Sport director Ashley Giles admits that Warwickshire’s first-team squad is heading for a period of “transformation.”
The Bears will face Surrey in the Specsavers County Championship at Edgbaston tomorrow with alarm bells ringing following successive innings defeats at the start of the season.
A lot has been written and said about us having quite a big group of senior players and then a group of talented 19-21 year-olds but a gap in between, and we need to address that gap. But there is no quick fix to recruitment.Ashley Giles
A haul of just three points, and not a single batting point, from two games has left Warwickshire playing serious catch-up in Division One with the season only a fortnight old.
It has also raised questions over the ability of the current first-team squad, many of whom are over 30, to maintain the standards necessary to survive, never mind challenge for honours, in Division One.
The nightmare start to the campaign has given Giles and first-team coach Jim Troughton, who led the Bears to the Championship as Head Coach and Captain respectively in 2012, both relatively new in post having been appointed on January 9, much food for thought.
And the sport director knows there will be no quick fix.
“Myself and Jim are fully aware of the job in front of us, whether it’s a period of transition or maybe more transformation,” Giles said. “Probably some big changes lie ahead.
“A lot has been written and said about us having quite a big group of senior players and then a group of talented 19-21 year-olds but a gap in between, and we need to address that gap. But there is no quick fix to recruitment. It is a long process and sometimes you have to be prepared to go back a little bit to go forward.”
Warwickshire supporters were surprised by the lack of signings during the close-season, particularly an opening batsman to replace Varun Chopra who returned to Essex after seven years at the top of the Bears’ order.
There’s the traditional way of external recruitment from other counties, whereby we receive lists of players out of contract that year and we can approach those players. But a big element of that way is availability of the best players because they are tied in to contracts.Ashley Giles
But Giles points out that ready-made replacements are not easy to find in cricket, an entirely different world to football with its perpetual managerial and transfer merry-go-rounds.
“You’ll often see football managers sign six players as soon as they are appointed,” he said. “That just doesn’t happen in cricket. It isn’t a football market with an open transfer system whereby if you have a gap in your playing squad you can just go and fill it. In cricket, the recruitment process is a lot more complex.
“We have money in the budget but it is about bringing in the right people. The worse thing we could do is have a knee-jerk reaction and sign the wrong people for the wrong reasons. This has to be a long-term project.
“There are a number of ways we look at recruitment. There’s the traditional way of external recruitment from other counties, whereby we receive lists of players out of contract that year and we can approach those players. But a big element of that way is availability of the best players because they are tied in to contracts.
“A channel we have used before is players under the surface at other counties, like Keith Barker and Chris Wright – guys who have come in and been very successful for us. Another is overseas players and the Kolpak market which is one we don’t have any great desire to move into, but we have recruited well for the T20 this year with Colin de Grandhomme and Grant Elliott coming in alongside Jeetan Patel.
“Then we have internal recruitment through our own pathway and traditionally that’s something we haven’t done very well, not just over the last ten years but over the last 30. That is an area we are looking at really closely.
“There are good signs with the likes of Matt Lamb, Sunny Singh, George Panayi and Liam Banks coming through on to the staff and Matt and Sunny have played first-class cricket. But we need to produce more first-team cricketers from within.”
While Giles and Troughton look to the future, the present also needs taking care of and the sport director has challenged the senior players to prove they have what it takes to remain part of the first team-picture.
“In the short term we still have to win games of cricket so we will be asking a lot from our current players,” he said. “We have a group of experienced and very high-quality players and myself and Jim are very hopeful that they can help us make the transition. But results have got to improve.”