Somerset has a new Director of Cricket in Matt Maynard and he is working hard behind the scenes in preparation of his first season in charge to shake up a talented squad of players into one capable of winning trophies. His work has already bore some fruition with the exciting signing of his former captain at Glamorgan, Jim Allenby, who comes to Taunton on a four-year contract and can play effectively in various formats of the game.
It was reported last week that attempts to bring highly-rated Aussie batsman Joe Burns to the south west hit the buffers when the player was included in Darren Lehmann’s Test squad for the forthcoming Ashes series in England just as his signing looked imminent. Previously it was heavily reported, although denied by Maynard, that wicket-keeping batsman Steve Davies was close to joining up but he instead opted to stay at Surrey.
So the search for quality, particularly at the top of the order in the four-day game, continues in earnest as we head into 2015 with latest names-in-the-frame to include Rory Hamilton-Brown, James Middlebrook and all-rounder David Willey.
But as players arrive others will ultimately leave to seek pastures new and Matt has had one or two disappointments since landing at the County Ground in September. In fact a whole team has left Taunton for one reason or another since Dave Nosworthy was installed as the club’s DoC in March 2013 – and a pretty good team at that if the players listed were in top form.
So we take a look at the “Lost Boys”, players who wore the wyvern but will not be available to Maynard in 2015 and decide who will be a loss and not in the season ahead. The qualification to be included in this team is the player must have been home grown or available to play Championship Cricket in 2013 or 2014. Players signed to play one day cricket only need not apply so sorry Dirk Nannes and Yasar Arafat!
1: Arul Suppiah – Somerset career 2002 to 2013
An unsung hero if ever there was one. A player who quietly and unassumingly earned his place in a changing room full of big name players and just got on with the job.
He found his way to Taunton from birthplace Kuala Lumpar via Exeter University and Millfield School. In all he played 100 first class games carving out a reputation as a more-than-decent opener scoring eight centuries with a highest score of 156. In 2009 he scored 1,201 runs in the Championship.
And he could play the one day stuff with his slow left-arm spin and his return of 6 wickets for 5 runs at Glamorgan in 2011 is a world record. The scorecard
He played for Somerset against Durham during his Benefit Year in June 2013 scoring 36 and 19 but this would be his last game. A series of sickening knee injuries became so serious he was advised to retire or face long term mobility issues. The announcement was still a shock to most of us.
Verdict: Some say Somerset miss his all-round abilities even today. I agree. Better player than he was given credit for. A loss.
2: Chris Jones – Somerset career 2010 to 2014
We will never know how good Chris Jones could have been. The talent was there – that is not disputed – but whether there was more in the tank when he called a halt to his first class career towards the end of 2014 aged just 23 to pursue other business interests will remain a talking point among the Somerset diehards for years to come. With other players leaving after his retirement he may one day look back on the decision as one made in haste. And so may Somerset.
He made his debut against Lancashire in 2010 in strange circumstances starting the game only to be replaced by Craig Kieswetter who was returning from England duty. He played another 36 games with a decent return of 1,285 runs in 60 innings at an average 22.15 scoring one century and nine fifties.
His final game was at Northampton in July 2014 and he scored 87 in the second innings. It was a fitting end to a short career, the scorecard.
Verdict: He didn’t do enough to set the pulses racing but had potential. A minor loss.
3: Nick Compton – Somerset career 2010 to 2014
The man affectionately known as Compo arrived in Taunton for the 2010 season and made no secret he had made the move south from Middlesex to score enough runs for the cider county to be selected by England. And he achieved both scoring 4,626 first class runs in Somerset colours in five seasons. Initially he stuttered with a return of 465 in 2010 but passed 1,000 runs in three consecutive seasons thereafter.
He was called into the Test team to play in India in November 2012 but it was in New Zealand where he truly made his mark hitting two centuries. But he was overlooked for the Ashes in 2013 having seemed certain to play a part. This rejection clearly irked him. He was told to go back to Somerset and score runs and he continued to do so. But the rejection remained.
After scoring 961 runs in 2014 and, with his international career looking all but dead, he announced he would be leaving Somerset to take some time out of the game. Eventually he made the move back to Lords, where it all started for him, and he will play against Somerset at Taunton in April where, I am sure, he will get a pleasant reception.
