When you consider Warwickshire’s glory era of the mid-1990s and who were the architects of it all then clearly Bob Woolmer and Dermot Reeve top the list.
But ask the Warwickshire players that delivered that glut of trophies and another name is quickly offered: Andy Lloyd.
" I was happy to risk losing to win – with our bowling attack it was a good risk."
When Lloyd took over as captain in 1988, the Bears had won just one trophy in 16 years. It had been a flat and, at times, depressing, period during which the team frequently languished on or near the bottom of both County Championship and Sunday League. The 1972 championship triumph, built on the effective but short-term strategy of signing four West Indies Test players, had been followed by years of drift.
After making his debut in 1977, opening batsman Lloyd witnessed this from within and, come ’88, he knew that a sea-change was required – most of all in mindset. He wasted no time in making positivity was the key. The bottom line: Always try to force a win, even if it meant risking defeat.
It was a bold approach, which planted the seeds of those glory years and immediately made championship cricket especially much more enjoyable for the spectators. It also emboldened and galvanised the players, as vividly illustrated in only Lloyd’s fifth championship match as skipper, against Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston.
“Just after lunch on the last day we were 170 in front and four down and batting was very tricky,” he recalls. “The ball was turning and it was up and down. Derek Randall came to me and said: ‘Look, mate, are we going to have a game here?’ I said: ‘Rags, we haven’t got enough runs, we’ve just got to occupy the crease for a while.’
“He said: ‘What sort of game is that?’ and I said it’s the only option I’ve got but if you want to give me 40 runs, I’ll set you a target – I’ll set you 210 in 68 overs’. He said: ‘You’ll set us three an over?’ and I said: ‘Yeah’. So Rags went over to the captain Tim Robinson, he agreed to throw us 40 runs and I declared.
“I got back in the dressing room and the bowlers wouldn’t talk to me. They thought I was a complete and utter nincompoop. I took my pads off, shut the door and said: ‘Look lads, if we bowl anything like we can, they are not going to get anywhere near 210.’
“There was plenty of chuntering – but we went out and bowled them out for 44. Gladstone took seven for 15 and we won by 161 runs. Suddenly, I’m a genius! But I’m not, of course, I just knew how hard it was to bat out there and how good my bowlers were.
“As a captain you are as good as your bowlers and in our squad we had Allan Donald, Gladstone Small, Tim Munton, Dermot Reeve and Neil Smith and, if they didn’t work, we had Paul Smith to let go some grenades. We won the game and I said to the lads: ‘Look, that’s how good we are – we are the best bowling attack in the country.”
Lloyd found a like-mind in vastly-experienced coach Bob Cottam and the positive approach started to pay off. In 1989, the Bears won the Nat West Bank Trophy, their first silverware for nine years, and in 1991 came desperately close to winning the championship, finishing runners-up just 13 points behind Essex.
“We played some brilliant cricket in 1991 and it was a fun year,” he said. “In my time as captain, if we were going to win it, that was the year. We came second to a very good Essex side who we had played at Chelmsford early in the season. Going into the last hour on the last day we were about 100 in front with our last two – Allan Donald and Adrian Pierson – at the crease. They had added a few and we were inching our way to safety when there A.D got run out going for a third!
“That left Essex a target and Salim Malik batted them home despite us having every man on the boundary. They won the game, took 23 points to our five and ended up winning the title by 13 points!
“That was a really enjoyable season for players and spectators alike. We lost a few but also won games that in the late 70s and early 80s would have just fizzled out into draws. I was happy to risk losing to win – with our bowling attack it was a good risk.
“Bob Cottam’s influence was huge. He was a brilliant bowling coach and strategist and we were very lucky to have him because, apart from Gladstone, the other bowlers were relatively inexperienced. What I tried to do as captain was make sure that everybody knew how important their place was in the team and squad, even when you weren’t playing. If you embrace everybody in the group, when it comes to the crunch you know that whoever is batting or bowling will have the confidence of knowing they are backed.
“I suppose my influence was always to try to find a way to win, whatever that might be. You have to believe you can do that and to know that, when you are out there batting or with ball in hand, the buck stops with you.
“We had some very strong characters and one thing I did do is put some belief into them as characters. If you look at the close games in that era, Warwickshire came out on the right side over 80 per cent off the time and that is down to the mental strength they had. They were a very strong, confident, close group of people with such self-belief.
“We also had some very fine cricketers. Keith Piper was a phenomenal wicket-keeper. He would come up to me and say: ‘Captain, Glad’s not got his hand behind the ball like he does normally’ and I’d have a word with Glad and he’d nod and put it right again. The number of little things Keith said that helped…he was a very influential guy.”
Alongside Cottam, Lloyd had completely transformed the playing side at Edgbaston but his own batting never fully recovered from the shattering eye injury he received on his Test debut against West Indies in 1984 and, at the end of the 1992 season he retired. In his last match, at home to Kent in the final game of ’92, he top-scored with 76 in the first innings. His team-mates in that match: Moles, Twose, Ostler, Penney, Reeve. Munton, Smith (N), Donald, Piper Small – the cast for glories ahead had been truly assembled.
“It had reached the stage where I was not an automatic pick in the team,” he said. “You have got to be an exceptional captain to be worthy of a place in the best 11 for that alone so I had a chat with Dennis Amiss and Mike Smith and we had a good, grown-up discussion and agreed that I wouldn’t take up the last year of my contract.”
Lloyd remained closely involved with the club and was on the committee until 2003. His time is now devoted to breeding racehorses with a business, Hunscote Stud, based in the heart of Warwickshire, at Wellesbourne.
A lifelong follower of horse-racing, he is very happy to be in another industry he loves – but reflects upon his long time in cricket, all of it spent with Warwickshire, with quiet but justifiable pride.
“I don’t miss playing cricket at all,” he says. “It’s what you do when you do it and I loved it and now I’m loving doing something else. If I look back, from where I came from in Shropshire to where I am know, then, yeah, I think I’ve done okay.”
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