Warwickshire face Sussex in their first LV County Championship game of the year on Sunday, and GiveMeSport caught up with Bears’ bowling coach Alan Richardson to look ahead to the new season.
The coming season will be Richardson’s first as a coach, having retired from playing over the New Year. However, his time with Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire has left him well positioned to make the tricky transition into coaching.
“It has been full of new challenges and has been a steep learning curve," explains Richardson.
Coaching may have posed all sorts of new challenges, but Richardson feels he is “fitting in well…although if you ask the lads they might have a different opinion!”
Despite this being Richardson’s first coaching role, he appears to have settled into a career watching from the pavilion remarkably quickly, helped along the way by advice from former team-mate Graeme Welch, the man he has replaced as bowling coach at Edgbaston.
Welch, who left Warwickshire to become Derbyshire’s new elite cricket performance director, has been “really helpful”, having also previously enjoyed success coaching Essex’s bowlers.
Making Richardson’s new job even easier is the wealth of talent within Warwickshire’s squad, something which he also pays credit to Welch for.
“I have been lucky to have inherited a bowling group full of quality, and to be honest I have been learning plenty from them," he says.
Warwickshire have received a further boost in the presence of England stars Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, who will be with them for at least the first month of the County Championship.
Trott made his long-awaited return to the game in Warwickshire’s warm-up match against Gloucestershire after leaving England’s ill-fated Ashes tour just one Test in. While Trott’s luck may not have changed just yet – he was out for eight off 22 balls on his comeback – Richardson has hailed his and Bell’s influence in the dressing room.
“Having both Belly and Trotty available is a huge positive.”
Regardless of their performances, their attendance at training has no doubt helped the Bears enormously in their pre-season preparations.
“They are world class performers," Richardson goes on. “Any team in the country will be looking on enviously at our middle order with them in the side.”
One notable absentee, however, is captain Jim Troughton. Warwickshire’s plans for the new season were dealt a hefty blow by the news that he will be out with a back injury for at least the first three County Championship matches, including big matches away to Nottinghamshire and Lancashire.
Nonetheless, Richardson has moved to reassure fans that Troughton should recover on schedule, and is working hard to return to action “as soon as possible”.
“He has been in and around the changing room at all our games…which shows how committed he is in his role as Club Captain.”
Varun Chopra, who stood in last season, looks set to continue as a more than capable back-up, and Richardson has hailed the “incredibly strong” group of senior players who lead the team in Troughton’s absence.
Richardson also had kind words for the team he left behind in becoming a coach, Worcestershire. The former seamer enjoyed some of his best days in county cricket at New Road in the latter part of his career, taking 254 wickets in 60 first class matches.
He is confident, too, that the current crop of players, whom he describes as “young, hard-working and enthusiastic”, have a good chance of improving on last season’s mid-table finish.
Consistency will be the key for the Royals, and Richardson believes Moeen Ali and Saeed Ajmal can prove to be “real matchwinners” in their Division Two campaign.
Daryl Mitchell, Jack Shantry and Gareth Andrew also earned a special mention from their old team-mate, who maintains Worcestershire can push for a top-two finish.
Under Richardson’s guidance, Warwickshire’s bowlers will certainly put in a spirited effort to contend the Division One title. At any rate, for both Worcestershire and Warwickshire, the new season is shaping up to be one of the most memorable yet.
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