His career might have appeared over a few weeks ago but Matt Mason has secured his future by landing not only another year on his playing contract but a new job as Worcestershire’s bowling coach.
Mason, who has just returned to the first team after an injury-ravaged 18 months, will assume his new permanent position as coach from October 1.
The extension of his playing career looked impossible until as recently as the start of July. A run of matches in the second XI, however, and the opportunity granted by injuries and loss of form of other bowlers, resulted in him being recalled to the first team.
Though he has clearly lost a yard of his pace he remains economical and offers his captain control in the field. His 10 championship wickets at under 30 apiece represent a more than respectable return.
Perhaps his appointment as bowling coach is more interesting, however. At present Worcestershire have only two full-time coaches, Steve Rhodes and Damien D’Oliveira, and their decision to invest further in that direction marks a significant moment for the club.
It is highly likely that Ben Smith will follow suit within days. Smith, who is also out of contract at the end of the season, is expected to agree a role as player-coach shortly, and will effectively become the club’s specialist batting coach.
“Cricket is changing and this move reflects that,” Mark Newton, Worcestershire’s chief executive, said. “This winter you’ll see a move towards our players, particularly our young players, signing 12-month contracts, and there will be more opportunity to work on strength and conditioning and their skills during the winter. The coaching role will be subsidiary in the first year but Matt will work with our academy players, and our satellite academy players, from October 1.
“This deal should work for both parties. It follows the club policy of promoting people from within and we are happy if it helps Matt with his future career.
“It also provides us with value for money. Some coaching roles are not full time and [director of cricket] Steve Rhodes was keen not to have a situation where we bring someone in who is just sitting around not doing anything part of the time.
“We know we need to invest more and we know we need to look at the way we’re going. It’s interesting how all players want to win the championship and all spectators want to win a one-day competition. But we are very confident with where we are. We have made a number of approaches for players, young players, but we feel we have a number of very exciting young players coming through.”
Mason said: “I am both proud and very excited to be given the opportunity to play and coach at the club next year. Only three months ago I was wondering if I would ever play again so to be offered this combined role is more than I could ever have hoped for.
“As a player I believe I still have a lot to offer and since returning to the first team I feel I proved that. Coaching is something I am very passionate about and at Worcester I believe we have one of the strongest and most talented squads of fast bowlers in the country. The opportunity to work with the senior players and continue the development of the younger bowlers is one I am relishing.
“I would also just like to say a huge thank you to Steve Rhodes, Mark Newton and all my team-mates who have stood by me during a lengthy and very frustrating rehabilitation from injury. I am determined to repay them in my new role as player coach.”
Rhodes was full of praise for Mason’s skills, on and off the field, saying: “Matt has become an integral part of our squad since arriving in 2002. On the field he has had a tough 18 months but is now playing regularly with the first XI.
“Over the last two seasons he has been mentoring our younger players on an informal basis and it is clear he has natural ability in this area. We need to strengthen our coaching team so we want to develop this role in the years ahead. This appointment gives Matt some certainty for the future whilst he can concentrate on extending his playing career. I am delighted he has accepted the appointment.”
Meanwhile, the club are expecting a decision from Stephen Moore by the end of next week. Moore, another man who is out of contract in a few weeks, has attracted a huge amount of interest from other clubs and has prevaricated over his future for some time.
Worcestershire, however, are determined to remain patient. While keen to plan for the future, they are bending over backwards to give Moore the time to make his decision. Indeed, all talk of the ‘deadline’ Rhodes spoke about some weeks ago has been forgotten.
“We’re hoping to have a decision by the end of next week,” Newton said. “I’d not put a penny on it either way at the moment.
“We’re not going to hurry him. We’ve spent a long time talking to him and we’re not going to spoil things for the sake of a few more days. Besides, he’s earned the right to make the decision in his own time. Whatever happens, he will be selected for all games, in all competitions, regardless of anything else.”
The same appears to apply for Graeme Hick. “He really hasn’t decided [whether to continue as a player] yet,” Newton said, “but he has earned the right to do so in his own time. Whatever he decides, we will support him."