Matt Mason believes Worcestershire Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes’ ability to attract some of the world’s leading overseas players to New Road is “a mark of the high regard he is held within the game” – but also testament to his extensive range of worldwide contacts.
Rhodes pulled off a major in persuading Indian star Ravichandran Ashwin to join the County for the finale of the Specsavers County Championship promotion campaign.
The all-rounder has already made his mark with eight wickets in the win over Gloucestershire last week.
Ashwin may have been the cream of the crop but there have been many other leading lights who have rocked up at Worcestershire to entertain supporters in recent seasons.
Steve Smith, the late Phil Hughes, Shakib Al Hasan, Chris Gayle, Zaheer Khan, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Saeed Ajmal and, this summer, John Hastings, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Santner and Ashwin are just some of the names who have worn the Three Pears on their cap under Rhodes.
He has been canny in sometimes signing up and coming players, other times players looking to resurrect their international careers, others with a point to prove and others, such as Ashwin, who are the finished article.
Naturally some have been more successful than others but Assistant Coach-Bowling Coach Mason said: “When I look back at the years I’ve been at the club, we’ve had some fabulous overseas signings particularly of late and Ashwin is another one.
“Credit to Bumpy (Steve Rhodes) really. It is real mark of the high regard he is held within the game.
“If he contacts people and invites them to come to this club, it seems that they want to be here.
“Steve’s standing in the game amongst his peers and the respect he has earned over the years as 1) a player and 2) a coach is great evidence that this club and himself and all of us here are a place people want to come and play.”
Rhodes has built up healthy working relationships with many international coaches and boards – a necessity these days given that the vast number of players are centrally contracted and with No Objection Certificates often required.
Mason said: “Establishing all those contacts takes time but you also need to build good relationships with people.
“At the end of the day, the players are contracted to the various boards and they have total control over the players to a degree.
“So you have to build up some good trusted relationships which he has done.
“It’s not easy getting overseas players, particularly at short notice, the way they chop and change these days between formats and different competitions and internationa scheduling doesn’t seem to have any sort of pattern to it.
“So to get the people we have over the last few years has been great and some of them have had a massive impact here.
“Do people take their signing for granted? I think they probably do and in the modern game it seems these people pop up here, there and everywhere.”
Mason said what international players can offer away from the middle is also crucial when considering who to sign.
He said: “Here we’ve had some real quality and it’s not just what they bring on the field. It’s what they bring into our dressing room.
“Our young spinners have had Lyon, Santner and now Ashwin to speak with and learn from this summer alone. John Hastings has been terrific in the dressing room and the players before them.
“Our young cricketers have had exposure to some terrific overseas players – but so have the coaches.
“We spend time talking to these guys and picking up things from people who are playing cricket all around the world and it is very useful to us.”