Alan Richardson has stressed the importance of Worcestershire CCC’s attack developing and understanding ‘game management’ after a challenging campaign of red ball cricket.
Bowling Coach-Assistant Coach Richardson is excited by the potential of the bowling unit at Blackfinch New Road and when they fire on all cylinders they pose a threat to the most accomplished of batting line-ups.
The likes of Wayne Parnell, Joe Leach, Charlie Morris, Ed Barnard, Josh Tongue, Dillon Pennington and Adam Finch offer a rich mixture of quality and potential at Blackfinch New Road.
It is a positive scenario but equally there were occasions in 2019 when what proved to be match defining situations slipped from the grasp of the bowlers such as the opening afternoon against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham and a session when Laurie Evans and Ben Brown scored freely for Sussex at Kidderminster.
It is those sort of sessions that Richardson is looking for the attack to react to, to limit the damage, so they do not become irreparable, and he will work closely with the bowlers on that aspect of their game this winter as well as technical matters.
Here he looks back at last summer and the challenges ahead in a Question And Answer Session.
Question: Overall you must be pleased with the way bowling attack performed?
Alan Richardson: “As a group we did pretty well and have come out of it having learnt a lot and being a lot stronger for it.
“We’ve got a group of young bowlers still and Parny (Wayne Parnell) is the only one near 30 and even Joe (Leach) and Mozz (Charlie Morris) are in the mid 20s and the rest are younger and finding their way in the game and developing.
“The big message for me is, whilst they are playing those games, and getting games under their belt, I want them to gain more and more experience, not just playing ‘X’ number of games but having experienced those games.
“That has been a big one for us. We’ve bowled brilliantly at times and not so well at other times and that inconsistency has not helped our cause but in general the boys are trying to do the right thing.
“We are trying to get control of the game and give Joe, or whoever has been captain, the chance to set the fields that we want and have control of the scoreboard.”
Question: The odd sessions in games have been crucial like at Cheltenham during the first afternoon?
Alan Richardson: “It is something we had a squad meeting about at the end of the season and we went through the season a little bit and tried to dissect it and come up with ideas.
“That session at Cheltenham was one we brought up. The game comes down to fine margins and that game came down to the last afternoon and was a great game of cricket and we just failed to get over the line by 13 runs.
“We can look at lots and lots of bits of that game but we wanted to pinpoint some bits that not everyone would and that second session, when we went for over 160 runs in 30 odd overs…
“Yes, we are going to get inconsistencies with performance a little bit, especially with the younger players, but they can’t hide behind that.
“But there is a tactical and game awareness that we want them to really grasp hold of – like in that session at Cheltenham and ‘how can we stop it happening’ because after that session we bowled brilliantly well.
“We kept a lid on it and started to take wickets again and we are not asking the guys to do things that they can’t do because we know that they can.
“We know potentially we are a really strong unit but potentially we are going to get lots better and it was just taking grasp of things like that session at Cheltenham.
“There was also a session at Kidderminster against Sussex in a game we should have won. Ben Brown and Laurie Evans batted really well, and let’s not forget sides can bat well against you, but actually in terms of game sense, did we get that quite right as well and we couldn’t control the scorecard.
“It’s little bits like that we want to see them push on with. There will always be technical things they need to work on but actually just getting to grasp with the game and trying to give us a real stranglehold on those games.
“Joe has had two or three 50 plus wicket seasons, but we are probably going to have to be a group where guys are all going to be chipping in with 30-40 wickets and working well together as a group.”
Question: With game management, do you expect inconsistency when young lads are in the side learning their trade?
Alan Richardson: “A little bit but it’s about identifying those, how we are going to learn from those, what do we do next time because if we keep making mistakes, or those sessions keep happening, that will become a problem.
“As a club we’ve got a really exciting group of bowlers all the way through from Wayne (Parnell) being the most senior one, with Joe and Mozza, through to Adam Finch who has come on the scene.
“With all those guys in the squad, it’s a case of ‘you can do it, you are going to be a very fine cricketer’. It’s just about going on that journey with them and helping out as much as possible.”
Question: Will you be working a lot more game management this winter with the bowlers?
Alan Richardson: “Myself and Alex (Gidman) have got to know the squad even better this year and we are just going to try and cover everything.
“The first two months of the season next year will be red ball so we can have a real focus towards that.
“We will still do our white ball skills although the T20 doesn’t come until June time and we can do that as the season progresses.
“But all the aspects of the red ball game we will engage in – talking a lot more I guess, exchanging ideas and views amongst everyone. That is going to be a step forward for us.
“It is about trying to get the guys to have a real knowledge of what we are trying to do and what the opposition are doing so that when something happens in a game, they will have some real strong plans to be able to counter whatever is put in front of them.”
Question: How did you enjoy the season, your first full one working alongside Alex?
Alan Richardson: “It’s been same as, same as in terms of how manic it can get, how full on it is. I’m still young in coaching terms. I’ve done six years now and I think that is still relatively young in terms of experience.
“Just learning and treading through the minefield that is the cricket season really and making sure I’m on top but absolutely loved it.
“White ball stuff went pretty well again – that’s stating the obvious – and the red ball was a real challenge and we’ve learnt lots from that.
“I’m constantly trying to get better myself. I can’t keep telling the players to get better if I don’t do that myself and hopefully we will have learnt a few lessons from this year and move on. But, yes, absolutely loved it.
“It continually challenges us in the sense that next year is a different structure again and so the demands of that and the planning and organisation that will go into that is really exciting.”