Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Steve Rhodes 2016 Annual Meeting Report

Steve Rhodes 2016 Annual Meeting Report

Worcestershire Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes outlined his reflections on the 2015 season, his thoughts looking ahead and how he is relishing working with the trio of players brought in as overseas players when reading his annual report in the Graeme Hick Pavilion on Wednesday evening.

Steve Rhodes said:"Looking back, 2015, in the Championship it was disappointed to be relegated but it was encouraging with three wins and could have been many more.

"We had some terrific bonus points in the first three quarters of the season. We targeted five wins. If we had got four wins, we would have surived.

"We lacked experience to a certain extent, coming across many teams in that division who boasted international players or people who played county cricket for a long time.

"But what was pleasing was our young players impressed with the way they competed.

"Tom Fell had a terrific season, our leading Championship run-scorer, Joe Leach shone, 500 runs and 59 wickets, Tom Kohler-Cadmore came back into the team, culminating in a magnificent 100 here in the last match of the season.

"Joe Clarke, a marvellous talent, scored some very good runs for us, Ben Cox, another youngster, has been around quite a while, had a fantastic season behind the stumps and scored good runs for us, a tremendous wicket-keeping prospect.

"Ed Barnard, as a 19-year-old all-rounder, played every game in one-day cricket which was a terrific effort and Charlie Morris is still a youngster and did well.

"All those guys showed plenty of fight and skill and resilience at different stages of the season and these guys are our future, they are the youngsters.

"We had a tough time with our overseas player (Saaed Ajmal). We banked a lot that he would be able to win us two or three of those games we needed. He wasn't the same bowler as before his ban.

"It was tough for Saeed. He is a very honourable man and the first player to apologise to the group of players at the end of the season. Just one or two wins from Saee, we would have stayed up.

"Of the senior lads, Jack Shantry had an outstanding season. He proved to people he can bowl in the First Division. If you look at his statistics, he has got better and better and better as the years have gone on.

"Ross Whiteley came of age a bit in four-day cricket. He had been lacking a few runs in that format of the game.

"He started his career as a bowling all-rounder and now towards the middle part of his career is a genuine batsman in the top six. He is a little bit of a late developer with the bat but in Championship cricket got better and better and looks more mature as a player.

"I felt the team had to play at 100% in that division all of the time. As you saw, sometimes we achieved it and a lot of times we perhaps had an odd bad session which really hit us hard.

"The opposition, because of their experience and international qualities, probably only played at 80% and then turned it on for that session or two which turned matches.

"We couldn't quite maintain and sustain the intensity all the way through games which hurt us. We had some bad luck with weather a couple of times.

"I do believe in four-day cricket the experiences gained in Division One is certainly going to make us a better team going forward.

"In the T20, we had nine wins in the group stages which meant we clinched a home tie in the quarter-finals which we were very proud of to bring to the members and supporters.

"Some of the victories were impressive and many of the sixes went out of the ground from Ross Whiteley who hit the most sixes in the competition. He proved to be one of our most important T20 players throughout the season.

"We are glad we are not bowling at him. We are glad he signed that (four year) contract and he is going to be a Worcestershire T20 player for a few years ahead of us.

"Lancashire away and Yorkshire away were terrific wins. They really stand out of the nine wins. I think we are starting to get our act together in T20 and in three of the last four years have got through to the quarter-finals and not making it to finals day.

"Getting a home tie meant we were consistent throughout the season and things are shaping up towards us playing in a finals day.

"Colin Munro was a little bit disappointing for us in the T20 and that hurt us. We tend to try and rely on our overseas players really coming to the party.

"It's ironic that the bloke has hit tremendous form ever since he left these shores.

"Brett D'Oliveira had a very good T20 tournament, His economy rate with the ball as well as his strike rate when batting was excellent and he is proving to be a useful T20 player.

"The quarter-final, it was a tough day for us. We came across James Vince and the way he attacked us from ball one, it seemed that it was going to be his day. He hit the ball very cleanly and scored a magnificent hundred.

"The light didn't help and it was tough for our guys trying to get above that run rate which we always knew would be very important to us. But overall it was a good tournament for us.

"The 50 over competition was disappointing. We played like we had an eye on the T20 quarter-final and trying to avoid relegation in the Championship. The sparkle didn't seem to be there in that competition.

