always sound great but in reality may improve the fielding but not much else. Having a good strong in county youth system is a great thing but sticking a bunch of 18 yr olds up against Warwick and one or two others is asking to return to Div 2. In any case it is natural for people to want to play till 40 if they can.

  • GeoffreysMother on April 4, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    With the money, population numbers and number of well funded private schools in their hinterland, Surrey are a bit of an embarrassment. Five old (not even aging!) scrapings from other counties and two high profile, but old, international stars does not speak of much confidence in their youth policy. No doubt Alec Stewart will be back keeping by the end of May. Surrey may be the only team where the average age of the spectators is younger than the team they watch. It will be a blow for the future of English cricket if they do well.

  • ian on April 4, 2013, 18:36 GMT

    I am very concerned about the long-toothed nature of the side. Whilst not being ageist, I think that Adams & Smith must ensure that the side always takes the field with a balance between experience & youth. Lewis, for instance, should have a mentoring-role as the genuinely fast bowling is surely Surrey's strongest suit. It's difficult to see Solanki as a heavy & consistent scorer as, decent bloke that he is, his best years must surely be behind him & much the same could be said of Zander de Bruyn. On the other hand, the prospect of Gary Keedy (one of my favourite county pros) operating with Gareth Batty makes the spin attack formidable; both are in the years when the art of the spinner is often at its height. And what would qualify as a good year? The side having a younger look to it by August than it had in April, with notable advances being made by those who were struggling with the misery of 2012. Positionally, in the top 4 in CC woud be good. Fingers crossed for Chris Tremlett.

  • Mark on April 4, 2013, 18:08 GMT

    @brusselslion It is best not to expect too much of Chris Tremlett. Like Herman Munster he has been re-built several times and it is very uncertain just how much load he can take without suffering another, probably career-ending injury. If he comes back and bowls as well as he has, it is a bonus, but you cannot expect it after so long out. It would be a real risk for Surrey to try to play him in more than half the Championship games. He looks more and more like a case similar to Simon Jones, who has never again managed to maintain himself fit since his 2005 injury.

  • Ray on April 4, 2013, 16:39 GMT

    I agree with most of what has already been said by other posters (especially the importance of getting a good start). Given last season's tragic event, one can forgive the performance - or lack of it - by some players but the likes of Dernbach, Roy, Lewis & Davies will have to improve this coming season if Surrey are to compete. The return of a (hopefully) fit Tremlett should help generate some early momentum.

  • Mark on April 4, 2013, 14:46 GMT

    Surrey are a tough one to call. Last season they were tipped as Championship contenders, but were struggling even before off the field events overshadowed things. Rory Hamilton-Brown's surprising comments on the eve of the start of the season may be hinting that all is not yet well at the KIA Oval, although the side's pre-season form looks good.

    The obvious concern is the fact that Surrey could easily field an attack at some stage including Lewis, de Bruyn, Batty and Keedy (combined age 147). The fielding will certainly not be as sprightly as it was last season if they do. Similarly, the batting last season was not so much fragile at times, as positively delicate. Batsmen without confidence allowed pitches to get under their skin in a vicious spiral. While Smith and Ponting are great signings, it is not so obvious what Vikram Solanki's role will be.

    Early season will be a critical moment. Start well and confidence will build. Start badly and the side may sink without trace.