Warwickshire won the county championship division one title in 2012 in brilliant fashion. They will be very cautious not to fall into the trap of previous champions Lancashire, who were relegated as defending champions.
It is not as clear cut as the football league say, which has consistent and regular winners year on year. No one team dominates. Since 2007, five different counties have won the division one title ; Warwickshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Durham twice and Sussex, so it is clear it’s hard to follow up a win with a second.
New Warwickshire coach Dougie Brown coach has recognised, before he was appointed as coach, that with winning the title comes a certain status and reputation. he told ecb.co.uk that:
“I don’t for a one minute think that Lancashire were complacent. They were the Champion County, the ones everyone wanted to beat and we need to be very wary that it’s going to be the case with us.”
Brown has been made new coach of Warwickshire, after former coach Ashley Giles has been made the England limited-overs coach. It is a disruptive change, but a forced one. Unfortunately for Warwickshire, so far it is the only real change.
The Bears coach recognised that Warwickshire need to improve and build on the success of 2012 but they could actually be at risk of losing a number of key players without having built on their side.
Although they have secured Jeetan Patel as their overseas player, who took 51 vital wickets in 13 matches, a New Zealand call up will be likely with Daniel Vettori perpetually injured. Chris Woakes seems to be on the cusp of the England ODI side, and could certainly make the Champions trophy squad, not to mention due to the sheer amount of cricket England play this summer, Woakes could find himself with an England cap in any format. So, again, Warwickshire could suffer from losing 2 key players.
They will certainly have limited access to their England stars Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell.
Other stars of last year, Varun Chopra, Chris Wright and Rikki Clarke all remain, hopefully, but there is a risk of falling behind and ‘doing a Lancashire’, if the squad is not sufficiently improved further from last year. So far nothing has been changed.
In the last 6 years, the winning division 1 championship side did not contain the leading run scorer and only twice the leading wicket taker (in 2009 and 2007). This outlines the neccesity of a balanced side, and a team performance.
Last year Warwickshire’s allrounders, Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes, exemplified just this: Rikki Clarke scored 3 hundreds (joint top in the club for 2012 with Varun Chopra) and amassed 826 runs overall, in addition to 20 wickets. Fellow allrounder Woakes averaged 71.83 with the bat, with 2 hundreds, in addition to 27 wickets in 8 games, again a strong all-round display by junior and senior.
Warwickshire’s frontline bowlers were also exceptional with Chris Wright (62 wickets at 24.06) but interestingly with only 2 five wicket halls, highlighting the fact it was competitive. Keith Barker also took 56 wickets at an average just under 21, both of whom were supplemented by Woakes, Patel and Clarke.
Next year Warwickshire should benefit from Boyd Rankin who returns following a year of turbulent injury. He is exclusively a Warwickshire player now as he has quit Ireland duty.
It is clear that once more Warwickshire will need a well rounded and strong side with lot’s of options.
However, their major rivals have all improved their squads. They all want to beat the champions.
Yorkshire for example have brought in seamer Jack Brookes and Liam Plunkett, Nottinghamshire claimed England seamer Ajmal Shahzad and Aussie opener Ed Cowan, Somerset have secured Alviro Petersen and Abdur Rehman, Sussex Rory Hamilton Brown and Chris Jordan, and Surrey even audaciously captured South Africa captain Graeme Smith in addition to Vikram Solanki.
There are still months ahead of the county championship to change this, but it is noticeable that competitors to the title are already planning the demise of the new champions.
As has been shown, it is not hugely common for one team to win two championships in a row, and Warwickshire are facing strong competition as their main rivals are already building up new improved squads. Although last year Warwickshire won, they need to step up further. They need to add and improve. Not just maintain what they have.
Dougie Brown says they will learn from Lancashire, but so far, not much has been shown to prove that. Few changes are taking place.
The coming months will be crucial.
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