"We did blood some players, Alex Hepburn played a couple of games and played quite well. We rested some of our better bowlers in the odd matches and it did leave us a bit under-strength.

"It is one of our issues that we do need to come up with some more bowlers, certainly more strength in that bowling dpeartment to cover all formats of cricket.

"Signing quality domestic bowlers is difficult. We tried hard but often they want to go to clubs that have played in the First Division for a period of time. But we keep trying.

"What is nice is that we are starting to develop our own. Josh Tongue is a six foot, five inches tall seam bowler and is just turned 18, a terrific talent, gets bounce and the ball going away from the bat and certainly quite exciting. He can also bat.

"Ben Twohig is a left arm spinner who also bats. Josh and Ben have both done well in schools cricket and age group cricket.

"What else is bright to me is players extending their contracts. It's not easy for a club of our size holding onto our best young players. There are lots of Big Brothers down the road in Birmingham and further afield in London and Surrey.

"Keeping hold of these nine players, who have extended their contracts, Morris, Leach, Kohler-Cadmore, Fell, Barnard, Clarke, Whiteley, Shantry and D'Oliveira, is a big thing for this club.

"What is pleasing for me is they wanted to sign these contracts, they all wanted to stay together, they all see that in three or four years time if they stick together we are going to be one hell of a strong team.

"The overseas players, I am really looking forward to working with this year. All three of them have got a point to prove starting with Matt Henry.

"If you see him on TV, he is a very lively bowler, right arm quick for New Zealand, can get the ball above 85 miles an hour, and he has knocked over top orders in international teams, certainly in one-day cricket just lately.

"He can also bat and has got a point to prove. he has never played county cricket and is looking forward to the chalenges.

"Kyle Abbot, who will take Matt Henry's place for the second half of the season, is a little bit more of a seasoned pro, having spent time at Hampshire. He is a terrific guy for the dressing room, a quality bowler who bowls well in all formats.

"The other guy you might have seen do well yesterday for New Zealand (against India) is Mitch Santner. He will play alongside one of the quick bwlers in the T20 Blast.

"The best thing about Mitch Santner is he has got three strings to his bow. He can bat in the top six and bowls very useful left arm spin. He is playing in all formats for New Zealand which is encouraging.

"Also all three of these guys are playing in the ICC World T20 which is testament to the quality of the overseas guys.

"We have just returned from Abu Dhabi and the performance was a little bit rusty. I would have liked performances to have been a little bit better.

"But it was a good kick up the backside in the sense that we've got three weeks to get ready for the new season.

"The good thing is we returned injury free. The batters got some good time in the middle and the bowlers got overs under their belt. It was a very useful nine days.

"I would like to finish with a little mention of two members of the team-support team who are both now battling cancer in first team scorer Dawn Pugh and Tom Fell.

"Dawn is a lovely lady and a very important part of our team. She won't be scoring this summer but she is doing fine at the moment. Our thoughts are with her.

"Tom has been here since 11-12. We all know his talents from his performances last year and previous years.

"We did think he'd got over his problems with cancer but on his return from Australia the CT scan showed a problem.

"He's just had his first bout of chemotherapyand he is not doing too bad at all. He is out of hospital now.

"It is going to be a battle for him this summer but he talks about getting back and playing this summer and we certainly hope he can do.

"Working with the Lions myself this winter, what a tremendous experience that was. Getting to work with quality coaches like Graham Thorpe, Dan Vettori, Gary Kirsten and Andy Flower was a great experience and I learnt a lot from these guys.

"It was great to work with a different group of players, a nice change, to learn from some of those players, and see how they work as well.

"I was absence from the Worcestershire winter programme for two months and a massive thank you to our coaching and backroom staff, Kevin Sharp, Elliott Wilson, Ben Davies, Ross Dewar who did a great job in my absence but most importantly Matt Mason who took over the reins.

"It is a bit disappointing to get an email saying 'this is the best winter we ever had!' but I am very pleased. Seriously, Mase did a great job in my absence.

"Keith Bradley (pavilion attendant) will not be with us in the dressing room this summer after 20 years. He did a fantastic job and was very well liked by everyone. I just want it noted we thank and appreciate all the work he has done for us."