George Rhodes is relishing the challenges that will lie ahead next summer – for himself and Worcestershire as they gear up for Specsavers County Championship Division One cricket.
The all-rounder established himself in the number five role during the second half of last summer and featured in several significant century partnerships.
Rhodes is currently playing grade cricket in New Zealand for Onslow CC before returning to prepare for the new season at Blackfinch New Road on March 1.
He has already helped Onslow to win the Ewen Chatfield Trophy with some fine performances with the bat and latterly the ball.
Here Rhodes looks back at last season, reveals his ambitions and thoughts on the 2018 campaign and his winter in Wellington via a Question And Answer session with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: You must be pleased with your own performances for Onslow, especially with the bat?
George Rhodes: “Yes I’m happy with the ways things have gone with the bat so far.
“It’s always nice to get a few scores relatively early on in the season, especially when it contributes to winning games.”
Question: You have also been part of a very successful team, challenging and then winning the the 50 over title?
George Rhodes: “Although we have just started the two- day competition, we had a one day final the weekend before last – which we were all delighted to win – and a few T20s scheduled.
“Hopefully we can maintain the early season momentum.
“It is a well balanced team that is fully capable of winning silverware, as shown in the 50 over competition, and hopefully I can continue to contribute with bat, ball or in the field in the near future.”
Question: How does it work in terms of the end of season, do you have play-offs to decide the winning team?
George Rhodes: “We played the vast majority of the one day games before Christmas. The league then splits in two for the two-day competition, with the top teams playing each other, and the bottom teams playing each other.
“Although the one day competition is independent, consisting of a final and a trophy, all group games go towards overall cup points.
“I believe it is five or six points for a one match day win, and six or 10 points for a two-day first innings, or outright win respectively.”
Question: You have started to bowl more recently than in the early part of the winter?
George Rhodes: “Yes I’ve been finding a nice rhythm with the ball recently. Most pitches early season were seamer friendly so it’s nice to have more of an opportunity to get wickets over recent weeks.
“I think as a young spinner it can be a battle at times to be consistent but as with most skills, experience is fundamental for development.
“That’s why guys like Sants (Mitchell Santner) , Nath (Nathan Lyon) , Ash (Ravichandran Ashwin) , and spin coaches like Giff (Norman Gifford) are so influential as a young spinner.
“The wealth of knowledge that they have about spin bowling collectively is astonishing and are without a doubt a vital aid to player development.”
Question: You played last winter for Tea Tree Gully in Australia, how does the standard compare with Onslow?
George Rhodes: “It’s very different out here compared to Adelaide last winter. Typically Adelaide was a lot drier, with the pitches reflecting that by being more batsman friendly.
“In Wellington the wickets are closer to English conditions, being more seamer friendly, slightly slower, but also showing signs of spin too.
“It’s great to tackle alternative conditions, you have to be adaptable to develop a game plan to enable success.
“The standard out here is very similar to Adelaide, however perhaps lacking a little depth within each team.
“You still come up against some very capable players, of which some have been involved in first class cricket in New Zealand.”
Question: Although you are away from New Road, presumably you still have a fitness programme to adhere to in New Zealand?
George Rhodes: “Ross Dewar (Strengthening And Conditioning Coach) has provided me with a fitness programme which I have adhered to throughout the winter.
“I have been in contact with the staff at New Road during my time out here, and they are always there to offer support and advice when required.”
Question: You established yourself in the first team during the second half of last season, what was it like to be part of a promotion-winning team and were you happy with your contributions?
George Rhodes: “Promotion with Worcestershire into Division One of the County Championship is to date my most memorable achievement as a cricketer – and its a great feeling contributing to that success.
“Although I’m itching for a few big scores in the future, it was nice to be a part of some key partnerships during last season batting at number five.
“It’s now a matter of kicking on and getting big hundreds in 2018, which I’m confident are just around the corner.”
Question: How much are you looking forward to the challenge of Division One cricket?
George Rhodes: “I can’t wait for the challenge of Division One cricket. We are going to come up against some very talented players, many of which have produced the goods on the international stage.
“This makes 2018 even more exciting as a player, and I think that as a young squad oozing with raw talent, we may turn a few heads next season.”