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