Gloucestershire find their voice after Bracewell departure
Ian Harvey, a former World Cup winner for Australia, has happily debated with his boss, the Gloucestershire coach Richard Dawson, for much of the summer - and the upshot is a place in the Royal London Cup quarter-finals
Ian Harvey, a former World Cup winner with Australia, also knows a lot about Gloucestershire one-day success. He was a vital component of their all-conquering side at the turn of the century, sharing in six of their nine victories. So when he argues, his boss Richard Dawson says he listens.
The sound of opposing views has never been far away as Gloucestershire have taken the first tentative steps towards revisiting those glory days. They have a Royal London Cup quarter-final against Hampshire at Bristol on Wednesday for their efforts - the culmination of a run of excellent form in late July and early August which saw them win nine matches in a row across all formats.
This has been a remarkable winning spell for a young side that has been beset by injuries to senior players in that period, and one being led by a head coach, Dawson, who is in his first year in the role, and an assistant, Harvey, who he pressed for in April perhaps already recognising that some passionate discussions would lie ahead.
Dawson, who knew Harvey from their time together at Yorkshire, believes that by challenging his beliefs on cricket he has brought something valuable to their partnership.
"He sees things completely differently to me at times and I see things completely differently to him," Dawson said. "So we do challenge each other and we differ on a lot of things. But that is part of the reason I wanted him with us because I knew he wouldn't just agree with everything that I said.
"I knew he was going to challenge me and he has experience of winning big games and he was high class in what he did. He has a hell a lot of experience I could never have and to get him on board was great."
Dawson made the step up from assistant to John Bracewell to take on the top job when the hugely experienced New Zealander decided to move on from the county at the end of 2014.
Bracewell's approach was autocratic. He had very clear ideas of how he wanted the game to be played and was excellent at getting that message across.
His 15 years with Gloucestershire had been interrupted with a period back in his native New Zealand, but he was never able to repeat his success first time around. When he left suggesting a young group of players could not grow further under his leadership, frustrations at his playing budget reducing yet again played a part in his decision.
"There are times in a coach's career when he has to take the training wheels off and let his charges make their own decisions on how they move forward,|" he said. "I feel this time is now."
Not only did the head coach leave but the Gidman brothers, two county stalwarts, left with him, as if to signal tough times ahead. Alex went to Worcestershire, Will to Nottinghamshire. As the leading run scorer and wicket taker respectively for Gloucestershire last year that was undoubtedly a massive loss.
Despite this off season upheaval, Dawson has overseen a solid campaign that has seen his team move just two wins away from a Lord's final as well as assembling a respectable campaign in Division Two of the Championship.
He has also done a good enough job at convincing Michael Klinger that Gloucestershire are going in the right direction for the Australian to sign a contract extension that keeps him at the club until the end of 2017.
Dawson's approach is different. He wants players to be accountable for how they have performed and responsible for their decisions.
"A lot of it from a coaching point of view is for players to take responsibility and accountability for their own game and I think a lot of them are doing that," Dawson said. "People have either got runs or got wickets and not just in dead games, but to contribute to winning matches which is normally the difficult thing."
Allowing players to make their own mistakes and to grow is a difficult thing to do as a coach, but it appears to be working for Dawson. There have been a number of occasions in recent weeks when Gloucestershire have won from positions that seemed insurmountable. A remarkable win against Derbyshire in the Royal London Cup that saw Benny Howell and Jack Taylor score 69 runs in four overs is perhaps the best example.
One of the reasons Klinger gave for his decision to extend his contract is the progress he has seen from young players like Howell, Taylor and the hugely exciting seamer Craig Miles.
"I think Klinger is right about the development in the squad," Dawson said. "There are obviously a lot of areas that they, well we as a coaching staff and them as a team and squad, can improve on. But they are a year older, a year wiser and obviously skills have got a bit better as well and they have just developed as people."
It is early days for this young Gloucestershire side but Will Brown, the chief executive, another relatively new face, is very pleased with the direction the club is going, saying that there is "real buzz" around the place.
"Dawson has been superb. He has been an absolute game changer for us," Brown said. "He has made the transition from being the assistant and being the guy to go out and have a cup of coffee and be a shoulder to cry on to being the man leading the pack really well.
"There have been quite a few changes. My predecessor, Tom Richardson, was ex-Army and John Bracewell had been around for a while. He was an incredibly good cricket tactician, a phenomenal coach. We had a group of very young players that needed a certain amount of schooling, and it probably was slightly more autocratic during that time. Now these guys are being asked to do their own thing and to take responsibility."