Once upon a time in the West Country
Modified 19 Dec 2019, 16:42 IST
|Double Gloucester: Kim Barnett indicates a fourth successful trip to Lord’s|
Last Monday, SPIN magazine published a ten-page interview I conducted with two Stoke-on-Trent-born former professional cricketers who, despite an age difference of 13 years, both arrived from different parts of the East Midlands to play for Gloucestershire in 1999, coincidentally the start of an unparalleled run of success for the minnows. Under the innovative and remorseless leadership of Kiwi coach John Bracewell, Kim Barnett and Jeremy Snape helped the county to five trophies in two seasons, turning their Bristol ground into a fortress. All of which contrasts sharply to the recent experiences of neighbours Somerset, five-time limited-overs final losers in the last three seasons, with a last-afternoon County Championship heartache in 2010 thrown in for good measure.
The piece therefore shares the title of this post, and aims to dissect the secrets of Gloucestershire’s success in such a way that might assist Somerset. Of course, with the magazine on general sale (at WH Smith, priced £3.95), I cannot reproduce the interview here, but below you can read the questions I asked:
Interview Questions :
Given that you each have vast experience skippering county sides and have both been involved on the coaching side of things, I was wondering what words you would offer this group of Somerset players, both as ex-players with many medals and, hypothetically, if you happened to be their coach or captain.
It seems to me that the Somerset side has many good ingredients for success: plenty of all-rounders, power-hitting, variety in the attack, young and agile bodies in the field… What are they missing?
So, what do you think are the principal qualities of a successful one-day side? Tactical, technical, psychological elements, maybe…
How much is successful limited-overs cricket about executing a well thought-out game plan (even one that changes from match to match), and how much is adapting quickly to fluctuations in the match situation?
One of the oft-heard truisms of cricket coaching is the mantra: “know your roles”. Is there a danger that this can be a little rigid? After all, not every game goes according to plan. So, how flexible are these roles? Do the roles have to fit the players’ skills or, conversely, do the players simply have to adapt to a role, or task, dictated by the match situation’s demands?
Other than Jack Russell and maybe Ian Harvey, who’d end up playing 73 ODIs, there were no real stars in the team. A few of you had picked up a handful of international caps, or would go on to do so, but that team seemed the quintessential case of a whole adding up to more than the sum of its parts (the Man of the Match awards were well shared out). Is that fair enough? And would you say Somerset maybe don’t yet add up to their individual parts?
Around that time both Jeremy and Mark Alleyne were picked for England ODI duties and there were whisperings in the broadsheets that, given Gloucestershire’s domestic dominance, the selectors felt compelled to pick a couple of the team. How much of a factor in your selection, Jeremy, was the team’s success?
Were you ‘ahead of the curve’ as a professional outfit? Were you doing things that other counties weren’t? Or were you maybe just doing the same things, only better?
Over and above the psychological edge that comes with the accumulation of so many victories, what were the outstanding technical or tactical attributes of that Gloucestershire side?
I was going to ask whether the fact that you had an experienced team (the XI listed at the end of these Qs had an average age of 30 in 2000, compared to Somerset’s 28) impacted upon the stress on fielding? Evidently not. Was physical fitness a focus for its own sake?
Talking of belief and confidence, in August 1999 Gloucestershire beat Somerset– who else? – in the final of the NatWest, but that was your second Lord’s final that season, having already annihilated Yorkshire in the B&H by 124 runs earlier that month. Since the pair of you were newcomers at the county,did that Yorkshire performance surprise the pair of you at all? And how important was it in what followed?
Presumably you started to get a bit of an aura around you?
In the same way that Gloucester banked more and more belief from each win, are Somerset’s current one-day woes a self-reinforcing cycle that might need some radical steps to break it?
Kim, you’d skippered Derbyshire for 13 seasons before arriving in Bristol. How did you find John Bracewell’s methods and how quickly did you adapt? Was hean ‘acquired taste’ or did the cricketing strategist and theorist in you immediately see the merits in what he was saying?
Jeremy, leadership is a crucial component of your conception of high-performance training – the need for the leader to challenge, support, inspire. You’ve spoken before about how you found the scientific approach of Bracewell appealing, and quite influential in the path you’ve taken. Did he stand back and allow Alleyne to be the prime mover when it came to tactics (a consultant)? Or was he very much the fountainhead of the ideas (chief executive)? Kim, feel free to answer this one, too.
What about Somerset’s leadership? I realize it’s impossible to truly know what’s going on within a group from the outside, but sometimes little signs can be detected. Is there anything you’ve noticed from the outside about Trescothick’s leadership, or Hurry’s coaching? It must be difficult to keep sounding convincing to the troops after so many losses…
A question about the dreaded c-word: choking. I’m not suggesting it’s something Somerset have been guilty of, but would choking, in your view, be a phenomenon that happens primarily to individuals – such that the team gets labelled “chokers” as an aggregate of individual chokes – or is it a trait of the group, an ‘atmosphere’ that infects the team and filters down to the thought-processes of individual players?
On that note, have you seen signs that Somerset or any of their players lack big-match temperament?
How about signs they do possess big-match temperament?
I was wondering whether you think there has been an ‘evolutionary leap’ in limited-overs cricket as a result of T20? Do the new shots, new deliveries, new fielding techniques and the change in perception of what’s an achievable required run-rate all mean that the limited-overs game is fundamentally different to the brand of cricket played by the Gloucester ‘dynasty’? If so, do you think your Gloucestershire would have adapted to these transformations, or were your collective skill-sets more suited to a particular blue-print, which, in turn,was suited to the character of the Bristol track?
As you say, Bristol became a fortress for you: in 18 competitive 50-over games in your four seasons there, you recorded 16 wins. All four semis in the ‘double double’ were played there. The only teams to leave victorious were Durham in 2001 and Worcestershire in 2002. Did the groundsman look to produce those types of decks to suit the team, or was that the way they inevitably came out?
Kim, you retired the year before Twenty20 was launched. Do you think you personally would have adapted to it or was your game was better suited to the sort of anchor role you played in 50-over stuff?
Lastly, Fantasy Cricket time. What would be the outcome if the best XI from your ‘dynasty’ played Somerset? We’ll go with: Barnett, Hancock,Windows, Alleyne, Harvey, Snape, Russell, Averis, Ball, Lewis, Smith. Are you happy with that selection?
For Somerset,we’ll pick Trescothick, Kieswetter, Trego, Hildreth, Pollard, Buttler, Suppiah, Meschede, Thomas, Kartik, Kirby. Who’d win? Best out of three: one at Bristol, one at Taunton,a decider at Lord’s, if necessary…
If you want their answers, well, you’re going to have buy the magazine. Or wait until it’s published on the SPIN website, I suppose…
Published 07 Feb 2012, 10:15 IST