Worcestershire CEO Matt Rawnsley and Head Coach Kevin Sharp have forged an effective partnership at Blackfinch New Road.
Rawnsley officially took charge six months ago on March 1– just a few weeks after Sharp was promoted from his role as Second Eleven Coach.
Now the duo can look forward to the County’s first ever finals day appearance in the Vitality Blast.
Matt Rawnsley has given his thoughts on what that achievement means, how much progress has been made, his partnership with Kevin Sharp, and the qualities of the squad in a Question And Answer Session with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: How significant is being part of a T20 (Vitality Blast) finals day for the club?
Matt Rawnsley: “Very significant. Since its inception, T20 finals day has been a goal for the club.
“We’ve never got across the line. I know we’ve got close many, many times but for the players, coaches, support staff, everyone is delighted we will be there on Saturday.
“It is a great achievement.”
Question: For you and Kevin Sharp in your first year as CEO-Head Coach respectively, it must give you a lot of satisfaction?
Matt Rawnsley: “It does. Let’s not forget this is a culmination of work that has gone on for many years.
“We are very well known for the development of our younger and home grown players so it’s great to see many of those will be there on finals day.
“Kevin and I are hitting the club at a fantastic time when you’ve got that great balance of experience and also a bit more maturity within the playing squad which will really help us.”
Question: You must be pleased with the contribution of the overseas players you’ve brought in given the significance of their contributions?
Matt Rawnsley: “it is absolutely great. All I can do is facilitate those people being here. It’s up to them to get the runs and wickets and feel supported in the dressing room to be successful.
“They have worked out really well for us which is great. I’m not for one minute thinking that will happen every year because it doesn’t.
“For us to be there in a year where we’ve had some great overseas contributions and some other contributions from our own players players has been fantastic.
“It has culminated in a home semi-final here in the Royal London One-Day Cup and a quarter-final win in the Vitality Blast and securing a finals day spot but we’ve got some challenges in the remaining two Championship games.”
Question: The partnership with Kevin (Sharp) seems to be working?
Matt Rawnsley: “Kevin and I get on really well. We first met when I came here for interviews in December and he had the most horrendous Christmas jumper on because he was heading out with the staff that night!
“Since then we’ve just connected and are very much on the same page of the environment and the culture we want to generate here and what we expect from each other and also what we expect from our players and everyone else.
“To work with someone, and lead someone that is very much connected with me and where we want to go as a club really helps, and I’m sure he feels exactly the same.”
Question: Kevin’s big strength on the cricketing side is his coaching but you’ve had a major role with other facets of the cricketing side?
Matt Rawnsley: “With what we had before, as far as roles and responsibilities were concerned, there was a dual role within that Director Of Cricket role of being coaching but also a financial manager.
“Kevin’s skill sets are more weighted on the man management side of things, the emotional intelligence, which is what he is really great at.
“What I didn’t want to do was for him to feel that he was having to go into an area that might not be such an area of comfort for him.
“I have taken over that side of it as far as player negotiations, contracts etc, sorting those things out etc.
“That leaves him to be able to do what he does best which is to manage the players and set really good skill and training in place to make sure they are effective on the field.”
Question: Why has there been such a change in the T20 fortunes this year?
Matt Rawnsley: “There are a few factors there. There is a bit more stability within the team which really helps.
“The contribution from those overseas players, let’s not devalue that, because they have been huge.
“For Callum Ferguson to come in and play the role he did, obviously Gup (Martin Guptill) as well and Travis Head at the start of the season, each in their own made a contribution and let’s not forget, there is a contribution on the field but also one off it.
“What they add in those training sessions and dressing room talks really has a value to it. To have those contributions has been great.
“But to also have a playing group that is a year or two older than they were when we’ve had some of these big games before has really helped.
“They’ve got a bit more confidence in themselves and each other. There is far more understanding of what their roles are in the side and what they need to do and when.
“There is probably less panic in certain situations as well where a run chase which might have been beyond us a couple of years ago, isn’t anymore.
“When a side is chasing one of our scores down, in the past we probably would have panicked a little bit and now we’ve got a bit more confidence to bowl that slower ball at the right time.
“Those things all add up and it is not one factor. It is environment, skill sets, ability, maturity.”
Question: You get the impression this side is ready to really take off now and win a few things?
Matt Rawnsley: “That is always the hope. The challenge for us is going to be keeping that environment and those players together – like it is for lots of teams.
“My role along with Kevin is to create an environment where people thrive and they feel confident and they want to stay.
“We are a professional sports club so we are guided by market forces and we have people whose contracts expire and people might want to move on or they get offers to go and play somewhere else.
“The reality is that we are seen as one of those clubs that punch above our weight or we do well for being a smaller club.
“Well the reality is we finished top of both groups in white ball cricket. We are not a club that punches above its weight anymore.
“We are one of the best one-day sides in the country and I’m sure keeping the playing group together will be easier because of that.”