When Will Rhodes joined Warwickshire from Yorkshire in 2017, he could hardly have imagined that, two years later, he would become club captain in succession to Jeetan Patel. At the age of 24, he becomes the youngest Warwickshire club captain since Frank Foster more than a century ago.
That maybe gives Rhodes something to live up to – Foster led the Bears to the County Championship in 1911 when only 22 years old.
Paul Farbrace is clear that Rhodes has all the ingredients to be a successful captain.
“I’ve known Will since he captained the second team when I was at Yorkshire. He’s an outstanding guy, well respected in the dressing room and with good leadership skills.”
Talking to Farbrace, it is clear that the appointment of Rhodes is part of a careful plan for Warwickshire’s team development.
“This will almost certainly be Jeetan Patel’s last year as a player, so Will will have the opportunity to captain with good senior players in the team – not just Jeets but also Tim (Ambrose) and Belly (Ian Bell).
“He can tap into their knowledge rather than waiting a year.”
Will Rhodes himself explained how he heard about the possibility of the captaincy.
“I had dinner with Paul Farbrace and he asked me informally if I would be interested,” he said, “I had a week to think about it – did I want to captain in one, two or three formats or not at all?
“But I knew it would be silly to turn it down. This is a good club with a lot of history, so to join the list of captains is an honour.”
Will’s style of captaincy will only emerge as the 2020 season unfolds.
“I captained England under-19s for about a year and a half, as well as Yorkshire Seconds, but I’ve matured as a person and as a cricketer since then.
“I hope mine will be a relaxed brand of captaincy, with the onus on the players to come up with their plans and execute them.”
Will has already spoken with Jeetan Patel, his predecessor.
“Yes, we’ve had a phone call,” Will said of Patel, “Last year, we were just about the only two who stayed fit all season, so we spent a lot of time together in the dressing room and out on the pitch.
“He’s fully behind me. I’d be really stupid not to take advice from him because he’s a fantastic player and person.
“What I’ll take from his time as captain is that he always demanded the best. That may be a New Zealand thing, looking for the last one per cent.
“That’s the way I see it too: if you are wearing the Bears cap, you owe it to the Bear to put in 100% – and to the members and everyone else.”
There are plenty of examples of captains who have struggled to balance the needs of the team with maintaining their own form, but Will has few worries in this respect.
“When I’m opening the innings, I want to get the team off to a good start so that’s what I’ll be totally focused on. I’ll just want to go out and bat.”
2019 was a tough season for Warwickshire with a horrendous batch of injuries to key players, especially the pace bowlers. Will has some painful memories.
“I remember the away game against Kent, when Matt Lamb and I were the only fit seamers on the Club’s books. It was tough.
“We were starting to look towards the end of the season and it was only July. It will be nice if we don’t have that again!
“But the injuries did give opportunities to younger players. Rob Yates, Matt Lamb and Henry Brookes all benefited from that.”
Will is going to lead the Bears in red ball cricket and in the Royal London 50 over competition, but Australian Chris Green is returning to the Birmingham Bears and will lead them in the T20 Blast.
“I hope to play in the Blast like I did last year when I played in every game,” Will said.
“Chris has fantastic experience. He has gone round the world as a T20 specialist, perfecting his trade. It’s great for our young players to see what he has done.”
Will and the rest of the Bears squad are in the early stages of preparing for the 2020 season.
“We are currently spending a lot of time in the gym, blowing out October’s cobwebs. And we’re doing plenty of technical work on skills.”
Important though that pre-season work is, all cricketers will know what Will means when, in conclusion, he says:
“I just want to get the winter done and get out there.”