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Gloucestershire head coach Mark Alleyne in positive mood ahead of new season

All Areas > Sport > Cricket

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Wednesday, 27th March 2024, 09:00

Gloucestershire head coach Mark Alleyne. Picture, Gloucestershire CCC Gloucestershire head coach Mark Alleyne. Picture, Gloucestershire CCC

Gloucestershire will be playing front-foot cricket this season.

That’s the promise of new head coach Mark Alleyne as he looks ahead to the new campaign, which gets under way in a few days’ time.

The 55-year-old took up his new position at the beginning of March and he has clear ideas about how he wants to play the game.

“We’re going to come at teams,” he told The Local Answer. “We’re going to play cricket on the front foot but I want us to play smart cricket too.”

And if you think that sounds similar to the messages coming out of  England’s Test and one-day teams, you’d be right, which is not really surprising when you consider that for the past three years Alleyne has worked as a batting scout for the national team in both red ball and white ball cricket.

“I was given a really strong brief to find players who can impact the game at international level,” he explained.

“It’s really refreshing to see how cricket is being played at the top level in England.

“My job as head coach at Gloucestershire is to get players ready to play for England. I take that responsibility very seriously, that is my duty.”

Prior to the recent World Cup, England’s one-day team had, for a good few years, been regarded as the best on the planet and they’re still the T20 world champions, while the Test team, under Brendan McCullum and Ben Stokes, have revolutionised the way the longer form of the game is being played.

Bazball has certainly taken the game by storm, despite the recent defeat in India, and Alleyne is a big fan, although he stresses there’s a lot more to it than just all-out attack.

“It’s nuanced,” he said. “It’s about giving players the opportunity to thrive and express themselves.

“We want them to be proactive but to recognise that there are times when you can’t play on the front foot.

“We want them to trust their intuition.”

Gloucestershire begin their County Championship Division Two campaign at Derbyshire on Friday 5th April – yes, you read that correctly! – with six further four-day games scheduled before their first T20 Vitality Blast game at the end of May.

Aside from two four-day games which start in June, the county’s focus will be entirely on the white ball game for the best part of three months until the penultimate week of August and while that may upset some traditionalists, Alleyne can see plenty of positives.

“The way the season is configured, we can attack all the competitions we are in,” he said.

That’s something Gloucestershire didn’t manage to do last season, finishing bottom of the county championship without a win in their 14 games while failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the T20 after losing nine of their 14 group matches.

They did reach the semi-finals of the less high-profile One-Day Cup, a competition that is run alongside The Hundred, but Alleyne, who had a spell working at the club as as assistant to head coach Ian Harvey in 2021, is hoping for a much better campaign this time around.

“I know the players and last season wasn’t representative of what they can achieve,” he said. “It’s a big challenge but that’s what makes it so exciting.”

Gloucestershire have been busy over the winter, bringing in former Australian Test opening batsman Cameron Bancroft.

The club’s supporters will be familiar with the 31-year-old, who will be available for the whole season, as he played for the county in 2016 and 2017.

However, they won’t be so familiar with another Australian, Beau Webster, a 6ft 5in seam bowling and off-spinning all-rounder who will join the county for the entirety of the T20 campaign.

He will also be available for the two championship games in June and Alleyne said of the powerful 30-year-old: “He’s a good cricketer. I can’t take any credit for him joining the club but it’s one that I endorse. I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Alleyne was Glamorgan’s white ball head coach last season and while he’s obviously looking forward to the challenges presented by the quickfire T20 tournament, he’s also looking forward to making an impact in the four-day game.

Alleyne was a hugely successful Gloucestershire captain in the late 1990s and early noughties, winning one-day trophies for fun while also securing promotion to Division One of the County Championship, so he knows what it takes to succeed in all formats.

“I want to win promotion from Division Two of the County Championship,” said Alleyne, who has a three-year contract. “There are only eight teams in the division, the players are good enough.

“The top two go up, so we don’t have to win the title but I want us to be challenging in Division One, that’s the target.”

And what about the Vitality Blast?

“It’s tough, in some ways tougher,” said Alleyne, who was head coach when Gloucestershire reached finals day in the mid-noughties.

“You’re up against teams who play in Division One and have greater resources. If you look at last season’s competition all four semi-finalists were from our group.

“I think finishing in the top four is a real target.”

As well as Bancroft and Webster, Alleyne can call on the experience of the likes of Chris Dent, Jack Bracey, Graeme van Buuren, David Payne and Matt and Jack Taylor, while a number of the younger players will be looking to push on in 2024.

Chief among them is 22-year-old off-spinning all-rounder Ollie Price, who was part of the recent England Lions tour to India.

“We’ve had really good reports about him from England,” said Alleyne. “He was starting to break through for Gloucestershire when I was last at the club and it’s really good to see him now establish himself as a top four batter.

“He’s a tall off-spinner who bowls it into the pitch.”

This year’s Cheltenham Festival, always one of the highlights of the season, runs from Sunday 30th June until Friday 19th July

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