Worcestershire have lost the race to sign New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond. Bond informed the club yesterday that he would definitely not be joining them for the 2008 season and looks likely to sign for Hampshire instead.
Worcestershire had hoped that Bond would be available for the entire season but are now looking at signing two or three overseas players on shorter-term contracts.
The club's director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, last night reassured supporters that the team would start the season with an overseas bowler and reiterated his antipathy towards Kolpak registrations.
"I am disappointed," Rhodes said. "We all know what a wonderful fast bowler he [Bond] is and I think he would have fitted in well with our rotation policy. It could well be that we have more than one overseas player this year. We've a few people in the pipeline and we could break down [their contracts] those into little slots.
"With the amount of international cricket being played and the Indian Premier League it is hard to get someone for the whole season. We've been close to signing three now [Umar Gul, Bond and Ashley Noffke].
"But we will definitely start the season with one. I don't want to put too much pressure on Simon Jones or Matt Mason, who will both need to have the amount of cricket they play managed, and if you look at the balance of the side we still need to bring in a fast bowler.
"I don't like Kolpaks. They are generally used when the director of cricket is worried about his job so, if I sign six, you'll know why! They always seem to be used as a short-term fix."
Rhodes did admit that he had spoken to Shaun Pollock who is still available for Twenty20 cricket but said that any South African would be signed as an overseas player; not a Kolpak registration. "I'm not saying we'll never use Kolpaks but I'd much rather we developed young players who can play for England."
Meanwhile, Rhodes stated that Daryl Mitchell would open the batting in Worcestershire's Championship side this season, with Moeen Ali only sure to start in the limited-overs side.
The news on Bond was the only bleak moment in a surprisingly upbeat annual meeting in Worcester last night. Despite floods costing the club more than £1million in 2007, a succession of speakers underlined their commitment to staying at New Road. Chief executive Mark Newton received a spontaneous round of applause in recognition of his handling of the crisis.
"It was a difficult year," club president Peter Seward said. "But we can be very proud of our chief executive and all his staff and very grateful for their superb work. The 'Dunkirk Spirit' was very much in evidence."
The club's chairman, 'Percy' Price, continued in similar vein. Dismissing the suggestion of Worcestershire finding a new ground, he stated: "Mrs Thatcher once said that the lady was not for turning. Well, as your chairman, I can unequivocally say that we're not for moving."
The club have made some contingency plans should floods return, however. Worcestershire and Kidderminster Cricket Club are close to signing an agreement that would mean first-class cricket could be transferred to Chester Road at only 48 hours notice, if necessary.
Meanwhile, the club appear to be making large strides towards financial recovery. A total of 101 supporters have donated £1,000 each to the 'flood club' appeal while insurance pay-outs totalling £370,000 have further reduced the deficit. Advantage West Midlands have granted an undisclosed sum while an interest-free loan from the England and Wales Cricket Board and the ability to defer tax payments without penalty have also given the club some breathing space.