Ahead of Thursday’s third Ashes test, the domestic Twenty 20 competition reaches the end of the group stages. Gloucestershire have no interest in onward progression, but they could stop Glamorgan qualifying for the quarter finals if they upset the form book in their final pool match. They did win the reverse fixture at Cheltenham but having lost all their away games, you would have to say it’s unlikely.
A bigger decision, however, awaits. The quality of the pitch used for the T20 match against Warwickshire at Cheltenham – a game Gloucestershire lost – has cost them two points next season, so they will start the group stages on -2, and it raises
the question over what to do concerning a specialist overseas signing for the tournament.
Skipper Michael Klinger is already contracted, which given his form this summer is just as well. However for each of the last three seasons, Gloucestershire’s T20 signings haven’t had much impact on the field. In 2011, Muttiah Muralitharan’s arrival was a commercial success but teams batted around him, as you can when your star recruit is a specialist bowler.
In 2012 Murali’s influence was further reduced by the weather, although in the final anlysis it helped Gloucestershire to at least reach the quarter finals. This year Dan Christian has, I’m afraid, looked woefully out of form. To average 11 with the bat, and take only three wickets with an economy rate of nine runs an over is not what someone billed as an aggressive all rounder should be delivering.
So as Chief Executive Tom Richardson vacates his office after 12 years and hands the reigns to Will Brown, Gloucestershire have to decide – and it needn’t be instant – if, actually, a specialist T20 signing for 2014 is worth the bother. There are several factors to consider.
Their pool contains two teams – Warwickshire and Somerset – who play Division 1 cricket in the Championship. The difference has shown in each of the one day games between the teams this season, and if Northants are promoted, that could become three.
The planned schedule of matches means the Twenty20 tournament will be more spaced out, therefore potentially increasing the cost of recruiting a player only to play in that competition.
Finally, there is the points deduction. It is generally accepted that a team has to win six out of ten matches to make the knockout stages, so for Gloucestershire that figure climbs to seven. This year they can win no more than three. They did get through last summer with four, but they collected points from three abandoned games. This summer, only one match in the whole tournament has been classed as a no-result.
The opposite argument put to me was that to go into the T20 pool games without a second overseas player would be Iike waving the white flag before you start. Possibly, but look at the odds. It’s not as if Gloucestershire’s T20 record is historically very good.
Out of 111 games since 2003, they have won only 39. It’s not a discipline that suits the group they are trying to develop, which is tailored towards first class cricket and the longer one day format. Will Gidman, in particular, tends to be left out, and Ian Cockbain and David Payne has played more one-day than four-day cricket.
Playing regulations do not allow teams to sign a second overseas player for the 50 over competition, which will be played in July and August, which is a pity because that would make more sense.
The solution, budget permitting, might be to sign a loanee who cannot get into the team at one of the counties which has a bigger staff – ideally a batsman or a batting all rounder. That would be a late call, but it’s hard to see the point of investing heavily when you start at such a disadvantage.
Photograph : Copywright http://www.thelindleygroup.com