Tuesday, July 19th, 2022


Bowling Coach Alan Richardson has praised the impact made by Worcestershire spinner Josh Baker, who celebrates the first anniversary of his senior debut this month.

Baker came into the side as an 18-year-old last July and has played every LV=Insurance County Championship match since making his debut against Warwickshire at New Road.

He was also a regular member of the Royal London Cup side and played the majority of matches in the Vitality Blast.

Richardson believes the Redditch-born Baker is still a work in progress, but, with his pace, accuracy and bounce, plus an excellent work ethic, he can continue to evolve.

He said: “It (staying in the side) is something Josh should be very proud of. He has always been in and around the Pathway, in and around the Academy, and we always knew the qualities he had, and, when he came into the Seconds, he showed the sort of bowler we hoped he would be.

“He showed some nice attributes, physically and mentally, which impressed everyone and gave him that opportunity.

“There was a gap in the side there for an out and out spinner. Brett D’Oliveira does a fantastic job and bowls well, and that is always improving.

“But to have an out and out spinner, a tall left armer with so many good things in his armoury, it was an opportunity for him.

“He took it brilliantly well and has shown a huge amount of promise there, and he has performed for us regularly and made some really good contributions.”

Richardson is unsurprised Baker has nailed down a spot in the side.

He said: “Not particularly. The one thing we always noticed about Josh, and obviously the Pathway coaches knew him a lot better than us, was that he was incredibly consistent, he bowled in really good areas, and his accuracy was something he was known for throughout.

“What impressed us was the amount of shape he was getting on the ball. I remember him coming to the nets at Malvern to bowl at the professionals for a little while, and he showed he was very accurate at that stage without quite having the shape on it at that stage.

“But he went away, worked really hard, and came back, and played in the Seconds, and you could see he had really progressed and evolved and showed he could bowl a ball with a lot of spin on it and some revolutions.

“I think it is still a work in progress, but, with the attributes he has got, he has always bowled at a good pace, and bowled accurately and, because of his height, always got bounce, so there are three really good ingredients there.”

Richardson also believes Baker can become a capable lower-order batter, and he showed his potential when top-scoring with 61 against Middlesex at Lord’s last summer.

He said: “It is a work in progress, like all his cricket. He has only just turned 19, and he has shown some really good promise and some skills, and you hope, with playing more and more cricket and learning as he goes, that he will continue to evolve.

“We believe with some work, and he has got an incredible work ethic, that he will be able to turn himself into a really good batter.

“There is no reason why he shouldn’t become a really good lower order batter in that number seven or eight role. It will take time, but it is something that is very achievable for him and something he can aim for.

“He has also got a pretty good pair hand of hands and at times found himself in the slips. There is some real good promise there for him in all facets.”

An early example of the faith in Baker came when the then Club Captain, Joe Leach, handed him the ball for the penultimate over of a tight Royal London Cup game with Gloucestershire at Bristol.

Richardson said: “Something that has impressed us all, apart from all the physical attributes he has got, is his resilience, real nous in playing the game, and certainly not been scared of being put in situations like that.

“We can look at lads and see they’ve got those physical attributes, but can they become effective competitors? Can they do what is asked of them in whatever circumstances?

“We talk about this a lot. The games over here come thick and fast, and every game will be different. It will be different batters, on different surfaces, in different scenarios.

“The guys who cope with that the best, they are the ones that really kick on, and you hope that Josh isn’t fazed by that, and isn’t fazed by the fact he is put in some pretty tight pressure situations in red ball and white ball, and he is trusted to become an effective player for us.”

One of Baker’s most challenging days was when hit for 34 runs in an over by new England Test captain Ben Stokes when playing for Durham against Worcestershire at New Road.

Richardson said: “That was a real tough one for him, but again I think he showed some real resilience.

“It would be pretty naïve to say it didn’t affect him, but the fact is, as a player and as a team, you are not going to play well every time.

“You are going to lose games of cricket, and the real test for any professional sportsperson is how they react to things not going their way, and Josh reacted brilliantly well.

“He didn’t enjoy it. It was a real tough day for him, he went away and licked his wounds, but he’s come back and learnt from it.

“You don’t want anyone to go through Something like that, but you know it is probably going to happen, and bigger stars and more high-profile players than Josh go through stuff like that.

“Stuart Broad got hit for 36 in an over in the World Cup by Yuvraj Singh. If you think you are going to go through your career and not have days that are really tough, then you are kidding yourself.

“Josh has come back from that and learnt from that. The idea of that is you can’t let it affect you, and you continue to play to your strengths and your game.”