The appeal of the Cheltenham cricket festival is that is draws lovers of the game from all over the country to the College Ground, no matter who they actually follow.

For some Gloucestershire supporters it is their annual fix of county cricket, with the rest of the home games being held in Bristol.

This year they may have felt short changed with only one win on five games across 3 competitions, but Cheltenham 2014 was not all gloom.

The sun shone almost non stop, and as I chatted to Gloucestershire Chief Executive Will Brown beside the pavilion in the final day, he revealed that crowds were just about at record levels since four day cricket was introduced, more than 25,000 people clicking through the gates before members were accounted for.

Hospitality was healthy, and a sweltering day for the T20 match against Surrey had set another record in terms of drink sales. The tills were well and truly ringing, even if the team looked at times to be flagging in the heat.

Cheltenham’s intimate nature means stories often develop there. The departure of Jon Lewis to Surrey in 2011 was kept under wraps until the teams met at the College Ground, but gossip spread quickly and an announcement was forced out. The subject of the 2014 rumour mill was all rounder Will Gidman.

Approaching the end of his fourth season at Gloucestershire, Gidman is on the cusp of 200 first class wickets, and he could get close to 3000 runs, and that’s without his contribution in one day cricket, which was highlighted with an unbeaten 71 in Tuesday’s Royal London Cup win over Yorkshire.
The twitterati community are already suggesting he might return to Durham, where he had limited opportunities before leaving in the autumn of 2010.

Chief Executive Will Brown told me conversations over his future – Gidman is out of contract in September – had started already, but he is sharp enough to know that keeping good players is not all about money. There are families and personal circumstances to consider.

We ought to know more in a month or so, probably after Bristol stages the one day international between England and India. Brown referred to that day as a chance for Gloucestershire, and the city of Bristol, to show people that they are firmly behind cricket.

He’s right of course, coming as it does after the completion of Nevil Road’s redevelopment, and while the ground work was in the planning and construction stage, the club took a frugal view with regard to the playing budget.

You might think the purse strings could be released now it has finished, but Brown in batting in a long game. Gloucestershire don’t have an intermational in 2015 and they want to install floodlights during the winter, the last piece in the ground jigsaw at this stage.

He doesn’t want to look only a year ahead, but at a 3-5 year time frame in terms of matching what he hopes will be increased revenue with a higher playing budget. Prudent, yes, but those sunburned Cheltenham spectators will still want to see quality players like Gidman, who occupies a key position in the team – retained in order to keep them coming back to their favourite festival venue.

Photograph : Copyright http://www.ian-randall.co.uk


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