With just over 3 months to the opening game of the County Cricket season, I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to look at how Surrey are shaping up heading into the new campaign.
So far we have made 3 new acquisitions over the winter period, with two veterans of the county game in Gary Keedy and Vikram Solanki being drafted in, alongside our new captain Graeme Smith. There is still enough time for Chris Adams to add to his squad, and I personally feel that, even though it isn’t 100% necessary, one or two more players could be brought in to bolster our squad.
The main area I think we need to add to is the batting, after we lost 6 key batsmen due to a variety of circumstances last season, some obviously unforeseen. In Solanki and Smith, we clearly have recruited two highly experienced batsmen, and that was a main priority heading into the close season. You can also argue that players such as Burns and Harinath, who were certainly not first team regulars at the beginning of last season, have proven how good they are and their potential. 17 year old Dominic Sibley has also signed his first professional contract, and he will certainly be a star of the future, but I think this season will be a bit too early for him.
Overall, I have counted 11 batsmen in the current first team squad. 11 may sound a lot to some people, considering that you only play 7 batters a game. However, that number includes a 17 year old who is yet to play First Class cricket; a wicket keeper in Gary Wilson who will be away for some of the season; the South African captain who will miss up to 6 Championship matches; KP, who will be unavailable for the majority of the season and Zafar Ansari who is completing his year at Cambridge University. That could mean that at some points in the season, we could have just 6 batsmen available in the squad.
6 is certainly not enough, and combined with the possibility that injuries could always prove a problem and the form of Vikram Solanki and Zander de Bruyn questionable last season, it looks as if we need to recruit. It isn’t clear yet if an overseas replacement would be brought in for when Graeme Smith isn’t available. Smith is likely to be unavailable for the majority of June due to the ICC Champions Trophy and for the end of July because of South Africa having ODI’s in Sri Lanka, but to be honest, he is going to be available much more than I expected he would when we first signed him.
In regards of de Bruyn and Solanki, I’m not totally sure that they still have the ability to be consistent performers in First Class cricket. Solanki struggled for Worcestershire last season in the Championship until he was inevitably dropped, and everyone associated with Surrey knows how disappointing Zander was last year. He has gone away once again this winter with the Highveld Lions in South Africa, but has struggled in the games that he has featured, scoring just 2 half centuries since October.
The man I thought that could come into the Championship middle order on a more regular basis was Matt Spriegel, but of course he has left for Northamptonshire. The decision to let Spriegs go really baffled me, as I thought that he was one of our best players in List A cricket last season and would have been part of our side for the next decade or so. Adams had a man capable of playing all forms of the game and has let him go, so therefore he needs to find a replacement.
Another area that I think that we need to improve is for the Friends Life Twenty 20. We haven’t qualified for the Quarter Finals since 2006 and haven’t been to finals day since 2005. For a club who won the inaugural tournament and were at the first 3 finals days, it is a terrible return. I believe what we need is a high quality, current international, Twenty 20 specialist batsman coming into our squad for the tournament. In the past we have had had second rate overseas players who add hardly anything to our squad. Andrew Symonds was an ex international who was past it, Grant Elliott wasn’t better than anything we had at the time, and Dirk Nannes is certainly not better than the likes of Jade and Trem. I know that it is difficult to get a current international with the amount of cricket being played these days, but plenty of counties have had such a thing in the last couple of years, such as Martin Guptill at Derbyshire and Dave Warner at Middlesex.
One player who you can rely on to get runs in T20 cricket is Adam Voges, and I thought that he could have been a good signing for us, but he has recently been snapped up by our London rivals. Even though he isn’t a regular in a rather strong Aussie line up, he is in his prime at the moment and will help Middlesex vastly.
With two of our most explosive batsman in Rory Hamilton-Brown and Tom Maynard not being with us anymore due to unforeseen circumstances, we have been left with few quick scoring batsman, so a star overseas batsman for the T20 is a necessity in my opinion.
You may have noticed I haven’t really discussed our bowling options. That’s because I believe our bowling line up is one of the strongest we have had for years. We have 3 high quality international seamers in Jade, Meaks and Tremlett, as well as the useful back up of Linley, Lewis and youngsters Edwards, Dunn and Jewell. In Gareth Batty and Gary Keedy we also have two of the most successful spin bowlers in the last decade of county cricket, and they will contemplate each other well.
So there it is, my look ahead to next season is complete. Overall, I think things are starting to look rosy for the next few years, as Adams has blended youth and experience well in the squad. However, additions are necessary to strengthen our batting line up and to make sure we put in a strong fight for all 3 competitions.