Worcestershire Vice-Chairman Tim Curtis presented the County’s 2017 Cricket Report at yesterday evening’s AGM in the Hick Pavilion.
He reflected on last season’s success, the impact of Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s departure and Ravichandran Ashwin’s signing, continuing to develop home grown talent whilst looking also outside to strengthen, and hopes for the 2018 campaign.
Tim Curtis said: “As we reflected in October on the season recently finished, we congratulated ourselves, judging 2017 a resounding success.
“The T20 campaign had gone awry but the Royal London Cup performances, leading to a home semi-final, and winning the Second Division title in the County Championship were significant achievements.
“By mid-way though November, the landscape had changed and this in part has made this off season a very busy one.
“Now in the springtime of the year, we are looking forward to the new season.
“We do not forget the past, and what has been achieved, but we must – and do – move on.
“The 2017 successes are well documented in the Annual Report. It was gratifying to see the early success under Joe Leach’s captaincy.
“All parts of the team were working well, notably in the group stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup and tight matches were won.
“This phase of the season came to an abrupt end, coinciding with Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s departure.
“The whys and wherefores of this can be argued around the conflicting motivations of loyalty and personal ambition.
“What cannot be ignored is the seismic shift in results. A team that had been combining well had lost a cog and was no longer working.
“For a county that prides itself on team work, here was clear evidence in its absence of how team work and how confidence in the team are so important and can be so fragile.
“How often does luck play a part in restoring confidence?
“The wonderful win against Kent had hinted at a revival and then came the news that John Hastings’ season was over.
“He had been seen as a good overseas signing, available all year, a strong personality, a hit the deck bowler with good one-day skills as evident by his selection for Australia’s one-day squad.
“However, Hasto struggled, especially with the ball in one-day cricket. Perhaps he had returned too soon from his off season knee operation.
“Whatever the reason, he was now injured and we needed a new overseas player. Enter Ravi Ashwin and that amazing conclusion to the season.
“How pleasing it was to hear Ravi talk of how much he enjoyed the dressing room and these were not idol platitudes.
“This was a high profile well travelled international star talking warmly of a friendship and a togetherness in this team which made him want to return.
“Let’s not forget though, Daryl Mitchell’s seven centuries, Joe Leach’s 69 wickets, the all-round excellence of Ed Barnard and Ben Cox, Joe Clarke’s two hundreds in that win against Kent, Brett D’Oliveira’s 900 runs and ability to gain a wicket with a run-out and the cutting edge given to the attack by Josh Tongue’s height and pace.
“Josh’s durability in his first full season was testimony not only to his own hard work but to the skills and efforts of Ben Davies and Ross Dewar in our Sports Medicine Department.
“They are very much part of the unseen team that enables success on the field.
“In this respect, we would also like to commend the unstinting enthusiasm, good nature and dignity with which Mick Cadmore conducted his duties throughout his time with the club.
“Ravi Ashwin’s success is the latest example of the impact an overseas player can have on a team’s success.
“We are unable to confirm at this stage where Ravi will be able to make good his desire to return to Blackfinch New Road in 2018.
“In his place, we have recruited Travis Head for the majority of the season. We believe we have recruited a talented young batsman who is hungry to prove his ability in all formats.
“As captain of the Big Bash winning team, Adelaide Strikers, he brings skills of winning to our white ball cricket.
“Steve Magoffin’s return together with the emergence of a crop of young fast bowlers, has enabled us to change our focus for our overseas recruitment.
“In those final four Championship matches, we had a team comprising four Academy players plus Ravi Ashwin.
“Much praise is rightly due to Elliot Wilson and his team of coaches at the Academy for this success and for the stream of junior Worcestershire players gaining representative honours.
“The quality of the work undertaken by the Academy has been recognised by the latest ECB Academy Audit and Dillon Pennington is the latest Academy graduate to receive a full contract following his success at the ICC Under-19 World Cup.
“However, we are not adverse to recruiting elsewhere. We made no secret of our pursuit of Sam Northeast as we sought to address the immediate lack of depth in our batting resources.
“This is something the players themselves welcome as they seek to be a competitive team at the top level.
“We will continue to develop our own talent whilst actively seeking out players who could add value and quality.
“Recruiting a new Director Of Cricket or Head Coach was a different challenge. Whilst a change in personnel would inevitably bring a change of some kind, we also wanted to ensure continuity.
“Kevin Sharp not only offers this continuity but his promotion has been welcomed by the players who enjoy his openness and appreciate his technical knowledge.
“Subsequent movements now see Alan Richardson and Alex Gidman completing the coaching staff for the first class squad. All three know – and love – Worcestershire.
“But all three also bring experience of different playing environments.
“We are grateful for the immense contributions of those who have gone before them and look forward to developing on those foundations under our new coaching staff.
“One change that has already been agreed is for the Head Coach to report directly to the CEO.
“With Matt Rawnsley now in place, the wisdom of this move now becomes even more apparent.
“They form the axis that will drive the cricket side of the business.
“Additionally the Board have ratified the establishment of a cricket steering group comprising the CEO, Head Coach and two Board members to oversee cricket decision-making.
“We are fortunate to have a CEO who combines knowledge of the game at all levels with a proven track record in business.
“There has been a great deal of change this winter. Now we move on, well positioned to achieve our ambition of establishing ourselves in Division One and challenging in all competitions.
“I would like to reiterate the club’s statement regarding Steve Rhodes that ‘the club would like to thank Steve Rhodes for his 33 years as a player, coach and director of cricket and we do wish him well for the future.’”