After six England players were picked up by Indian Premier League franchises in the recent IPL auction, Warwickshire sports director Ashley Giles believes it shows that English white ball cricket is on the right course.
Ben Stokes grabbed the headlines when bought by Rising Pune Supergiants for £1.7million. He was joined by Tymal Mills, Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Chris Jordan and Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes to assemble a strong English contingent in the 2017 competition. Former England spinner Giles thinks it’s a great compliment for the English game.
“It’s great experience for them and is ultimately good for England,” Giles said. “Let’s not kid ourselves as well, it’s financially hugely rewarding for some of them. They have to take their opportunity as it doesn’t come around very often and you can understand why they would do it.
“The pleasing thing for me is that our boys are getting picked up now around the world. For a while they weren’t, but now they are becoming very high profile players in Twenty20 competitions. That must mean we are playing some better white ball cricket.”
Giles, who hung up his boots a decade ago, played only two Twenty20 matches in his career. With the shortest format dominant on the world schedule nowadays, does he wish he was a few years younger and could experience tournaments like the IPL first hand?
“I think I could still manage four overs now to be honest,” he joked. “Everything changes. I’d have loved to play the format more. I was happy with my lot, I enjoyed my career and I just missed that era.”
Giles returned to Warwickshire after two seasons as head coach at Lancashire. A little over three months into his new role he is preparing to embark on a pre-season tour, which will see his Birmingham Bears side take part in the annual Emirates T20 tournament in Dubai on 23 and 24 March. In a quirk of fate the Bears will play Lancashire Lightning in the tournament’s opening game.
“It’ll be great,” Giles said. “There’s no problem with me with Lancashire and I really enjoyed my two years there. Certainly winning the T20 at Edgbaston with Lancashire was one of the best days of my career so I’ve got fond memories of the guys, but both sides will want to win. There are always good contests between Lancashire and Warwickshire and I guess my situation just adds a little bit more spice, but it’s the chance for us to really start honing our skills for the summer.
“I wish the Lancashire players well,” Giles added. “Some of them I brought into the team and I hope they do really well, but obviously not when they play Warwickshire.”
Bears captain Ian Bell, has spent much of the winter playing Twenty20 cricket around the globe. It’s something Giles welcomes and thinks will stand his team in good stead for the Emirates T20 and the season beyond.
“It’s great for us. Playing in that winning team with Perth will have given him a lot of insight, knowledge and experience and it’s great for him. I’m not saying he’s old, but at his age to have those opportunities to play on that Twenty20 circuit is great and it hasn’t interfered in his preparations for playing for us either, so as our captain gaining more experience in that format can only be good for our team as well.
“We perhaps took some criticism last year for having an aging squad, but with that comes a lot of quality and we are lucky to have Bell and Jonathan Trott, who are England’s best players over the last decade. That really adds to our team and we’ve got some exciting youngsters, but we need to always get that balance right between playing our best team and giving some of the young guys opportunities.
“Certainly in the Emirates T20 we will give some of those guys as we’ll be without our overseas players that we will be recruiting for the NatWest T20 Blast, Will Porterfield and Boyd Rankin won’t be there either, so there will be a chance for the young guys to come in and show us what they can do.”
The Emirates T20 sees Warwickshire and Lancashire do battle with Durham, an MCC World XI, new Pakistan Super League champions Peshawar Zalmi and their compatriots Lahore Qalandars. The international mix is another step up in profile for the ninth edition of the tournament to be held at the ICC Cricket Academy in Dubai.
“It is different this year,” Giles admitted. “I’ve been in the Emirates T20 over the last couple of years with Lancashire. The growth is great for the competition and the overseas teams bring a whole different profile to it and it’s also on the TV this year. It’s a great place to go, great facilities, we’re always made to feel incredibly welcome and the atmosphere will be good.
“And with a number of other English counties in the area you’re able to get some really good competition, so all-in-all it’s a great pre-season destination. Our lads are very lucky and privileged to go to such a place and spend a couple of weeks training there. We look forward to it and particularly the Emirates T20 games because it raises that competitive edge that we are going to need when we get home.
“We look forward to pre-season full stop and if we can win the Emirates T20 it will be the cherry on the top. The most important thing for me is that we get in some really good practice,” he continued. “It can be a tricky balance because you don’t reach that intensity you want for the start of the season without doing it in practice, but as a coach you are always holding your breathe a little bit when guys going diving round the boundary. You just want your guys to come through it and to get to start the summer fit, healthy and confident.”
Giles describes returning to Edgbaston as “a little bit like coming home as this club has been a huge part of my life for the last 20 years”. He is quick to stress however that is meant as no slight on Lancashire “because for the two years I spent at Old Trafford I was extremely well looked after by a great bunch of people.”
Giles’ new remit at Edgbaston sees him combine first team duties with a working brief over the second team, women’s cricket and the club’s Pathways to Excellence Scheme. Although a role he is excited by, it presents a new challenge.
“It’s different for me this year as I’ve always spent pretty much every day of the season with the first team and been on the ground all the time as head coach,” he said. “This season I will be there a fair bit to support Jim Troughton as head coach, but it will be weird for me walking away from the first team and letting them get on with it and I think that will be tricky for me.
“You could probably call it a little bit of separation anxiety,” he admitted, “but it’s important and it will probably only be the first couple of times and then I’ll start to get used to it. I would hope my experience can help Troughts, but at the same time he needs to be given the freedom to be able to stand on his own two feet, which he’s more than capable of.”
Giles will be watching first hand the progress of youngsters down to the Under-15 age group and is hopeful that will bear dividends as Warwickshire build for the future.
“That’s one of the big bonuses of this new role, I can go and look first hand and pick up on things I might not otherwise see,” he confirmed. “I will have some very good coaches who can tell me what players are like, but if I can go and see these players and they can see me there it should be an incentive for them to try and impress. If they respond then it makes our jobs easier going forward because succession planning is really important to us and particularly from within. It will also enable me to go round the country a little bit and watch opposition teams sometimes to see what they are doing. And women’s cricket is very important to us. So I hope I can spread my experience.”
Giles is reluctant to publicly set targets and goals for the 2017 season, but has been pleased with what he has seen so far in his return as a Bear.
“We will try and compete across all three trophies,” he said. “It’s about building up that intensity and quality now so we have everyone fit when we are on the start line, have a full squad to pick from and maintain that through the summer. If we do that, I think we have a squad that covers a lot of bases, has a lot of quality and a lot of experience.
“Then it’s about getting the environment and culture right so that it is really challenging for these guys, but supportive and fun as well. They should be enjoying their cricket as it’s a great thing to be doing and Edgbaston is a great place to be playing at. If we get it right we will be a force to be reckoned with.”
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