Perhaps one of the saddest consequences of the several years in which Warwickshire went first nowhere, then down, after their 2004 county championship triumph was the departure from Edgbaston of Mark Wagh.
Born and educated in Birmingham and in the Bears’ system from boyhood, Wagh was truly ‘home-grown’.
There are few cricketers, these days, who were born, bred and developed in the county which they represent in first-class cricket – and there became one fewer when, at the end of the 2006 season, Wagh joined Nottinghamshire.
The reasons for his departure? Well, the total lack of a working relationship with director of cricket Mark Greatbatch was a factor, as was a general disenchantment with the county club whose colours he had worn for so long.
But there was more to it than that, as Wagh explains in his impressively honest book, Mark Wagh – pavilion to crease...and back, which has just been published.
The book is essentially a diary of his 2008 season at Nottinghamshire. The diary-of-a-season format is pretty stale now and any new addition to the genre must overcome the sense of foreboding felt by any reader who has ploughed through some of its unforgivably banal predecessors.
But Wagh’s work is worth picking up and sticking with. For that honesty – and, for Warwickshire supporters, for some frank reflections of his time at and departure from Edgbaston.
“I was always a little frustrated that Warwickshire wasn’t the best club in the country,” he reveals. “It had the financial clout, fantastic facilities, ambition and a central location in a big city. It should have attracted and kept any player it wanted.
“But it seemed that it always fudged issues, trying to resolve things while keeping everyone happy and never confronting them head-on. This wasn’t helped by myriad people having a say – committee, officials and management. With so many agendas it became a political monstrosity with personal conflict, rumour-mongering, territorial disputes and back-stabbing.
“There was also an air of hubris, the club assuming that it was the choice destination, only to discover in fact in wasn’t. Any success the club enjoyed was despite rather than because of its best efforts.”
Few people – only, probably, those who were responsible for the situation – would argue with that. Unfortunately for Wagh, his emergence into adulthood at Edgbaston coincided with fractious times there.
He was establishing himself just as MJK Smith and Bob Woolmer were at war. Then, later on, came Greatbatch who seemed to regard the entire world, with the possible exceptions of his wife and children, as his enemy.
So late in 2006 Wagh, handed an attractive option, departed and who could blame him? Nottinghamshire is a fine, famous club and Trent Bridge a handsome place to play cricket. The irony was that not too long after Wagh quit the Bears, the decision-making progress responsible for all that fudge was streamlined. Instead of the surly Greatbatch, in came the talented and amicable Ashley Giles to take charge.
But factors beyond mere cricket drove Wagh’s exit to the east Midlands. He refers, in his book, to a “perfect storm of personal factors”, including a split from his fiancée, which left him considering quitting cricket altogether. If ever a chap needed a fresh start simply for its freshness, it was Wagh.
If you could put Wagh, confident and in form, into the Bears’ top order now it would look strong indeed. But it was not to be. His business with the Bears was finished and he owed it to himself to make as much as he could of his rich batting skills. To move was totally the right thing.
So Warwickshire lost a talent as substantial as it is fragile, a talent vulnerable, most of all to excoriating self-analysis.
All cricketers succumb to anxiety and insecurity to some degree when they are out of form. Wagh is not free from such factors, even when right in the groove. I remember once interviewing him at a time when he was in great nick and being mentioned in England terms. He was flowing sweetly, he admitted. But would it last? How could he make it last?
A complex character is Mark Anant Wagh. An interesting and endearing character and one, hopefully, with plenty of productive seasons ahead for Nottinghamshire. Then, possibly, a career in journalism beckons. Mark Wagh – pavilion to crease...and back suggests so.