23rd May, 2019

Abrupt end shouldn’t mask Bumpy’s patient legacy

Rob George 23rd Dec, 2017

STEVE Rhodes 33 year association with Worcestershire CCC came to an end with a 30 word statement on the club’s website on Thursday.

Observer sports editor Rob George looks back on the influence of ‘Bumpy’ the cricketer and coach and his New Road legacy.

“I’m doing this job because I passionately want this club to be successful and in this modern day and age when there is such big differences in finance between one club and another the only way we can do that is to develop and grow our best young talent.”

The words of Steve Rhodes to the Observer in an interview in August 2015 to mark the proud Yorkshireman reaching a decade in the hot seat as director of cricket.

In many ways its a statement which sums up his time at the helm as he oversaw the transition from older and, in some cases, more expensive players to young, home-grown talent.

The likes of Vikram Solanki, Gareth Batty, Simon Jones, Graeme Hick and Steven Davies were replaced with younger talent while approaches for the talents of Stephen Moore and Kabir Ali weren’t rebuffed.

Younger talents like Daryl Mitchell, Jack Shantry, Joe Leach, Ben Cox and most recently Brett D’Oliveira, Joe Clarke and Josh Tongue were entrusted with taking the Pears forward.

Indeed, 10 of the 11 on the field when Worcestershire secured promotion in September were products of the club’s academy, with Indian all-rounder Ravi Ashwin the notable exception.

Rhodes married young talent with hungry overseas stars and while there were a few bad calls, a number of test stars have pulled on the Pears jersey in recent years.

The desire for hungry, overseas stars who wanted to make a contribution stemmed from Rhodes own playing career.

Leaving his native Yorkshire in 1984 to emerge from the shadows of the late David Bairstow, Rhodes arrived at New Road where he remained until his departure last week.

A playing career behind the stumps saw Rhodes part of the golden generation which saw two County Championship titles and promotion from Division Two of the championship as champions in 2003.

A Benson and Hedges Cup triumph in 1991 over Lancashire was topped in 1994 when Worcestershire denied their local rivals Warwickshire a clean sweep of cricket’s domestic honours with victory in the Natwest Trophy final.

The mid 90s also saw Rhodes picked by his country for the first of 11 test matches when then chairman of selectors Ray Illingworth declared his wish for an all-rounder to bat at six with a wicketkeeper at seven.

Despite a prolific summer behind the stumps, Rhodes lack of contribution with the bat was to be his downfall and following he 1994/95 Ashes tour he was dropped, never to play for England again.

Typically Rhodes picked himself up and continued his career and briefly became captain of the Pears when Ben Smith resigned in 2004 during a game with Northamptonshire.

Retirement at the end of the campaign saw him appointed assistant coach under Tom Moody, a role he took on midway though 2005 when the Australian left to coach Sri Lanka.

Promotion and relegation would befall the Pears as Rhodes searched for the formula to keep the New Road side in English cricket’s top tier.

A solitary Pro 40 triumph in 2007 and numerous close shaves in white ball cricket meant no further trophies but plenty of entertainment for the New Road faithful.

For me his legacy will be the faith shown in young English players to go out and express themselves, perhaps shown by the promotion of the likes of Joe Clarke and Josh Tongue to the England Lions squad.

His work was recognised by many counties who now are following the Worcestershire model in an increasingly cash-strapped game.

He was also recognised by ECB coaching supremo Andy Flower who was a regular visitor to New Road and ensured Rhodes was offered a number of international assaignments.

An assistant coach on England’s tour of Bangladesh late last year, Rhodes was due to lead the England Under 19s at the World Cup in March.

When news of his suspension broke, the ECB were quick to confirm he would no longer be undertaking the role.

There is a bitter irony Rhodes’ tenure has come to an end allegedly because of his desire to protect a young player.

A lot has been written about his supposed actions but the one man who will feel the consequences the most is Rhodes himself.

While he was always blunt, straight-talking and sometimes dour, Rhodes had Worcestershire cricket in his DNA.

In an era where most coaches departures are decided by others, this exit looks completely self-inflicted.

A sad end to three decades of devotion.

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