Ashley Giles has been unveiled as Warwickshire's new director of cricket, only one month after retiring from first-class cricket because of a long-term hip injury. Giles, 34, takes over from the former New Zealand opening batsman, Mark Greatbatch, and his first task will be to galvanise morale at the club, after their relegation from the first divisions of both the County Championship and the Pro40 League.
Described by his England coach Duncan Fletcher as one of the most professional men he had ever worked with, Giles is a Warwickshire folk hero. He made exactly 100 first-class appearances for the club in a 12-year career, scoring 3,297 runs at an average of 30.24, and taking 323 wickets at 26.19. He was a member of the treble-winning Warwickshire side that won consecutive Championships in 1994 and 1995.
The club could hardly be at a lower ebb at present. They were top of the Championship back in May, but they have not won a match since and their relegation was confirmed after their defeat at Old Trafford last week. Greatbatch, who was two years into a three-year contract, telegraphed his imminent departure with some outspoken comments in the local Birmingham press.
"I can look myself in the mirror," he told the Birmingham Post last week. "I've met some good people and some not-so-honest people. There have been more positives that negatives generally. When a team plays well, the players get the accolades but when they lose the coach bears the brunt. I've always said we need to re-strengthen. We're short of quality. We have some ... but we need to strengthen."
Though Greatbatch has been keen to pass the buck for Warwickshire's predicament, there's no doubt locally where the blame for their failings lie. "I don't know what happened to [that] genial fellow," said George Dobell in the Birmingham Post. "He is unrecognisable from the gruff man I've encountered of late. Stung by criticism, hurt by failure and confused by the lack of reward for his hard work, Greatbatch has, somewhere along the way, lost all those positive qualities."
Warwickshire's best shot at glory this season came in the Friends Provident Trophy. Instead they went out to Hampshire in the semi-final, a match that earned notoriety after the controversial omission of their England batsman, Ian Bell. This, Dobell added, was just another example of Greatbatch's misfiring man-management that has led to so many ructions within the dressing-room.
"It was his fault that Mark Wagh left. It was his fault that Moeen Ali left. It was his fault that he alienated senior players like Michael Powell and [Dougie] Brown who had only the best interests of the club at heart. And it was his fault that the side played unattractive cricket. For Greatbatch distrusts flair."
Greatbatch met with the Warwickshire chief executive, Colin Povey, on Monday, and his departure was rubber-stamped at a press conference at Edgbaston on Tuesday afternoon. "We have agreed that it is in the best interests of the club to make this move now and to draw a line under the season," Povey said. "I would like to thank Mark for all he has contributed."
Giles - who will be chosen for the role ahead of his former captain, Dermot Reeve - has a tough task to reinvigorate his old team-mates, but as a familiar and trusted face around the dressing-room, he starts his reign from a position of strength. "His knowledge of both the club and what it takes to perform at the highest levels make him an ideal candidate to take the squad forward," Povey confirmed. "I very much look forward to working with Ashley and wish him every success in his new role."