Friday, March 10th, 2023


Richard Jones admits it was always an ambition of his to return to Worcestershire, and he feels “excited and lucky” to be part of the revamped coaching set-up under Head Coach Alan Richardson.

Jones was a Worcestershire supporter, with Graeme Hick one of his idols, before becoming an Academy product at New Road.

He graduated into the senior side and shared the new ball on occasions with Richardson, who experienced a golden spell at the end of his career with Worcestershire.

On his day, Jones was a major threat to opposing batters but admits that a lack of trust in his own ability, plus injuries, meant he never quite obtained the consistency of performance he desired.

He ended his career in 2018 after spells with Warwickshire and Leicestershire but had already been planning the future for several years and obtained a sport and exercise science degree.

Jones, aged 36, has spent the last four years as part of the coaching set-up at Edgbaston after initially accepting a role as a pathway performance coach.

But he is delighted to be back now at the club for whom he has always had “a real soft spot”, is looking forward to his role with the second team but also assisting first-team fixtures as and when required.

Jones said: “It feels like I’ve come full circle a little bit. This is a special place for me. I grew up supporting Worcestershire, going around and watching them play, working my way through the Academy system and playing for Worcestershire.

“I count myself very lucky to have played here, played with some great people, some really great players. When I left, I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to come back, ideally as a player.

“That wasn’t to be, but the opportunity to come back as a coach, I feel very lucky. I feel very excited about the opportunity. I’m here to make an impact and hopefully contribute to a period of success.”

Jones added: “How did the opportunity come to return? I’ve been at Warwickshire for the last four years, and my role there progressed from being a pathway coach to being Head High Performance Coach.

“I suppose the opportunity came through the coaching reshuffle which has happened at Worcestershire. 

“When the opportunity became available, and the advert went out for the role, I was always going to apply for it. I felt like I was at the stage of my career where I wanted a new challenge, I wanted to have more responsibility, and ultimately working in the professional game is where I wanted to be.

“At my previous job, there was potentially going to be an opportunity for progression this winter and into the summer, but this role at Worcestershire, with the changes Alan (Richardson) has made to how he wants the coaching staff to be run, sounded like a fantastic opportunity not just with the second team but also the first team.

“I’m also very keen to make sure I’m involved with the Academy and the Under-18 side as much as I can. I feel like it’s important our best young players get to know me as much as I need to get to know them, which will hopefully help them settle in a Second Team environment quicker.”

Jones recalls his days of travelling around the country to watch Worcestershire with much fondness.

He said: “I vividly remember travelling around the country watching Worcestershire play, waiting in car parks for signatures, players coming out in their green blazers.

“I remember going to Lord’s and watching a final against Warwickshire (1994). Graeme Hick was a bit of an idol of mine. He and Tom Moody won us the game. I remember Moody hitting a hit over the grandstand.

“I came to New Road all the time and used to play cricket by the side of the old groundsman’s hut.

“I was a West Brom supporter in the winter, a Worcestershire supporter in the summer. Football and cricket all the year around, I loved it.”

His chance to become part of the Academy came via a trial at New Road.

Jones said: “I was about 14, 15 and got asked for a trial. Damian D’Oliveira was running it, Steve Rhodes was there, keeping an eye on things, and a couple of players came over. I remember Kabir Ali standing behind the net as I was running in to bowl.

“I didn’t expect to get in. Even back then, I had this thing when I wasn’t confident in my own abilities. But thankfully, I did.”

Jones graduated through the ranks and made his County Championship debut against Warwickshire at New Road when he claimed a notable first scalp in England batter Jonathan Trott.

He said: “It was a tough game. They scored 610-6, and I pretty much bowled Tim Ambrose into the England side! Jim Troughton got a century as well.

“We had Phil Jacques and Doug Bollinger as the overseas players at the time. Doug got injured in the warm-up, and I got the nod.

“All the emotions, nerves and anxiety, all that kind of stuff came out. It was a bit of a whirlwind. I remember the Jonathan Trott wicket. I was bowling well in that spell and started to grow in confidence.

“I remember the ball before I got him out. He walked down the wicket to me to try and create something but ended up blocking the ball back to me.

“I remember walking down the pitch and giving him a bit of a stare, and I think it almost took him by surprise or at least annoyed him because he glared back at me as if to say ‘what are you looking at, but probably not as polite as that!’

“As I turned to walk back to my mark, I was thinking ‘should I have done that’ and felt like he was going to come hard at me. The next ball, he pretty much missed a full straight one!

“I am decent mates with Jonathan, ended up playing with him, and I never asked him whether I wound him up and if he just tried to whack me next ball.

“The best part about it was Hicky (Graeme Hick) standing at second slip, a hero of mine growing up, and he said, ‘you will never forget that’. I count myself extremely lucky to have been a teammate of his.”

There were some fine individual performances from Jones to follow, including six wickets in an innings against Sussex and seven versus Middlesex but he admits his career was not as consistently successful as he would have wanted.

He said: “I think that is probably fair. Retrospectively looking back at my career, if I had known then what I know now and been a little bit more comfortable in my own skin, I’d like to think I’d have been able to be a bit more consistent, and potentially stayed a bit more injury-free as well, and maybe had a slightly longer career, maybe had higher honours.

“I had the ability to have performed more consistently at a higher level whereas back then I never believed I did, and very rarely did I have long periods of games where I felt comfortable out in the middle.

“I felt like I was having to prove myself, worried about what the coaches and the fans were thinking, what the people in the press box were going to write.

“I was a bit of an up-and-down performer. I had games where I bowled beautifully, and there were a couple of seasons where I performed well for maybe a third of the season, had a bit of purple patch, but never sustained that throughout a season.

“But I don’t regret anything because everything I’ve gone through has hopefully made me who I am today, the coach I am and want to be, and will shape how my career goes from here.”

Jones is looking forward to forging a strong relationship with the playing staff, including the three rookie professionals in Henry Cullen, Rehaan Edavalath and Olly Cox.

He said: “Ultimately, as a coach, your relationship with the players is hugely important, and I think today more so than ever. 

“It’s a different world, and society is very different now to when I started playing, and the needs of young people are different. For me, a massive part of coaching is the relationship with your players; people first and players second.

“That is one thing I’m looking forward to building over the coming months and as we go into the season, hopefully building a really strong relationship with the players here, more specifically with my role with the three rookie lads we’ve got.

“I see my role with those three as important in that first year, that transition from Academy to a young pro. Those guys must get the support they need.

“I will lean on and involve Elliot (Wilson) as much as possible because he knows them much better than me.”

Jones, who is taking his Level Four coaching badge, joins Richardson and Assistant Head Coach Kadeer Ali, in all being ex-Worcestershire players.

He said: “I was lucky enough to play with Alan (Richardson). I sat next to him in the changing rooms, and opened the bowling together in a few games. A great man, and I always kept in touch with him.

“It is also great to have the opportunity to work again with Kadeer. We were together for a year at Warwickshire, and we had a really strong working relationship and friendship.

“We were quite similar with how we view cricket. When this opportunity came up, those factors excited me.”