By Phil Jones
IF A change really is as good as a rest, Leicestershire will be hoping both a new face and the winter break can help turn their fortunes around with the addition of Matt Mason to their coaching team.
The Australian resigned from Worcestershire following a coaching restructure that saw him stripped of his first XI duties.
Quickly picked up by the struggling East Midlanders, Mason is currently on a camp with the ECB pace programme in Potchefstroom, South Africa, where he is assisting lead fast-bowling coach Kevin Shine to develop England’s next generation of quicks.
But with the news of his Leicestershire appointment only a week old, he has already had welcome messages from the playing and backroom staff at Grace Road – despite having yet to put in an appearance.
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He will officially begin work with the county at the end of the month, although he is keen to get cracking on helping Paul Nixon’s Leicestershire revolution.
“It will be a fresh start for me, and for them too with a different set of eyes and ears and a different approach to bowling coaching than they have experienced before,” said the 43-year-old.
“Sometimes that’s exciting – a change is as good as a holiday so maybe it will reignite a few of the people there, as well as myself.
“From that point of view, I think we can do good things across the board.”
Leicestershire have yet to finish above fourth in the County Championship second division since being relegated back in 2003.
Their most promising players in that time – Stuart Broad and James Taylor – were poached by the big boys up the M1 at Trent Bridge.
And with no four-day wins in three of the last five seasons, Mason knows the task at hand will not be a simple one – but it is one he is relishing.
“I love a challenge, so that made the decision quite easy,” he added.
“After spending some time with [head coach] Paul Nixon, chatting about his vision for Leicestershire and knowing some of the coaches there and the crop of young talent, and some of their well-documented struggles, I’m really excited about helping Paul and all the team there make great strides this season.
“At Worcestershire we were very proud of the fact that our academy was going from strength to strength and there was always that threat that they were going to move on one day.
“One of the big things I’ll be doing at Leicestershire is working along the whole pathway, developing fast bowlers from a very young age right through to the professional game.
“With Paul, I’ve no doubt that we can create a really terrific environment where players will want to be.
“They’ll buy into something at Leicestershire, see their own development and once you get that feeling at a club, that’s where people want to play their cricket.”
Mason left Worcestershire after 17 years at the club, as a player and coach, with the fallout from the Steve Rhodes sacking leading to an overhaul of their coaching structure. But it was with a heavy heart that he decided to make the move.
“The emotional attachment to Worcester is the difficult thing,” he concluded. “I’ve got some great friends there, worked with some great colleagues and some great players whose development I’ve been involved with.
“So there is a touch of sadness there, but it’s professional sport. You can’t stay somewhere for too long and maybe 17 years is the right time to move and experience a new environment – I’m genuinely excited.”