2015 is a significant season for Gloucestershire for it marks the beginning of a new era at Nevil Road.
Principal among the reasons for this is the departure in the winter of Director of Cricket John Bracewell, bringing to an end an association with the county which lasted for a total of 11 years. He is replaced by a head coach and assistant coach, both of whom have strong ties with the county. Richard Dawson replaces Bracewell as head coach, after a year in charge of Yorkshire’s second team.
The former England and Yorkshire off-spinner had a spell as a player at Nevil Road before assisting Bracewell as bowling coach. The second new coaching appointment is Australian Ian Harvey who will always prompt fond memories among the county’s followers for his stellar exploits as an all-rounder in the glory days between 1999 and 2003 when Gloucestershire won six one-day trophies.
In addition to the appointments of Dawson and Harvey, Gloucestershire also have a new captain who is a former player. Former England wicket-keeper Geraint Jones, released by Kent after 15 seasons, returns to Bristol as a specialist batsman and captain in red-ball cricket. Jones had a spell with his new county in 2014 before it was cut short by an eye injury.
The halcyon days of one-day success are unlikely to be repeated in the near future but Gloucestershire’s young squad will have Bracewell’s departing message ringing in their collective ears. In the view of the former New Zealand Test player and coach, 2015 is the year for them to take responsibility for their own performances and bring to an end the period of being promising youngsters.
Gloucestershire’s loyal followers will also point to the end of the ground development period as a time to concentrate on activities on the field. They will hope that their long wait for some success will be rewarded in 2015 by a talented group of players, many of whom are approaching the middle stage of their careers.
Ins: Kieran Noema- Barnett (Central Districts- UK passport holder), Tom Hampton (Buckinghamshire), Peter Handscomb (Victoria- UK passport holder), Geraint Jones (Kent), Robbie Montgomery (Somerset)
Outs: Alex Gidman (Worcestershire), Will Gidman (Nottinghamshire), Graeme McCarter (released), Dan Housego (released), Tom Shrewsbury (released)
Player to Watch
20-year old Craig Miles is a native of Swindon, something he has in common with the most successful Gloucestershire bowler of recent years, Jon Lewis. Seen as Lewis’s natural successor, the highly talented Miles was only 16 when he made his first- class debut in 2011. Since then he has played only 18 first- class matches, partly due to injury. But a tally of 43 wickets at 30.58 in 2013 and 18 wickets at less than 20 each in 2014 suggest much more to come.
This winter Miles, a product of Gloucestershire’s academy, spent his second successive period on the Potential England Performance Programme in South Africa in readiness for what may be the season when he really makes his breakthrough.
Both Peter Handscomb (right-hand bat) and Kieran Noema- Barnett (left-hand bat and right arm-medium pacer) have UK passports. Noema-Barnett will be available for the whole season and is likely to play in all forms of the game, while Australian Handscomb is the county’s second overseas player and will play in the four-day games, as well as limited over matches, until Michael Klinger’s arrival in June. Handscomb will be familiar to those who watched the Big Bash this winter. The 23 year-old hit a thrilling century in 64 balls for Melbourne Stars in the competition. (Coincidentally, the only other Big Bash centurion of the campaign was Klinger.)
Handscomb is expected to bat in the top order, and can also keep wicket. All- rounder Noema- Barnett is a former New Zealand Under 19 player who played a key part in Central District’s T20 cup-winning side in 2009-10. In December 2010 he set the record for the fastest half century in New Zealand domestic T20, smashing 57 off 18 balls.
Both players should improve Gloucestershire’s T20 cricket, a form of the game in which they have been notably weak in recent seasons.
How they’ll fare
If only because of the presence of big guns Surrey and Lancashire in the second division of the Championship this season it is very hard to imagine that Gloucestershire will win promotion to the first division for the first time since 2003. But the combination of fresh blood, both on and off the field, and the maturing of players such as bowlers Liam Norwell and James Fuller and batsmen Gareth Roderick and Will Tavaré may mean that some sides are given a harder game against the Nevil Road side than they imagined.
Success in the T20 may depend on the newcomers as noted above, as the squad these players join is decidedly short on the boundary rope- clearing batters that T20 cricket demands. Success is more likely in the Royal London 50 over competition, in which the county reached the quarter- finals in 2014.
Much will depend on how the team cope with the absence of the Gidmans. Will’s wickets and middle order runs will be certain to be missed, it’s a question of how much.
v Northamptonshire, Sunday 12th April at Northampton.
Season odds (via SkyBet)
LV County Championship Division Two: 25/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 25/1
Natwest Twenty20 Blast: 28/1