(Note to people from The Sun: we are available to do headlines for a very reasonable gin-based fee)
Here at 51allout we love Ian Salisbury. Everything about him is funny; from the fact that he wasn’t actually very good at bowling to the fact no-one seemed to notice, via his cheerful face. There’s a reason he was the very first Unlikely Lad way back in 2011, before we got obsessed with former England seamers who look like the Honey Monster.
Unfortunately the Salisbury story took a sad turn this week as he was fired by Surrey, along with Chris Adams, following a disappointing series of results dating back to the start of the season. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but anyone could have seen that a policy of signing the oldest players in the world wouldn’t lead the side towards glorious victory after glorious victory. Instead the season has been one damp squib after another, with no County Championship wins and just two in the Pro40 (and one of those was against Scotland, so shouldn’t really count).
We tend to avoid grown up things (such as committed relationships or paying back our student loans) but even we can’t fail to notice that things have been a bit difficult at Surrey over the last year or so. The fallout from the death of Tom Maynard, complete with lurid stories of partying beyond our traditional 9pm bedtime, led to the departure of captain Rory Hamilton-Brown and a need for something of a rethink in terms of direction.
There’s no doubt that the signing of Graeme Smith as captain was a sensible and ambitious response (albeit at a high price). Unfortunately it just hasn’t worked out – 120 runs in five County Championship innings before suffering a serious ankle injury represents a distinctly meagre contribution given that expectations were of a Lara-esque plundering of the domestic game. However, despite Smith’s issues the real problem is with the team assembled around him, consisting mostly of old men who featured on the England selectors’ radar back when England were utter shite.
We’re talking about the likes of Jon Lewis, Gareth Batty, Vikram Solanki, Zander de Bruyn and Gary Keedy. All the wrong side of 35 and with their best days well behind them. On their own merits, they’re all decent players but Adams’ decision to put them all together into a single side was madness.
Building a county side is quite the challenge. Even for a county that actually has real money to spend, there just aren’t that many players available at any one time, let alone good ones. But a side made up entirely of old men just isn’t going to cut it. Surely bringing in Smith (and then Ricky Ponting) was designed to create a figurehead, at whose feet the other players could learn and grow. Instead Adams and Salisbury have created a sort of retirement home vibe, in which old men sit around talking about their memories of the war. And that time they weren’t good enough to get into Worcestershire’s side during a relegation season.
The sacking of a coach mid-season isn’t a particularly common occurrence in the domestic game and with good reason: there’s no real opportunity to bring in new faces, so the new coach will have to work with the exact same squad. Yet despite feeling the need to take such drastic measures, Surrey’s position isn’t actually that horrific – they’ve lost just two County Championship games and currently sit eight points above the relegation zone, while their T20 campaign doesn’t even kick off for another fortnight – but it appears that the powers that be have decided that the return on their output wasn’t up to the required standard. Alec Stewart should bring something of a ‘feelgood factor’ to the club – something obviously lacking over the last year – but whether that will be enough to bring the required upturn in fortune remains to be seen. We’re not exactly convinced, to be honest.
For us it’s a sad end to this chapter of the Adams/Salisbury story. Mistakes were certainly made but performances from the players simply haven’t been good enough. Questions really need to be asked of those players, but instead the buck seems to have stopped with Chris Adams and the man who once took 4/163 against the West Indies. And if that isn’t proof enough that he knows what he’s doing then we don’t know what is.