(Photo by Harry Trump / Getty Images)
By Richard Edwards
At the start of the domestic summer, Steve Rhodes told The Cricket Paper of his desire to ensure that Worcestershire took a homegrown route to success.
Now, as the county bask in their Division Two title success, it is an approach that appears to have paid off handsomely.
The winter was dominated by headlines of Kolpak signings by the likes of Hampshire. Rhodes, though, was determined to follow a very different path.
“Going up as champions made everything even sweeter,” says Rhodes. “It has been a long haul for us while the short-term vision is for counties to bring in players who have not come through your system and are not English.
“There are overseas players playing as local players. I get where people are coming with that approach because coaches, teams, members put the pressure on and want immediate success.
“Here, I think people understand what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to grow a team from English talent and that has always been really important to me.
“That has to be good, not just for us but also for English cricket.
“We’re giving English players the chance to impress and the chance to further their career. I’m not against overseas players; I think we’ve had a very good system over the years, the overseas allowance has really worked, but I personally think that too many teams have too many foreign players.
“I think counties need to look at what is good for English cricket because I think it’s a better long-term proposition for some of these sides.”
With a core of local talent, Worcestershire beat Nottinghamshire to the title to seal a memorable year for the county.
“We’ve dug the footings and we’ve started to lay some of the foundations but Division One can be a cut-throat business,” says Rhodes.
“You’ve only got eight teams and two go down so I don’t think anyone will be safe going into that first game. We won’t be changing our approach, though.”
Rhodes has a winter to prepare for the challenge of Division One cricket. If Worcestershire need an example to follow, they don’t need to look too far, with Essex winning the title the year after promotion from the second tier.
The parallels don’t end there, with Essex’s success again largely based on players who have come through the Chelmsford youth ranks.
And Rhodes sees no reason why Worcestershire can’t emulate their stunning achievements next season.
“Essex had a fantastic year, there’s no doubt about that,” he says. “Chris Silverwood and his staff at Essex have done an amazing job.
“There’s a good sign for us, in that someone at Essex said they didn’t think there was a massive difference between Division Two and Division One.
“That’s obviously good for us and we’ll attack next season in the same way that Essex did.
“They did well with their overseas recruitment and the two left-armers they had as well as Simon Harmer, the Kolpak, obviously helped the balance of their attack. It was a good tactic and it seemed to work.”