13th October 2018

Ashley Giles analyses 2018 season

A transcript of Sport Director Ashely Giles' interview following the 2018 season.

Ash on the County Championship winning season…

“A good season in the end. We started the season with the main goal being promotion back to Division One and to achieve that at the first time of asking ­- a lot of people thought that was a given or going to be simple – but it was a tough division with some good teams and a lot of those teams winning right through up until the end of the year. Kent and Sussex particularly put a lot of pressure on us but to finish the way we did, particularly in those last six matches, we played really consistent cricket, got some momentum and to finish as winners of Division Two was fantastic and great credit to all the players and coaches for all their hard work.”

Ash on the younger players making strides…

“That was one of the most pleasing things establishing that partnership at the top of the order. Both of them would have had wobbles at certain times during the season but to finish with four hundreds for each of them, I don’t know another opening partnership in the country that would have done that this year. So a great start for them, it always takes a little bit of time for new players to bed in and certainly Will (Rhodes) and Dom (Sibley) are settling in now as proper Bears as are other recruits. We continue to recruit and hopefully our new guys will settle the same way.”

Ash on the transition…

“The transition is an interesting one as I think there’s 11 players that have changed over this two-year period or probably not even that long, 18 month period really at the start of 2017, which is a big upheaval. It causes a lot of stress, quite a lot of fear amongst the playing staff as you can imagine, but again credit to the players and credit to the management that we’ve still managed to a high level of performance along the way. 50 over cricket I thought we played really good cricket and unlucky not to go through. T20 wasn’t as good as we’d like not as consistent but as we’ve just talked about in the Championship we’ve played some really good cricket and now we’re seeing a real change in our squad, a change in the age profile and a change in personnel. That doesn’t guarantee success next year but certainly we’re on the right track now.”

Ash on changes to the playing staff…

“We’re going to miss those guys because they’ve been very fine long term servants to the club but everything has to come to an end at some point. Barks (Keith Barker) and Wrighty (Chris Wright) go on and play elsewhere and we wish them well – of course not against us – but the rest of their careers. Trotty (Jonathan Trott) has been a great servant but his departure, his retirement now creates opportunity for someone else. We’ve had Adam Hose sitting in the Second XI for most of the year, Matt Lamb had a taste of first team cricket and did pretty well so there’s an opportunity for those guys to battle it out for that position.”

Ash on white ball opportunities…

“There’s positions and opportunities all the way down really through all the teams. We saw Will Rhodes come in for our last 50 over game and I’ll hold my hands up but maybe we got that one wrong. He played really well here against Worcestershire, he offers a lot, he plays 360, so I would expect him to play a much bigger role in all cricket next year. Dom Sibley didn’t play in the majority of T20, neither did Matt Lamb, Aaron Thomason was injured for a lot of it but you touched on someone earlier like Olly Stone, Henry Brookes, the excitement of what those guys do they bowl with pace it creates a lot of energy in the field and it’s always nice for a captain and coach to have that in your armoury really. We wish Olly (Stone) well with England but we’d like to see him at some point, that would be really nice.”

Ash on Jeetan Patel’s captaincy…

“Jeets has done a fantastic job as captain. I think he’ll openly admit that perhaps he came in like a bull in a china shop up front but really grew into the role and looked a mature leader by the end of the season. I hope he enjoyed it, it always helps when you’re winning, but undoubtedly he’ll have the respect from the guys for the performances he puts in day in and day out. That was also probably the most pleasing thing for us. The big concern for us was maintaining his own personal performance and having time to concentrate on his own game, which he did very well.”

Ash on Birmingham Bears captaincy…

“I think the likelihood right now is that Jeets will do it if he’s happy too. That’s something we’ve discussed briefly but I’d think that’s the way we go. Dom Sibley is obviously a young vice-captain and hopefully he’ll be ready to step in if Jeets were injured or missed a game for some reason. We believe Jeets did a good job this year and he’s more than capable of skippering across all forms.”

Ash on a T20 overseas recruit…

“Well we’re going to look at all options but I think Colin (deGrandhomme) did pretty well for us. He averaged, off the top of my head, something like 36 with the bat at a strike rate of about 180 which is pretty good. We were undone a lot of the time, without making it a batters v bowlers thing, for a lot of runs at times which we have to put right next time. Colin with the ball wasn’t probably as consistent as he’d liked to have been but with the bat he still offers a lot and we know him really well, he fits in really well into the dressing room. We’ll have to look at all options and spin is an area, with Josh Poysden leaving the club, that might be an area we need to strengthen.”

Ash on whether a certain form is a priority next season…

“It’s a difficult one. When you start a season – I talked about this year being a priority – you always try and compete across all forms and sometimes you do better in the one you least expect. In 2017 we were a whisker away from winning the T20 and we never really expected that at the start of the season and our Championship form was really poor. This year we were probably the other way round. We were hopeful of promotion and it was going to be a real battle but we could also carry on our T20 form from the previous year and it just didn’t happen. As a big club we have to prepare to try and win all three but as we’ve seen across the country it becomes more and more difficult to focus your attention and squad on all three forms of cricket.”

Ash on his coaching staff and their Bears links…

“Yes it’s important but ultimately you want the best people and we’ve got some very good people in the dressing room. I’m delighted for Jim Troughton, it was a real baptism of fire in his first year, and the way that ship was moving if you like I don’t think there was any turning it around at that time. I believe we’ve started to do that now and a lot of that comes from his consistency and his drive in the dressing room with the support of the other coaches. Graeme Welch coming back has been great for us, Jack Murfin coming in as the new Strength and Conditioning Coach our days of injury, or days missed through injury has been dramatically decreased this year and I think that comes down to the work from our medical team. All these things make a difference because if you can keep your best team on the field then you’ve got the best chance. This winter the conservations I’ve had with the coaching team already is really about that we’ve done all our recruitment, so let’s really try and upskill our players if you like. Make them more skilful and better equipped for Division One cricket and the white ball forms as well.”

Ash on winter break…

“The guys will have about four, five weeks off and it’ll go quickly for them. We encourage them to take time away, stay away from the ground, go on holiday, spend some time with their partners or wives and kids if they’ve got them because when they come back in,  before they know it. you’re into post-Christmas and the season creeps up on you. It’s important to make the most of this time and when they come back, November and December are flexible periods. Jack Murfin I know will drive them pretty hard from a physical standpoint but then the work starts for next year and we can’t afford to sit back and rest on anything we’ve done this year. We know Division One cricket is going to be tough next year and we have to be prepared for it.”

Ash on next season’s targets…

“It is dangerous to set targets but I think a year – this isn’t meant to sound negative in any way – consolidating in Division One will be important because it is a tough division. It appears the divisional format of the structure might change next year so let’s stay in that division and if we can compete with the top sides and test ourselves then who knows, because once you get in to the final throws of the season and you’re in a position ready to strike then anyone can win it in a division that small. What I’m really looking for I suppose is the same consistency we showed in red ball cricket this year which is a real long, determined form of the game which is demonstrated with our bonus points. If we continue to play that style of red ball cricket then I’ll be happy.”

WATCH: Ashley Giles assesses a successful 2018