Warwickshire have announced the release of five players.
Michael Powell, Luke Parker, Lee Daggett, Stuart Hole and Nick James have all been informed that they will not be offered new contracts. All were told in appraisals with the county’s director of cricket, Ashley Giles, over the last couple of days.
Daggett, at least, has a good chance of finding another county. The 25-year-old is currently in talks with Leicestershire and could move to the club for the rest of the season on trial.
His departure from Edgbaston will cause sadness, however. Daggett’s joy and enthusiasm for his cricket is an immensely likeable characteristic and there were days, such as the match-winning six for 30 against Durham in 2006, where he looked every inch the fine county seamer he may yet become.
Though blessed with neither great height or great pace there were times even this season, notably in the championship win at Wantage Road, were he looked a fine bowler and it would be no surprise if he went on to better things.
Parker, too, can feel somewhat unfortunate. When he made his first-class debut for the club as a 21-year-old, in 2005, he impressed straight away and was talked about as a future captain. In 2006 he scored 73 in the Championship against Nottinghamshire and recorded a maiden century for Oxford UCCE against Durham.
Somewhere in the chaos of the Mark Greatbatch years, however, Parker lost his way. Though the runs continued to flow in the seconds (he made 195 against Surrey earlier this season), the 24-year-old struggled in his first-team outings and was not surprised by the news of his release.
James felt he was not given a fair opportunity. Certainly he did not suffer from over-bowling in the seconds (he has barely delivered 30 overs in the second XI Championship this year), while he has made two centuries in the last four SEC games.
Maybe his status as an all-rounder did not help. While he is a pleasing striker of the ball, enjoyed some success with his left-arm spin (one for 23 in ten tight overs against Worcestershire on his List A debut for the club in 2006) and even kept wicket as a substitute for the first team on one occasion (at Fenner’s), he could never claim to be outstanding in any single role. He is only 21, however, and may find opportunity and fulfilment elsewhere.
Injury has done Hole no favours. The 23-year-old swing bowler only made his first-class debut a year ago and impressed this season with four for 36 in a SEC game against Surrey. Fitness problems have seen others jump above him in the pecking order, however, and though he has never let any side down, his bowling lacked the devil to bother the best. In years to come, however, he may have an interesting anecdote to tell about his one Championship game: the debacle of Scarborough.
And then there’s Powell. A more whole-hearted, honest and determined cricketer it would be hard to find. As captain, opening batsman and all-round utility player, he has served Warwickshire with distinction and leaves with his head held high. He would be the first to admit the runs have dried up to an alarming extent this season and though the heart may have pleaded for leniency towards him, the head demanded otherwise.
Besides, he has enjoyed a fine career. Few men captain their county to victory in a final at Lord’s (the B&H Cup in 2002), captain England at age group level (U18), represent England A in the Caribbean and play with cricketers as supreme as Brian Lara and Allan Donald. He won a championship winners’ medal in 2004 and, surely more importantly in the grand scheme of things, an army of friends.
It is, remember, his benefit season and, aged just 33, and could yet go on to serve another county with the same dedication and defiance that saw him save Warwickshire from defeat as recently as Saturday.
“It’s not been easy,” Giles said of the process of imparting the sad news to the five young men. “It was my first time doing it and it was very difficult. In my day you just got a tap on the shoulder one day and that was it. Fortunately it never happened to me.
"They all knew it was possible. I think ‘Parks’ [Luke Parker] saw it coming. He’s a great lad, Warwickshire through and through, and wants to play until the end of the season.
“So does Nick James. He was a bit disappointed and wants to play as well to put himself in the shop window. We’ll go along with whatever they want in that respect.
“I think ‘Powelly’ saw it coming in some respects. It was a tough call, but he has had a lot of opportunities. We’ve played together through our whole careers and he’s been given some time off to think about what he does next. We’re pretty maxed out in terms of coaching positions at the moment, but I wouldn’t rule him out for that sort of role in years to come. There’s nothing full time at the moment, though.
“We’ll still have a large staff but we do need to look to the future.
Ahh, the future. Bad news for five will bring better news for others and it appears likely the club will offer terms to Steff Piolet, who has enjoyed an extended trial in the seconds. Keith Barker, who has the potential to be “an all-rounder in the Neil Carter mould” in Giles’ words, is also expected to sign the contract he has been mulling over for some weeks.
Graham Onions will not be coming, however. As suggested last week, Onions has re-signed for Durham, though the club remain hopeful they may yet lure Dawid Malan from Middlesex.
Ed Joyce has also been in contact with Warwickshire, though only to inform them he will make a decision on his future by the end of this month. The club are not wildly optimistic.
In the short term, Tim Ambrose is also expected to be available after the final Test match against South Africa while Warwickshire are keen to retain Tony Frost as cover for next year. He is, understandably, concerned about missing out on opportunities in his new career as a groundsman but will be reassured by the club that he will be retained.
The club also remain keen to find new seam bowlers. There is a possibility that some may become available in the next few weeks as their counties release them early from contracts.