Worcestershire CCC have staged an interactive cricket-focused online Members Forum with Club Vice-Chairman Paul Pridgeon (who also chairs the Cricket Steering Group), Head of Player & Coach Development Kevin Sharp and first team squad members Daryl Mitchell and Jake Libby.
The Forum took place via Zoom online video conferencing and members were given an update on various club matters in addition to also having more general questions on cricket answered by the panel.
Here is a comprehensive selection of the replies given on matters relating to Worcestershire CCC.
Paul Pridgeon update on 2020 cricket format and whether spectators will be admitted
“It looks as though we are going to get some cricket from August 1. At the moment we do not know what shape that cricket will take in that there are a couple of options – 1) a four-day competition and Vitality Blast or 2) a 50 over competition and the Vitality Blast. That decision should be made in the early part of next week (week commencing July 6). As a club, we would favour playing four-day cricket and Vitality Blast.
“In terms of spectators being allowed, at the moment it is behind closed doors. Whether that changes is totally out of our hands and the decision will be made by the Government and the ECB. Personally I am hoping that will change and people will be able to watch. Social distancing rules are changing all the time at the moment and hopefully that will lead to a rethink.”
Paul Pridgeon on what the club is doing to avoid losing our most coveted players?
“We will do everything we can as a club to try and retain our best talent. We are constantly talking to players about contract extensions and we are currently in discussion with several players. It is not something we take for granted. It is something we are always looking to take forward. It really hurts when we do lose anyone who has come through the Academy – because we have put a lot of time into finding them and developing them. We will look to protect all our young talent and look to take forward as much as we can.”
Paul Pridgeon on why the squad was strengthened (with Gareth Roderick) and what the young players need to do to challenge for a first team place?
“Although Gareth’s signing may look as if it may restrict opportunities for some of the young batsmen, I actually like that in some ways. I think that has got to be a good thing because last year, although the top order in the first eleven didn’t score enough runs, the young batters in the top order in the second eleven didn’t either. It was a great opportunity for them to go knocking on the Head Coach’s door and saying ‘I’m getting runs in the second team, these guys aren’t scoring runs, I should be in your side’ – and they didn’t do it. Because of that we had to strengthen but I think it gives them as well a lot of incentive as well. If you are going to play first class cricket, you have to prove you are good enough and you start by getting the weight of runs in the second team and pushing the guys in the side. I think we are in a really healthy place with a lot of competition and Gareth is the final piece in the jigsaw.”
Kevin Sharp update on the build-up to the season
“We are back at Kidderminster next week for more practice until Pakistan finish at Blackfinch New Road. Then we are back to Blackfinch New Road for what at the moment looks like an internal practice match amongst the professionals and hopefully including a couple of the Academy players. I know Alex Gidman has been speaking to Warwickshire and Durham in terms of having some first-class opposition leading up to August 1. What format we are playing will probably determine what format those games with Warwickshire and Durham will consist of. We can’t wait to get going.”
Kevin Sharp on a question asking whether Ed Barnard can develop into a genuine all-rounder?
“Absolutely he has got the potential to do that. He has had an opportunity of late to bat at number six and in one game he batted at number four. I know Ed, particularly of last season, was a little disappointed in himself that he didn’t take some of the opportunities he had. He’s yet to make a hundred and he is very conscious of that and is something he wants to do – and I’m sure he will do in time. His expectations are high, his demands from himself are high. What he has got to is nail it. He is batting at number eight and he has time from there in four-day cricket to make 70s and 80s and a 100. He knows he has got to do that but, in terms of further down the line, as soon as he does that he will challenge for a higher place in the batting order. He is a real genuine all-rounder. He bats, he bowls and he fields brilliantly. He is international potential.”
Kevin Sharp on striving to improve batting in red ball cricket and the work that has been put in?
“We have become a very good white ball side and are one of the best, if not nearly the best white ball side in the country over the last couple of years but we have recognised we have been inconsistent in the red ball game. There is a real genuine desire from everyone to get back in Division One and stay there and Alex Gidman really drove the winter programme. We’d traditionally come back for cricket from January to March after doing mainly fitness work in November and December but Alex was very keen to get everyone back doing the cricket work in early November and we did hours and hours of batters facing a bowling machine for two to three hours at a time where the ball was hitting top of off stump ball after ball. They’ve got to play with control and discipline and the lads bought into it and were really ready for two months of red ball cricket in April and May before COVID-19.”
Jake Libby on why he joined Worcestershire, how he has settled in and the joy at being back practicing outdoors?
“It started last October when I met Alex Gidman in Loughborough where he was doing his Level Four Coaching and I heard what his plans were going forward. I see Worcestershire very much as a Division One club and a team who can get back there and something that attracted me was that was the club’s aim as well. Having joined, you can see it is a fairly young squad with a good mixture of experience and the quality to get back to Division One. It is also a lovely ground and the squad is a nice bunch of lads. That all mixed in together, helped me to make my decision.
“It has been frustrating that we haven’t got on the park yet but the lads have been great and I’ve settled in really nicely and it is a really good environment. The coaching has been top drawer. It’s a bit different to what I’ve experienced in the past and I’ve really embraced it. One thing that has freshened me up a bit is the youth in the squad and there are a lot of people more fitter than I’ve known before and it has given me a bit of a wake-up. There are a lot of good athletes here. I’m really pleased to be here and hopefully we can get some cricket soon because that’s what we all want.
“In terms of being back playing, the last time I picked up a bat before now was late March and it’s nice to be back even if it is a little strange with certain precautions in place, like wearing gloves when you are fielding. But everyone has been a bit bored and kicking their heals in the house so it’s been great to get back training.”
Daryl Mitchell’s assessment of Jake Libby as an opponent and now as a team-mate?
“I played against him a couple of years ago in the ‘pink’ ball game under lights at Trent Bridge and he was a thorn in our side in that game. A good solid red ball cricketer would be my first impression. He has done pretty well recently in the white ball stuff but my initial thought was ‘a good red ball signing’ and exactly what we probably needed. Batting in red ball cricket wasn’t good enough from a group perspective so strengthening in that department was what was needed. In terms of settling in here, he has taken to it like a duck to water.
Daryl Mitchell’s assessment of Gareth Roderick as a player?
“A good player. He scored at least one hundred against us at Blackfinch New Road. He plays very straight, plays very late, technically sound, and his numbers stack up pretty well. Traditionally we have signed people who are very young or getting older but what excites me about Jake and Gareth is they are both coming into their prime and for Worcestershire to attract players in their prime is a real coup and still on the way up and hopefully we can get the best years out of both of those guys at Worcestershire which is exciting.”