The summer is over and Glamorgan are left to reflect on the third worst season in the county’s history. Alun Rhys Chivers says the county’s awards night just about merited a winner, but lessons of the past must be learned if more embarrassment is to be avoided in the future.
Awards dinners held by Glamorgan County Cricket Club in Cardiff and the St. Helen’s Balconiers in Swansea signify the end of the cricket season; occasions to reflect, as well as to celebrate and reward those who have excelled with willow and leather on the field.
While there has been little to celebrate this season in terms of team performances, the St. Helen’s Balconiers Awards on October 1 offered an opportunity to mark, amongst other things, 25 years since Glamorgan’s triumph in winning the Sunday League title, one of the county’s major achievements in its 130-year history.
Then an eight-year old watching my boyhood team, I could easily reel off the names (in batting order) of Hugh Morris, Steve James, Adrian Dale, Matthew Maynard, Viv Richards, Tony Cottey, Robert Croft, Roland Lefebvre, Colin Metson, Steve Watkin and Steve Barwick, such was the stability of the team of eight home-grown players (including English-born James and Maynard), boosted by Dutchman Lefebvre, English wicket-keeper Metson and West Indian great Richards.
Watching a nostalgic on-screen video from 1993 at the Awards gave a timely reminder that success often comes from persevering with a team filled with young Welsh players and boosted by some more experienced heads from around the globe.
After all, the most famous image from that historic day at Canterbury is that of Cottey and Richards running off the field after securing the trophy – a Welshman alongside a vastly experienced overseas star.
Some years of failure during the 1980s preceded the Welsh players going on to lift the 1993 trophy (and the County Championship trophy four years later), becoming some of the best to have played for Glamorgan.
So, although the much-criticised 2018 side recorded only two victories in Championship cricket – the county’s third worst campaign in first-class cricket since it split into two divisions (only one victory was achieved in 2005 and 2007) – there are clearly lessons to be learned from the patience shown during the dark days of the ’80s, which ultimately bred success in the ’90s.
One-day league triumphs in 2002 and 2004 also highlighted the importance of experienced heads around a young Welsh generation.
This was a squad which included Welsh youngsters Mark Wallace, Simon Jones, David Harrison, Ian Thomas, Ryan Watkins and Dan Cherry.
But it was boosted by Maynard, Croft, James, Dale, Adrian Shaw, David Hemp, Darren Thomas, Keith Newell, Mike Powell, Andrew Davies, Alex Wharf and overseas players Michael Kasprowicz and Matthew Elliott.
Much of the gelling process of these two squads was the work of the late John Derrick, the coach in whose memory the Young Player of the Year Award was awarded to Kiran Carlson last week. Jeremy Lawlor, Tom Cullen and Jack Murphy also received awards over the two nights.
It’s true that the class of 2018 failed to deliver, but largely through no fault of its own. The likes of Carlson, Connor Brown, Jack Murphy, Nick Selman, Jeremy Lawlor and Tom Cullen weren’t able to call on more experienced players to help them.
Glamorgan were unfortunate to have lost the services of both Shaun Marsh, through injury, and Usman Khawaja through international commitments – their brief stints hinting at what might have been.
PLAYER AWARDS 🏆// Congratulations to all our 2018 Glamorgan Player Award winners, in particular TVDG who walked away with the @CountyChamp award and the Player of the Year award
— Glamorgan Cricket 🏏 (@GlamCricket) September 29, 2018
It was never the intention that the youngsters would all be thrown in together and this only exacerbated their obvious frustration and lack of confidence.
There were tough choices to be made when awarding end of season gongs, but only once in the Balconiers’ history – in 1981 – has the top prize been withheld.
Ultimately, Timm van der Gugten’s bowling performances in a season hampered by injury, were enough to see him awarded Player of the Year by both the club and the Balconiers.
He took 43 wickets, including seven for 42 against Kent, taking him beyond 100 first-class wickets. He also took 19 wickets and shared a record ninth wicket stand with Chris Cooke in T20 cricket, and struck a career-best 60 not out against Gloucestershire in the Championship.
So, what next?
While the microscope has moved from on-field performances to the external review called by chief executive Hugh Morris, it is unlikely that he will remain in his other post of director of cricket next season.
There is a strong suggestion that any potential appointment should be made from outside the club.
There are also question marks over the make-up of head coach Robert Croft’s coaching staff next season – a team, incidentally, which includes Maynard, Watkin, Shaw and Harrison.
The calibre and experience on the coaching staff makes this season’s disappointment all the harder to take.
Having already tied down a quartet of Welsh youngsters – Connor Brown, Jack Murphy, Owen Morgan and Kieran Bull – to new contracts, Glamorgan have also been boosted by all-rounder Craig Meschede’s extension.
But more experience is desperately needed, with Glamorgan expected to announce at least one new signing in the coming weeks.
Whether Marsh will return remains to be seen, given that he seems to be firmly in Australia’s plans. The 35 year-old South African Stephen Cook may also be an option, but given his poor performances during a brief stint at the end of the season, this would be a major gamble.
Whatever is decided on and off the field for 2019, Glamorgan and their supporters will do well to remember what led to past successes.
The potential is there, but patience is needed. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but neither were the golden generations of Glamorgan cricketers.