On May 13, 1993, Ashley Giles made his first-class debut for Warwickshire, against Kent at Canterbury.
He started quietly, not even getting on to the field on the opening day. But he contributed wickets and useful late-order runs to the Bears’ 110-run victory and went on to build an excellent playing career which brought numerous trophies for his county and 54 Tests for England.
On April 16, 2008, Ashley Giles began his first match as director of cricket at Warwickshire, against Worcestershire at Edgbaston.
He started quietly as the Bears closed on 39 for three in reply to 249. But his team dug in to earn a draw and went on to win promotion back to Division One that season and, four years later, take the county championship title.
On January 9, 2017, Ashley Giles was unveiled in his new job as sport director at Warwickshire.
He started quietly, re-introducing himself to many people he knew and introducing himself to some he knew not at all, before telling the assembled media of his excitement at the challenge ahead.
So what awaits in the next few years for a man who has already fitted so much into his professional life that it is easy to forget that he is still only 43 years old?
Giles, who loves a project, now has a big one on his hands – sport director with overall responsibility for all cricket matters; men’s, women’s and player development – and plenty of time to build it. While new head coach Jim Troughton focuses exclusively on first-team matters, to Giles falls a much broader brief. And it’s one that excites him.
“It is great to be back,” he said. “There is always an element of coming home to Edgbaston and coming home and being able to live at home is great for me. But I have got a job to do.
“I have not been given this job because I am an ex-Bear and hopefully a decent bloke. I am here to do a job and there is a lot to do and I am going to have to get stuck into it pretty quickly.
“I have not had a chance to think too deeply about goals as such yet but there is certainly a difference between being a head coach mainly and looking at the broader picture. When I was a coach, results were all-important. They will still be important, of course, and I will support Jim all the way because we need a successful first team. But, apart from that, we have got a player pathway and need to produce more home-grown cricketers. There is a lot of young talent to work with and the challenge now is to transition some of those younger players into the first team. But that has got to be earned – you don’t just get given a place in the Warwickshire team.
“We need successful youth teams and women’s teams. Do I know much about women’s cricket? No, I don’t, but that is part of my brief and I will be getting as much info as I can about that. I’ll talk to Darren Franklin and get to know how they operate and the good thing is I will be able to go and watch some of their cricket in the summer. As I will not be at all first-team games, I will have time to watch the women’s teams and the academy and also go and watch possible recruitment targets.”
While much of Giles’ focus will be on strategic matters, his experience and knowledge as a coach is a resource on which Troughton and captain Ian Bell will no doubt call. But there is no doubt that the final decisions will rest with coach and skipper.
“Jim is in charge of the day-to-day running of the team, no question,” Giles said. “He and Belly have to make the selections on the ground and which team goes out on the field has to be down to them.
“With more strategic decisions, recruitment for example, then I have to have a part in them because that is my role. We need to make sure we bring the right people in because signing players is a big investment and, if you get it wrong, it’s a three-year investment you can waste.
“There are matters of budget and also the culture and values of the club. We have to be clear that decisions we make are in line with what the business needs and what is right and wrong. But Jim and I have worked together before and trust each other and trust is a big thing. I know Belly really well as well so I think we’ll be fine.
“I’d still like to do some coaching occasionally because I enjoy that element of it but the day-to-day running of it will be left to Jim and his coaching team.”
Giles has returned to Edgbaston just over four years after resigning as head coach, weeks after guiding the Bears to championship glory in 2012, to join England’s coaching set-up. Now he is back in Birmingham after two years as director of cricket at Lancashire, a county which he leaves with only warm feelings.
“Lancashire were very good to me and I enjoyed my time there,” he said. “It was a new experience and environment for me and I thank them for the opportunity they gave me. I’m sorry I couldn’t see it through but it became increasingly difficult with me being away from home.
“But they were some of the best days of my career – winning the NatWest T20 Blast at Edgbaston, winning promotion. And even last year we had our challenges but Lancashire hadn’t stayed up the previous two years after promotion so managing that with a relatively inexperienced squad and blooding some young players was a tricky but really important process for the club.
“Warwickshire’s squad is the opposite really. We are top-loaded with experience and quality at that end and, at some point, need to get the younger guys coming in.”
Just one of the challenges ahead for Giles in his third mission as a Bear.
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