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Dragons will be back breathing fire again, says mentor Hugh Morris

The only way is up for Glamorgan after a poor showing in all three tournaments last summer which saw the Welsh county finish bottom of both the Championship and the South Group of the One Day Cup.

Now, with daffodils already starting to bloom outside Sophia Gardens, chief executive Hugh Morris believes there are already signs of new shoots at the club as it seeks to turn its fortunes around.

Morris is backing batsmen Charlie Hemphrey and Billy Root to play key roles with the new signings coming on top of a backroom shake-up at the club.

At the end of last summer, Morris appointed Huw Bevan, the former England fitness coach and Newport Gwent Dragons’ high-performance manager, to lead a review and make recommendations.

Bevan’s report led to Morris relinquishing half of his dual role as Chief Executive and Director of Cricket and the departure of Robert Croft as head coach.

The club has since appointed PCA chairman Mark Wallace as Director of Cricket, while batting consultant Matt Maynard has stepped up as interim head coach. A permanent head coach will be appointed once Wallace takes up his post this month.

The signings of Hemphrey from Queensland Bulls and Root from Nottinghamshire are designed to bolster a batting line-up which failed to deliver last season. This could be especially key with one-day skipper Colin Ingram missing this year’s One Day Cup due to IPL commitments and doubts over the availability of Australian Shaun Marsh.

Explaining the changes, Morris said: “Obviously we had a desperately disappointing season. There’s no getting away from that in terms of results. We report on our seasons on an annual basis, but in addition to that we got an external perspective on it from Huw Bevan which we felt was important.

“So, the upshot is that we’ve had some changes. My role has changed. As director of cricket and chief executive obviously it’s a big workload and for someone to come in dedicated as director of cricket, it’s going to good for the club.

“We’ve appointed Mark Wallace who is going to be excellent. He is very much a Glamorgan man, very much understands the game. He was chairman of the PCA for four years which gives an indication of how highly he is regarded amongst the players but he’s a steely character as well.

“That’s going to be really good for the club, having somebody of his stature and experience looking after the cricket side of things.

“Matt’s taken over as interim head coach and done a really good job this winter. He’s a very experienced head coach and director of cricket.”

Reflecting on last season which also saw Glamorgan fail to qualify for the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast, Morris said: “We had some very significant injuries to key players. And whilst a number of our young players struggled to a degree in the first team that wasn’t to be unexpected because so many played at the same time which is a difficult situation for those guys.

“Having Billy and Charlie here will certainly increase the competition for places and challenge our young players, many of whom we believe have got really good opportunities to do well for Glamorgan for a long period of time. It will challenge them to really raise their game.”

Maynard – recently awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours – agrees. He added: “We’ve had some good meetings around strategy, around how our squad’s looking and where we need to go to potentially strengthen.

“It was quite evident last season that we had effectively one opener on the staff who’s been an opener throughout his career and that was Nick Selman. Murph (Jack Murphy) has got something about him, a real good temperament but he’s learning the art of opening the batting.”

With the middle order looking strong, the priority was to sign another top-order batsman.

“Our batting needed strengthening not so much on the back of what happened last year, but competition for places,” explained Maynard.

“You’ve got to fight for your place. You can’t get 30 or 40 in the 2nd XI and expect to get hundreds in the firsts. And because of the failure of the first XI last year, guys were getting an opportunity with not necessarily huge runs behind them. That’s not a healthy place to be. You’ve got to deserve that place in the first team and when you’ve got it, you want to know that there are a couple of guys breathing down your neck.”

Maynard added: “Both Charlie in four-day cricket and Billy across all three formats are two really good signings. Time will tell how successful, but I think Billy can have a long career here.

“Charlie has batted four this year for Queensland, he’s batted up the order prior to that. So, he’s an adaptable player.”
Turning to the bowling line-up, Maynard reported that Marchant de Lange is on his way back to full fitness and due to play for Knights in South Africa.

“We’ve got a good seam attack. Our spin department is looking not too bad. The guys need a bit more experience. The likes of Kieran Bull, but obviously Andrew Salter is a fine cricketer, young Owen Morgan. There are one or two other players that we want to have a look at this summer. So, we’re quite happy with that.”

Morris is in no doubt that Ingram’s absence in the IPL will leave a big hole in Glamorgan’s One Day Cup side, but says this will present opportunities for younger players: “It’s great for Colin personally. The only surprise is it’s taken so long for him to be recognised as one of the top white-ball players in the world. Looking in the longer term with the 50-over competition running in parallel with a new 100-ball competition almost certainly we’d be losing him from 2020 onwards anyway, so it’s going to be an opportunity for other people. We’ve got two new batters and it’s going to be a really good opportunity for them.

“It gives us a chance to rethink, ‘right, well we have these possibilities within the squad, let’s give them a proper crack and see how they go’.

“There’s not as much pressure on that competition. Of course, we want to do well in it, but the expectation perhaps is not as strong because you are losing your leader and one of the best white ball players in the world.

“The expectation is greater in Championship cricket because it has to be from last season and obviously in T20 cricket, that’s a real focus, so the 50 would probably potentially be third priority this year. That’s not to say it’s going to remain there.

“It does give us the opportunity to try different combinations and, you never know, sometimes you can unlock a skill (that way). So, you just never know where that could lead to which could then have a good effect on the T20 campaign.”

JEREMY BLACKMORE / Photo: Getty Images

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