Carry on Sarge

If you are one of those who believes Somerset's recent travails lie at the door of the Director of Cricket I hope to persuade you otherwise. If you are one of those who cannot be so persuaded I suggest you "look away now"

There are very few occasions where I can honestly say that I was right with the benefit of hindsight but in the last few years my view, regularly shared with Arsenal supporting friends in the latter years of Arsene Wenger’s time at Highbury / The Emirates when they wanted rid of their manager, that they should be careful what they wish for is one of those.

I feel the same about the (I believe) small but vocal number of Somerset supporters who, at every opportunity – or at least what they turn into an opportunity – dive in the blame our Director of Cricket. 

In a world inhabited by some Andy Hurry seems to be responsible for all that is wrong in and around The County Ground. No doubt he should have made sure the Gimblett’s Hill scoreboard didn’t pack up on Tuesday morning. The roadworks at Creech Castle are probably his fault too! 

There can be few counties who are blessed with someone at the head of the playing side of their club who has such a length of service or breadth and depth of experience. Hurry joined 

Somerset in 2001 as a fitness instructor, a role perfectly suited to this ex-marine and has worked his way up through couching roles to his current supremo role. He had a one year break in 2005 when he went to the UAE and a second when he worked with the ECB from 2014-17. On each occasion he has returned to the county he loves.

It is no coincidence that Hurry’s tenure has coincided with the most consistently successful period in the club’s history and yet it seems that for some that counts for nothing. 

I freely admit that I criticised the senior management for not fronting up at Scarborough when Tom Abell gave that heart-rending post-match interview at Scarborough. I felt Andy Hurry should have been there alongside or in addition to the skipper, an idea I have subsequently amended following a conversation with Anthony Gibson on the Somerset Podcast last week.

I also heard from a reliable source within the club that he believed that TA wanted to do that interview without any support.

On both counts I am happy to defer to those with greater insight and apologise to Messrs Hurry and Kerr. 

On Tuesday the press asked to speak to the Director of Cricket after the game finished before lunch on Day 3. I was lucky enough to witness that interview first hand and can report that from the moment he appeared, before the cameras started rolling and the questions were fired, you could tell Sarge was hurting.

This is a man who served in the Royal Marines with distinction, someone who is as tough as they come and has I am sure witnessed far tougher situations than the loss of a couple of (albeit some pretty important) cricket games and some questions from the cricket media. But you could tell it was hurting the DoC as much as it was hurting myself and many many Somerset supporters.

For those who weren’t there and don’t believe me I’ll tell you that it wasn’t just little old me who got that impression. Without exception the consensus of the press corps was the same. Hurry was careful, of course, with his choice of words. But for those of you bored with the usual coach platitudes and same-old phrases this was different. Every word was said with passion and emotion and for me looking into Hurry’s eyes those feelings were very real.

On the drive home on Tuesday afternoon, listening to the BBC coverage of the Hampshire / Nottinghamshire, Kevin Howells played the interview in full, describing it as remarkable while praising Hurry for his emotion and passion.

Let’s be clear I’m not stupid enough to think a few words and signs of emotion are sufficient to turn things round. There must be issues within the “group” that aren’t great at the moment, a state of affairs that extends beyond a group that have failed to get close to winning in the last three weeks but those of us on the outside can only speculate as to either what these are or how serious.

All great teams have periods like this, that is the nature of sport. All great clubs rally round and support at times like this relying on great leaders to put things right. This may not be a great team but it is a very good one, witness the reaction by the wider cricket community who are both pleased that the side that has been the most consistent in the long format and many people’s favourites to win it this year. 

This is though a great club. The envy of many supporters of other counties. A county with a history of loyal support, tradition and passion. And great clubs don’t react to adversity with a jerk of the knee. If you long for Somerset to spend years in the doldrums or worse become a county like some I could mention permanently inhabiting the nether regions of all competitions and seeing their promising talent leave with alarming regularity then go ahead and fire away. 

If you apportion the blame for every instance of poor shot selection, dropped catch or wayward over to the coach or director of cricket you are on a slippery slope. Cricket is one of the games where the mind can do funny things, even to someone as experienced as James Hildreth, disrupting the environment the players inhabit is not the solution as it just adds to the uncertainty.

Yes, it is disappointing that Somerset will, yet again, not win the County Championship this year. We will have to wait at least one more, but that’s OK, I’ve been doing so every year since 1970 so one more isn’t that much in the scheme of things.  

But I know one thing, the chances of Somerset reaching the summit next year will be greatly enhanced with Andy Hurry as Director of Cricket.