Brian Carpenter is a member of Somerset County Cricket Club. He is 48 years old and lives in Exeter. In 2012 he won the inaugural Wisden Writers award and here he gives his assessment of the good, bad & ugly of Somerset’s 2014 season and hopes for 2015.
How Somerset fared: Once again, considering the depth of talent and experience at their disposal, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Somerset under-achieved across all formats in 2014.
However, the very fact that the squad contains players of the age and experience of Marcus Trescothick, Alfonso Thomas and to a lesser extent James Hildreth, points to one of the side’s key problems, which is the discrepancy between the vast experience of the first two, and the range of other regular players who, because of their age, have played relatively little professional cricket of any type. At the risk of stating the obvious, this means that players lack the knowledge of game situations which prepares them to make the right decisions when similar situations recur, and also hardly anyone in the squad has experience of winning any competition during their career; this type of experience enables players to withstand pressure situations at the ‘business end’ of competitions (not that Somerset reached the later stages of any competition in 2014).
Although Marcus’s return to form was welcome, the opening positions remain a problem. Chris Jones failed to convince and then retired; Johann Myburgh was a reasonable stop-gap but cannot be regarded as a long-term solution. Marcus will begin next season as a 39 year-old, and the club will soon need two new openers. Further down the order, Nick Compton had a good (ish) season, but won’t need me to tell him that he should have done better by converting a number of nineties into hundreds. James Hildreth had what can only be described as a poor season for a player of his ability and experience. The rest was bitty – great credit to Alfonso (but how much longer can he go on?), Lewis (although his batting still has loads of untapped potential which I don’t feel he’s quite developing as well as he could), Craig O and of course PT (from whom you know exactly what you’ll get, and you always do). Craig K was going well until the injury – the speed and extent of his psychological recovery could be as important as the physical, but the winter should sort that.
Abell looks excellent, especially temperamentally. It’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t train on, and I’d be in favour of him opening next season. Spin is a problem; Dockrell has plateaued (next season will be very important) and I’m not sure about Leach at this level.
Lastly, I’ve never regarded Marcus as a very inspiring or astute captain, but accept that, for the time being, there are few realistic alternatives. Hildreth needs to find his batting form again before he can be seriously considered.
Overall : Could do better.
What was good? Early form, unlike recent seasons, pretty good, but fell away.
Where do Somerset need to improve? More consistent top order runs, better spin bowling, some raw pace (getting Jamie O back to form a priority).
Overall: Not great, especially at home. Both on potential and past history, we should expect to reach finals day and be disappointed not to.
What was good? Craig Kieswetter’s form.
Where do Somerset need to improve? More economical bowling.
What was good? Peter Trego’s form (with the bat, anyway).
Where do Somerset need to improve? More consistent runs down the order, more consistent bowling and a cooler approach to pressurised situations.
This is tricky, as nobody really stands out. I’ll go for Alfonso Thomas for his consistency with the ball across formats at a relatively advanced age, although perhaps his T20 returns weren’t as good as might have been expected. Craig Overton runs him close – taking into account his age, his all-round figures were excellent, and hint at his massive promise.
Could have done better:
Views on our new Director of Cricket. What do you hope Matt will bring to the club and what should his priorities be for 2015:
County cricket is a very individual and somewhat incestuous environment. For this reason, appointing from overseas is a risk. Maynard should be a much better fit than Nosworthy, simply because of his years of experience in the county game, while his experience of first-class coaching abroad and within the England set-up should also stand him in good stead. He’s always come across as a decent, open guy, and not, hopefully, a ‘mood hoover’ (© Kevin Pietersen and David Walsh). Priorities as above – developing the spinners (or signing another), getting Jamie Overton back to form, fixing an opening partnership and trying to ensure all top order players really cash in. Also developing the younger players who have failed to really nail down a place but clearly have potential – here I’m thinking of Alex Barrow and Craig Meschede in particular.
Areas for development for 2015, things we need to work on:
As above – opening partnerships, top order runs, spin and pace bowling in the first-class game. More consistency and better economy, especially at home, in the limited-over game. Careful attention needs to be paid to the fact that Trescothick and Thomas will both need replacing within the next few years.
Tom Abell. Early signs are of a very sound temperament and good technique. Reminiscent, in some ways, of James Hildreth ten years ago, but with a little more solidity to his method, which may make him more consistent as his career progresses.
If they were available, who would you sign for next season?
Domestic: Alex Lees (potentially a really consistent partner for Marcus, and unlikely to be required by England for a while, with Robson, Hales and Lyth ahead of him in the queue). Hardly likely, though.
Overseas: Saeed Ajmal (if declared legal – and that’s a very big ‘if’ ).
A season of under-achievement. This squad is capable of doing much better, especially as the younger players mature, but, given the quality of the competition, it’ll be far from easy.