(Photo by Harry Trump / Getty Images)
By Jeremy Blackmore
Somerset’s new head coach Jason Kerr has backed Craig Overton to deliver in the Ashes and set out his vision for the club to produce more international players who can inspire the next generation.
Seven Somerset players are involved in England programmes this winter, with Jack Leach and Dom Bess named in the Lions squad.
Kerr, who has been involved with the club since his days as a player in the Nineties, has been promoted from bowling coach after Somerset opted to separate the director of cricket and head coach roles. Andy Hurry arrives at Taunton this autumn as Director of Cricket, with Matt Maynard, leaving the club after three years in charge.
Kerr is excited by the young homegrown players at the core of the Somerset side: “When I ran the Academy and Second team, that was always my ambition, to produce as many homegrown players, who understood what it meant to represent the club, that it’s not just a game of cricket, it’s a little bit more than that and to create that nucleus and then look to supplement that with world-class overseas players.
“We’ll continue to challenge the Somerset pathway to produce players that will challenge whoever it is that’s in the senior team and keep pushing those boundaries.
“Because, ultimately, we’re incredibly proud of Craig, he’s done very well, he deserves to be on the plane to Australia, but we need to produce more international cricketers to inspire the next generation.
“It’s a brilliant opportunity for Craig. The beauty is that he’s the same if he’s playing for his club side, if he was playing for England, he’d try and approach it in the same way. He’s incredibly professional and diligent and with the extra bounce in Australia, if he gets his opportunity to show what he can do, certainly we’ll be backing him 100 per cent.”
Kerr expressed his disappointment that Leach was again overlooked by England, despite being the country’s leading spinner: “He couldn’t have done any more. He’s kept his head down, he obviously had a very tough winter last year and has responded brilliantly. He’s gone out and performed again.
“I’ve no doubt he’ll go out with the Lions and continue to improve. I’m sure that at some stage he’ll get his opportunity that he deserves.”
A year after almost winning their elusive first Championship title, Somerset only narrowly avoided relegation this season. Kerr cites an “unprecedented” run of bad form by the batting order: “We had six batters averaging in the 20s. I’ve never seen that before. I’ve been around a long time and you normally see one or two players stand out and have exceptional years and one or two players struggle, but the top six really struggled.
“Towards the end of the year certain individuals started to show the ability they have, but it was probably too little too late.”
Kerr lauded the fightback which saw Somerset win three of their last four games and paid tribute to skipper Tom Abell, who endured a tough first year in charge: “You grow as a person through adversity and he definitely did that.
“He led the side brilliantly and showed a lot of character. He called the players out at Edgbaston [when Somerset won by 169 runs] and said it’s time to step up, we need to perform.
“We need to forget what’s gone before and get back to playing the game you love and the guys responded brilliantly. The challenge now is to find that on a consistent basis.”