Compo scored 156 in his final game for Somerset at Yorkshire, the scorecard
Verdict: Huge loss. Somerset will miss his runs – no doubt about it – and he may just miss Somerset’s excellent batting track. We wish him well. Somerset need to find someone who can pretty much guarantee 1,000 Championship runs. And fast. And I have no doubt Matt knows this.
4: Alviro Petersen – Somerset career 2013 to 2014
It all had all looked good for Alviro Petersen and Somerset after his debut performances for the cider county. He was signed before Nosworthy was appointed, having also played for Essex and Glamorgan. It was in the Welsh county that his appointment as captain led to Matt Maynard standing down as Director of Cricket there.
At The Oval in his first game against Surrey he scored 167 and 91 (scorecard). His home debut against Warwickshire was also the stuff of legend hitting 136 and 43 and this looked a match made in heaven.
But a call-up to the South African Test team coincided with a change in fortune for the player who then hit a barren run and, being honest, his remaining time at Taunton was largely disappointing with only the odd spark of quality thrown in.
There were strong rumours he would consider turning his back on Test Cricket in order to qualify as a Kolpak player so he could return to play and settle in Somerset. Even if true I doubt many County Ground regulars would be too overwhelmed by this and I also wonder if the previous events at Cardiff have tainted his relationship with Matt?
Verdict: Didn’t do enough. No major loss and much better options available I think. Of course if Matt does sign him as a Kolpak after all….?
5: Colin Ingram – Somerset career 2014
Signed as a stop gap replacement for Petersen, Colin Ingram was a fine, if unspectacular, player in Somerset colours. He did well enough for a number of the clubs supporters to call for him via the various social media platforms to return as the overseas player in 2015.
He played one game in the LV=CC scoring 37 runs in two knocks. His four t20 games yielded 95 runs at 31.7 but it was in the 50-over tournament that he had most success, hitting three fifties among his 298 runs at 42.6.
Glamorgan were duly impressed enough to offer him a three-year deal in the Principality, therefore ending his short association with Somerset.
Verdict: Was only here short term so no major loss. I wish him well at Glamorgan but his signing would not have been the difference between success and failure so the right move to let him move on and show faith in the youngsters.
6: Craig Kieswetter – Somerset career 2007 to present (long term injury)
He is still a Somerset player of course but reports suggest he will miss the whole of 2015 with an eye injury. Others say he may also need a rest from the game having played solidly since making his county debut in 2007, playing 80-odd games for England and recently in the t20 tournaments in Australia and South Africa. If that is the case then let’s hope he regains the love for the game and comes back to Taunton with the same zest he has shown consistently since making his bow in 2007.
He certainly has a love for life, enjoying travelling and good living.
Verdict: His batting with be missed in the one day stuff, particularly in t20. In 2014 he scored 497 runs in 10 innings and him opening the batting with Jim Allenby would have been one to watch. Let’s hope we still get the chance to see this partnership in 2016.
As a keeper Somerset have two able replacements in Barrow and Regan although both are still largely inexperienced. Overall a short term big, big loss but please come back stronger, fitter and enthusiastic Craig!
7: Jos Buttler – Somerset career 2009 to 2013
In 1974 the band Sparks had a number one single with “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us”. In 2013 the town mentioned may have been Taunton and those reciting the words could have been Craig Kieswetter and Jos Buttler. Here was a very unique situation – two players of enormous talent holding international ambitions at the same club. It was obvious to all that Somerset could no longer accommodate both players even if we all hoped a compromise could be found and both could remain at Taunton. But it wasn’t to be. At the end of 2013 the Taunton born Jos headed to the sunshine of Manchester and managed to achieve his international ambitions. He now looks set to enjoy a lengthy spell as England’s number one wicket-keeper.
His departure has been the subject of many debates of which there is no right or wrong answer. With Kieswetter now missing for Somerset it is easy to be wise after the event and say the club should have stuck with Jos. What I do hope is that we see him back where he belongs one day in the colours of his home county.
Verdict: A big loss – he won so many t20 games for Somerset coming in as the enforcer in 2013. We missed this big time in 2014 when it looked like Nosworthy’s team had little to no game plan. That said we wouldn’t have seen very much of him in the next few years other than the odd Champo game and big one day finals.
