The first brick in the foundations of the new Warwickshire was laid yesterday with the appointment of Mark Greatbatch as director of coaching.
The 41-year-old New Zealander, who played in 41 Tests and 84 one-day internationals, has agreed a three-year deal and will oversee all aspects of cricket at Edgbaston.
His role is substantially expanded from that vacated by his predecessor, John Inverarity. Greatbatch will be ultimately responsible for the co-ordinated first-team, all the youth teams, the second XI and the academy squad. The relatively long-term appointment also reflects the club?s commitment to both the new man and the policy of developing talent from within.
There will be little time for the new man to ?play himself in.? Greatbatch meets the chairman of the club?s cricket committee, Tim Munton, today to discuss the appointment of a captain and the policy towards overseas players. He is understandably reluctant to commit himself at this stage but the language suggests there will be no abandonment of Nick Knight?s policy of developing players internally rather than buying-in support. A case of evolution not revolution; for now, anyway.
?The appointment of a captain and a look at the over-seas situation are the priority areas,? Greatbatch said. ?I?d expect the captain to be appointed fairly soon.
?I?m keen to assess the depth [of playing ability] across the board. I need to see where we?re strong and identify areas where we may need to develop players over the next three or four years.
?I?m aware that there has been really good player development here. Players had opportunities this year where otherwise they wouldn?t. I need to observe a lot before making changes; there is clearly a great deal at the club that is already very good indeed.?
Greatbatch may appear to have won swift promotion but his pedigree is impressive. As coach of Central Districts he won a one-day trophy in his two-year stint while he also coached the New Zealand Under-19 team. He moved to Giggleswick School in York-shire a year ago and took up the role in Warwickshire?s academy in July.
He also has experience of playing in this country. Apart from touring with New Zealand - for whom he scored a century on Test debut against England in 1988 - he also played league cricket in York-shire for several years and second XI cricket for Somerset in 1987. It is a wise appointment.
It comes only after a fearsomely tight tussle with Andy Moles. After the first round of interviews the four-man panel of Dennis Amiss, Munton, John Claughton and Jamie McDowall was split two each towards Greatbatch and Moles. The chairman, Munton, tried to claim a casting vote and appoint Moles but instead the panel added another member - club chairman Neil Houghton - and interviewed again. ?It?s been quite a week,? Great-batch says with a relieved smile. ?It was a good tussle and has been good for the nerves. I really am proud to be at a club with such a great history. I don?t really aspire to coaching an international team so this is my dream job.?
He denies there will be any awkwardness between him and Munton. ?He was part of a panel that selected me. I don?t have any problem with him,? Greatbatch says. ?In fact, I?m looking forward to working with him.?
Greatbatch was happy to describe the characteristics he was looking for in a captain; intriguingly showing consideration for the views of the club?s members in his response. It is an unusual but welcome comment.
?A captain needs to lead by example,? Greatbatch says. ?Nick Knight was great in that respect. They need experience - though that doesn?t necessarily mean they can?t be young - and they also need the respect of the club, the players and the members. We?ll be looking for the best and I do see those qualities inside the current squad.?
Other appointments must also be made. The club requires a second XI coach and a new academy director, though it is possible the roles could be combined.
?The second XI is important and may need some more resources,? Greatbatch says, no doubt mindful of the team?s place at the bottom of the table this summer. ?I want to create a strong culture in the seconds and instil the disciplines required to succeed in the first team. It may still be a jump in quality but not such a jump in terms of environment.?
Greatbatch has made a fine impression in the short time he has been at Edgbaston. He has immersed himself in all aspects of the role as Academy director, watching second XI cricket, Birmingham League matches and all county age-group teams down to under-13 level. His appetite for the role is unquestioned and was surely a factor in his appointment.
Greatbatch said: ?You can?t do everything, but I do want to get an overview of cricketcoaching at the club. I accept that I?ll be judged on successon the field, but I also see my role as integrating the whole club, bringing together the considerable knowledge that is already here.
"My initial impression of the squad is that they?re a pretty solid group of players and people. John Inverarity and everyone else clearly worked very hard and I see a squad that can compete and win trophies.?There are three qualities required to be successful.
"Firstly, you need to have some talent. Secondly, you need the character to use that talent and to show it when things get tough. And, thirdly, you need communication.
?Part of the reason why I came here was to work with John [Inverarity]. I?ve learnt a lot from talking to him. He?s already been in touch to congratulate me and we will continue to talk. Nick Knight is also still here and will remain a senior player with a huge amount of influence, so it?s not as if everything is suddenly going to change.?
Supporters will be further impressed by the coach?s obvious pride in his new position. Although Greatbatch says that part of the attraction of moving to the United Kingdom was further opportunity, he is no mercenary.
He has taken the time to study the history of the club and talks with some knowledge - and pride - about the ?great players and good people? who ?struggled in the early days to create this great club.?
?Sure, I came to England partly because there are greater opportunities but I also have a real fondness forthe country. I?d spent 19years with Central Districts as a player and coach and the time was right for new experiences. Life is an adventure. You live only once and the chance to coach at such agreat club is a real thrill.?