Warwickshire: Bears boss Ashley Giles admits they are facing relegation 'scrap'
Warwickshire boss Ashley Giles admits that his ageing Bears squad are already facing a relegation “scrap” after making an awful start to the season.
Under first-team coach Jim Troughton and skipper Ian Bell, the Bears have begun the new Championship season with successive innings defeats.
“I’ve every confidence in Jim and Belly, who are the ones in day-to-day charge,” Giles told BBC Sport.
“But at the moment, staying in Division One is a good target for us.”
With two games fewer this summer, in the reduced eight-team top flight, but still two relegation places to fill, simply staying up is every side’s first priority, but with just three bonus points earned from their first two games, the Bears are already playing catch-up.
“That’s where we have to aim,” added sport director Giles. “Whether there’s still some hangover from issues last year, we’ve got to forget about that. It’s about fronting up. We’re in a scrap now.
“It’s pretty painful. I’m not sure you could get a much worse start to the season. With the line-up we have, we should be doing much better.”
Beaten by pace
After being ripped open by the pace of England hopeful Mark Footitt in their opening weekend defeat by Surrey at The Oval, it was young Yorkshireman Ben Coad that did much of the damage at Edgbaston.
“Conditions in both innings were quite challenging,” said Giles. “The lights were on and it was quite dark and cloudy. But we can mope around and moan about all sorts of things and blame other issues, people, pitches, conditions.
“It all comes down to the 11 in the team working harder on their game and playing better cricket.
“There’s a little bit of nervousness, for some reason. A lack of confidence and self belief. But real self-belief comes from within.
“I’m not saying our guys aren’t committed. When you’re in a bad rut, momentum can run away from you. But we’ve still got to be better than this.”
Getting old together at Edgbaston
When Giles left Lancashire to return to Edgbaston over the winter, he knew he was taking charge of an ageing squad, but now admits that dismantling it may come sooner than expected.
Of the players who formed the spine of the Championship-winning side of 2012, only two are no longer at the club – veteran all-rounder Darren Maddy, who retired the following season, and opener Varun Chopra, who was allowed to rejoin Essex at the end of last season.
Troughton, captain in 2012, is now the first-team coach, having retired with a long-standing back injury in 2015.
Of those who remain, Warwickshire have nine in their squad who have turned 30 – captain Bell (34), Jeetan Patel (36), Rikki Clarke (35), Jonathan Trott (35), Tim Ambrose (34), Ian Westwood (34), William Porterfield (31) Chris Wright (31) and Keith Barker (30).
“We’ve got an ageing squad,” said Giles. “Mine and Jim’s hopes were hoping they’d be part of that transition and would go out on their own terms at the top still performing like they want to perform, not after experiences like this, being beaten by an innings.
“That transition might now happen a bit quicker than I thought and might be tricky to manage. Undoubtedly there’ll be some pain as we go through it.
“I saw one transition through from 2008 to 2012 and now we’re heading into another one. And it’s hard work. At the moment, we look like we’re hitting a wall. We’re going to need time.”
Where do the Bears go from here?
Giles admits that Warwickshire’s management team also now have some serious short-term thinking to do before their return Championship game with Surrey, starting at Edgbaston on Friday.
The short-term options are either to promote second XI players, or make an emergency signing, even a Kolpak player, something which he would prefer not to do.
“Traditionally, we don’t like that route but I’m accepting that all options are on the table,” added Giles. “There isn’t just a quick fix.
“There’s no magic pill. We won’t just make a knee-jerk signing just to keep everyone happy. Things have to be done for the right reasons.
“It’s a bit early to be looking at the loan market and, with second team players, it’s a case of ‘are they ready?’ I’m not sure. We might have to blood them and find out. But they need to be knocking the door with hundreds.
“Recruitment is the big talking point. It’s challenging whatever club you’re at. But this isn’t a football environment. I can’t write down a number of players on a list for the chief executive to go after. It doesn’t work like that in cricket. It’s a more long-winded process. You have to wait for players to become available.”
Giles was linked with a pre-season move for Worcestershire’s England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who was born just round the corner from Edgbaston and began his career with the Bears.
But Moeen is a centrally-contracted England player and, more importantly, has a deal at New Road for another two seasons.
Ashley Giles was talking to BBC Sport’s Stephan Shemilt.