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Gloucestershire start their first home Championship game of the season against Derbyshire on Sunday, but arguably a more important match is scheduled for the fourth and final day.

The club is seeking planning permission for floodlights at the County Ground, and anyone doubting the critical nature of the decision only needs to look at the club’s accounts released earlier this week.

True, a small profit was made, but several one off factors contributed to it, and Gloucestershire cannot afford the City Council’s decision to go the wrong way.

Under former Chief Executive Tom Richardson, one day international cricket was brought to Bristol, albeit with a large range of temporary facilities.

The strategy of keeping it was to develop the ground on a more permanent basis, and from the autumn of 2012 through until last summer Nevil Road evolved into a very different venue,now flanked by 147 apartments, a new pavilion and a much larger seating area. As the accounts show, the club’s long term borrowing is now over £3.5 million pounds.

To try and make some inroads into that, Gloucestershire set their stall out in two specific areas – to keep a tight reign on playing costs, and to regularly bolster their finances with the revenue that international cricket brings.

With no game this year, the decision over the floodlights – seen as virtually essential for an international venue – would secure the matches given to Bristol in the last round of international allocations.
As these run from 2017-2019, it would enable the club’s CEO Will Brown, chairman Roger Cooke and treasurer Tony Elgood to plan with a little more certainty, but with no less care.

Investing in the County Ground is a long term view, as one would hope that while players come and go, the ground will be there for generations to come. It’s also a decision that calls for patience from the members, who were spoilt (sic) by the one day successes between 1999 and 2004. The decade since has been barren, but one of the catalysts of that team is now back at the club helping to steer the current squad.

Ian Harvey, a lively character off the field and a keen competitor on it with bat and ball, is assistant to Richard Dawson, the former England off spinner newly appointed this spring to his first Head Coach role. Bespectacled and quietly spoken, Dawson was under the wing of Jason Gillespie at Yorkshire where the former Australian fast bowler’s reputation is growing rapidly. Some nuggets learned at Headingley will surely be useful as Dawson works with a youthful squad light on experience.

Unless you read Wisden cover to cover, just how light that experience is comes with the annual publication of the popular Playfair cricket annual. Only four of the squad have played more than 50 first class matches.
The same four (Geraint Jones, Michael Klinger, Hamish Marshall and Chris Dent) are the only ones with more than 2,000 first class runs, and none of the bowlers have more than 100 first class wickets to their name.

The first match of the season turned into a high scoring draw at Northants, although at one stage on the third day Gloucestershire looked well placed to press for a win. Their inability to work their way through the home side’s lower order in the second innings was decisive in forcing a defensive strategy on the final afternoon.

Across the season, county cricket can be a school of hard knocks at times. The schedule is demanding in three formats. Gloucestershire’s squad is small, and against the resources of others,they’ll have to – as a coach once told me – “beat the budget” to succeed. It’s up to a young group, under a new captain in Geraint Jones, to grasp their opportunity.

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

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