Alex Gidman: It's vital we keep long-term deals for young stars
Alex Gidman column:
I CANNOT over-emphasise the importance to Gloucestershire cricket of securing the services of our best young players on long-term contracts. This week, we took another significant step in the right direction by persuading batsman Benny Howell and seam bowler Graeme McCarter to commit their future to the club.
Graeme came through our academy system, is a player of rich potential and has committed to a new two-year deal, which will keep him at Nevil Road until at least the end of the 2014 season.
Benny, who joined us on trial at the start of the summer, has been offered a two-year deal and is set to sign any day now.
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Of course, the danger for a club in Gloucestershire's position is that our youngsters do well, attract interest from rival counties and are tempted away by the offer of bigger wages.
We have to guard against that by creating a positive environment and building a winning team that the guys want to be a part of for a long time to come.
Whether we can do well enough to keep the guys at the club is pretty much the million dollar question for us right now.
Leicestershire are the most obvious example of a club that have lost out to wealthy neighbours. They have lost Stuart Broad and James Taylor to Nottinghamshire and we have to make sure the same thing does not happen to us in the future.
Hopefully, we will move in the right direction and that will not be the case. Redeveloping the County Ground is going to be a part of that, but creating a winning culture on the pitch is of paramount importance.
I am delighted to say that, at the halfway stage of the season, we are proving competitive in all forms of the game. Progress is being made and, hopefully, we can continue to move forward in the next couple of years.
One of our goals at the start of the campaign was to improve in white-ball cricket and we have certainly achieved that. Because we have had such a tough couple of years in Twenty20 cricket and been outplayed on quite a few occasions, last Friday's nine-wicket win over Somerset at Taunton was especially pleasing.
It was a good performance and no one can say we were lucky in any way. We made it happen for ourselves.
We came up with a game-plan that we felt would make life difficult for the opposition and the guys executed it really well.
I thought we bowled really well at the top and set the tone for the rest of the game. It is important to take wickets during the powerplay, because that always puts the opposition under pressure.
Fortunately, we made it hard for their batsmen to play their shots and took early wickets, after which our spinners turned the screw during the middle overs.
That has been a feature of our two wins in the competition. On both occasions, we have made early in-roads into the top order and then put the middle order under pressure.
In Muttiah Muralitharan and Ed Young, we have two spinners who can make life extremely difficult once the opposition are under the cosh.
We all know Murali is a class act, but Ed is also exceptional when it comes to the white-ball game. They created pressure and that led to chances to take wickets and their eight-over spell of 3-38 proved pivotal.
Unfortunately, we have not always given them the opportunity to make an impact – either we have batted first and not posted a big enough score, or we have failed to take wickets up top and the batsmen have been able to take risks against us.
All in all, our performance in the field was excellent against that level of opposition and on a ground like Taunton, which is traditionally a high-scoring venue.
We followed that up with a pretty decent batting performance and I was delighted to see Benny play his part in a match-winning opening stand of 115 with Hamish Marshall. We already knew he is a very talented cricketer and his unbeaten half-century the other night proved it beyond doubt.
I'm amazed he was not given more opportunity elsewhere. I'm glad his contract has almost been sorted out and I hope he becomes a part of our squad for a long time.
We know have a top three of Chris Dent, Dan Housego and Benny that looks as though it could be the long-term future of the club.
Interview: Andy Stockhausen