An underwhelming campaign on the pitch coupled with a troublesome year off it – epitomised by Jos Buttler's departure – suggests increasing discontent at Somerset, writes Ryan Bailey.
It would be a disrespectful exaggeration to claim Somerset are a club in crisis. Nevertheless, an underwhelming campaign on the pitch coupled with a troublesome year off it – epitomised by the departure of Jos Buttler – suggests increasing discontent is around the corner at Taunton.
The appointment of Dave Nosworthy as Director of Cricket at the turn of the year installed new confidence that the best could finally be extracted from a hugely talented squad of players – hope that this would be the campaign that their tag of perennial bridesmaids was discarded.
However, the campaign was overshadowed by several distracting sub-plots, including the Buttler/Craig Kieswetter wicketkeeping headache, which seemed to punctuate those on the field as unrest off it heightened.
In truth, it was a hugely disappointing season which never got out of second gear. And, while some would argue the rake of injuries and form, or lack of it, from certain individuals was the reasoning behind the faltering campaign, there are larger underlying problems.
Their pursuit of silverware, which their recent one-day performances have deserved, has led them to invest time and money in acquiring high-profile international stars rather than establishing a constant side built around their host of bright home-grown talent.
It's a policy which works; just take a look at Durham and indeed Northants as prime examples from this year alone.
Even though it was possibly the worst kept secret on the County Cricket circuit, there was still an element of surprise when Somerset released the statement, a matter of hours after they avoided relegation, confirming that the England wicket-keeper was leaving at the end of the season.
The 23-year-old hopes his move to the North West to join Division Two winners Lancashire will act as a springboard to his development as an international cricketer and eventually see him break into the England Test team.
Buttler, a product of Somerset's academy having first come to the attention of the club at just nine, expressed his regret and sadness to be leaving his local-club. It was a decision he didn't take likely but ultimately forced upon him.
He is arguably the most promising batsman in world cricket and his glove work continues to develop at a rapid pace – to surrender his services because the club couldn't accommodate his needs is a decision they'll no doubt regret.
This drawn out contract saga was not about money but simply on-field matters and as the dust settles on a hugely disappointing and concerning season for the club, surely their priority should be to retain the services of their home-grown stars in an attempt to build a stable and close-knit unit – similiar to that of Durham.
Buttler has played 19 ODIs and 25 T20Is for England and has become embroiled in a battle with Craig Kieswetter for a regular spot behind the stumps. After dislodging the South-African born gloveman from the international side, Buttler was utilised as a specialist batsman in all formats for club – a development which concerned Ashley Giles among others.
A solid series against Australia was preceded by weeks of speculation as rumours leaked of his discontent and unwillingness to put pen to paper on a new contract. Warwickshire were among those who expressed their interest by making an official 28-day approach but his agreement to move to Emirates Old Trafford underlines the Red Rose's soaring ambitions.
The move North will see him take over the role of Lancashire's wicket-keeper after Gareth Cross was released by the club at the end of the season. It's a harsh reminder of the reality of the professional game for a player who was central to the club's Championship victory in 2011. But, after all, that's the nature of the modern era during which one loyal, home-grown player can be discarded for a big-money alternative.
It's an investment which Lancashire obviously feel will reap rewards but if Buttler's international ambitions evolve in the not too distant future, then his appearances in the red apparel of the red rose will become a rare occurrence. Perhaps there was more to Somerset's decision to allow their talented wicketkeeper to leave for pastures new.
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