8: Craig Meschede – Somerset career 2010 to present (season long loan at Glamorgan)
He went to Cardiff as part of the deal that persuaded Glamorgan to allow Jim Allenby to leave after only one year of a four-year contract. Although still a Somerset player if he impresses at the SWALEC I believe he will sign a longer deal. There is every possibility he will do well there and enjoy being a Glamorgan player in front of those patriotic and passionate fans.
In 2013 he took 22 wickets in the 40-over stuff and looked set to kick on but had an unexpected, disappointing 2014.
A big-hitting batsman his opportunities would have been limited at Taunton next season.
Verdict: It is never nice to see a home grown player of immense ability move elsewhere but we have a number of all-rounders in the squad and I feel Craig would have become unhappy sitting on the side-lines every week. I hope the move invigorates him and he comes back to Taunton fitter and better. That is, of course, if Glamorgan don’t have the final say on where he will play beyond 2015!
9: James Burke – Somerset career 2012 to 2014
A Plymouth born player with enough potential for money-bags Surrey to sign him for 2015 after only three outings for Somerset in t20 cricket in 2014. He scored only 4 runs – all acquired in his debut innings against Essex at Taunton. He wasn’t asked to bowl in any of those games.
Verdict: A bit unfair to judge the lad after only a few fleeting performances but no loss. He may regret the move to Surrey, who appear to be stockpiling players for 2015, so he certainly may get lost in the pack a bit. I would wish him well if he had joined anyone but them!
10: Gemaal Hussein – Somerset career 2011 to 2013
He was a club player in Bradford that had done the rounds, playing for the 2nd XI for no less than five county sides, when our local rivals Gloucestershire took the plunge and signed him in 2009. He made a mooted first class debut against Kent in the same year.
In 2010 he went straight into Gloucestershire’s four-day side in Division Two taking 67 wickets at 23.24. The Bristolians wanted him to stay but Hussain had ideas of grandeur and he left for Somerset after Brian Rose made an enquiry. He made a good start with 6 for 33 against Worcestershire but that was basically it. He took only 22 wickets at 44.86 in nine matches in 2011 and played just six first-class games in 2012.
He ended up back in 2nd XI cricket playing for Northamptonshire in 2014.
Verdict: No loss at all. One of Brian Rose’s few failed signings in his time as DoC at Taunton.
11: Steve Kirby – Somerset career 2011 to 2013 (he started 2014 in the squad but was injured so did not feature)
Kirbs was signed to add experience to a largely young bowling attack and to add some bite and aggression to the team. He played with a snarl on his face and possessed a thousand yard stare to die for but was actually a model professional on the field and consummate gentleman off it.
He was incredibly popular in the changing rooms and was a man who never accepted defeat however obvious the likelihood. The club will also miss his community spirit and it was often he would represent the club in local schools and events. And he always represented it with grace and class.
Although we knew his injury was serious enough his retirement was a shock because, if any man could beat the inevitable it was Kirbs. It is a shame he did not achieve his dream of bowling Somerset to a County Championship title but that wasn’t for the lack of trying.
Verdict: A loss. We certainly missed him in 2014 and will again in 2015. His retirement brought added pressure on Alfonso & Tregs to add the necessary experience to the pace bowling unit.
Of course this is a Fantasy XI made up of former Somerset players, including two who will be unavailable for 2015. I am pointing out how many players Somerset have lost and not suggesting the team has the right balance to compete at county level. It is my opinion as to whether I think Somerset will manage with each player’s lack of availability or not.
The fast bowling would rely heavily on a fit Kirbs playing consistently well week-in-week-out and Hussain would have to step up a few gears to assist his former team-mate.
Mesch and Burke would offer the medium pace support but the spinning would comprise of Arul, who was useful rather than spectacular and used as a support to the specialist spinner, be that Rehman of Kartik.
The batting appears to have plenty of runs spearheaded by Compo with experienced cover from Alviro and Ings. The middle order looks particularly impressive and explosive with Kiesy, Jos and Mesch.
As for who will play wicket-keeper then you decide. It is a fine line between the two and there is no right answer.