Paul Farbrace’s appointment as sporting director at Warwickshire is sure to be a welcome addition to the club.
He will succeed Ashley Giles, who departed the club in December for the role of England’s director of cricket, as Warwickshire’s sporting director.
Farbrace, England’s current assistant coach, will take up his new role after England’s tour of the West Indies.
Warwickshire fans will be hoping that Farbrace, in his role of overseeing all cricket operations, can make a big impact at the club can get them searching for silverware once again, with a priority focused on the Division One title.
There are various aspects of the club that fans and members have recognised as needing his particular focus.
Here, Deep Extra Cover take a look at the tasks awaiting Farbrace at Edgbaston.
Develop home-grown talent
One aspect of Warwickshire’s cricket that fans believe Farbrace needs to work on is the development of youth players within the club.
Recently, the club has come under scrutiny as it is believed that they lack the ability to produce home grown players. Therefore, there needs to be a focus on developing players through the performance pathway programme to ensure that Warwickshire are developing a sufficient amount of young talent.
There has been prior success in this department from last season, with Henry Brookes storming his way through the season before he picked up an injury.
Plus, Liam Banks has signed a contract extension keeping him at the club until the conclusion of the 2020 season, as well as Rob Yates – a promising young batsman who has just signed his first professional contract.
It has been well documented that Warwickshire search all over the country for players to bring in as they have previously struggled to produce their own. Therefore, as sporting director, Farbrace will need to observe the age group cricket programme and see what he can implement at the club to ensure young talent can breakthrough and aid Warwickshire’s production of home-grown talent.
Bridge the gap between the academy and the first team
Something that has come to the attention of many members and fans is that there is a poor transition from the under 19s, as the final age group in the youth cricket, to the senior squads. There is a plethora of talented players in the U19 squad that seem to be discarded when it comes to pushing into the senior squads.
Some may get a rare opportunity in the first team, such as Sunny Singh who showed great promise when he made his debut in 2017 and took two five-wicket hauls in the season. Although, through limited opportunities, he was released from his contract at the end of the 2018 season. The same story can be told for Andy Umeed, who made some scattered appearances throughout 2018, and more throughout the 2017 season when he scored the second slowest championship century, making 113 in the day-night game against Lancashire, at 392 balls and six hours and 14 minutes.
However, he was also released with Singh at the end of 2018. This highlights the poor investment in youth players in the system, which is one factor, alongside the youth setup that Farbrace will need to focus on. There needs to be something in place here to bridge the gap between the final stages of the performance pathway and the step to the senior teams.
It can explain why the senior squads might lack home grown talent, when these players are being released as they aren’t getting the opportunities ahead of players that have been brought in from around the country.
It sometimes might be at the expense of an overseas player, as Laura Macleod, who is the Warwickshire womens performance manager, pointed out. She discussed that an overseas player might improve the team in the short term, however it holds back an opportunity for a home-grown, player to emerge, which is something that might need to be balanced in the future to continue producing young talent – and retaining it.
Deliver the Championship title
An obvious priority for Farbrace will be the team reaching the top of Division One. After securing promotion last season in impressive fashion, the goal now changes to challenging for the top spot in Division One – which the team is more than capable of.
It will be a welcome opportunity for the new sporting director to come into the club with a squad that has the confidence that they can achieve plenty in the new season. However, Warwickshire are a club that need to be pushing for silverware, which in the County Championship has been lacking. Therefore, it is vital that attention is on the red-ball team to ensure everything is in place for Warwickshire to challenge for the title, if not this season, in the near future.
Ensure Warwickshire are well equipped to put runs on the board
The final focus for Farbrace will be on the batting in the County Championship in the coming seasons. Jonathan Trott retired at the end of the season, which leaves a massive hole at the top of the order.
There are players such as Banks and Yates who will have the chance to make an impression, if they are given the opportunity which they have earned.
Ian Bell also may be reaching the end of his illustrious career, therefore filling the gap left by these two players will be a priority for Farbrace. It seems that the openers of Will Rhodes & Dom Sibley have cemented their places well with both scoring high-quality runs in 2018.
However, the middle order might need some thinking about and Farbrace, alongside batting coach Tony Frost, must focus on not struggling with the departure of two such critical players.