Yesterday morning, I began working on an article comparing the contrasting fortunes this season of Worcestershire and Warwickshire. It mentioned the rumours that the Bears were interested in signing Moeen Ali and Tom Kohler-Cadmore from their West Midlands rivals.
Later on, George Dobell broke the news that it was Yorkshire that seemed likely to sign Kohler-Cadmore, with the batsmen dropped for the next match after informing Worcestershire of his intention to leave at the end of the season. This has now been confirmed by the club, who stated that further talks with the player would take place this week.
The question here is: Should Worcestershire be surprised? At the end of the 2009 season, plagued by financial troubles, they lost Gareth Batty and Steve Davies to Surrey as well as Stephen Moore to Lancashire and Kabir Ali to Hampshire. Following the departures, Steve Rhodes has since pursued a policy of developing young, home-grown players and has, unlike similarly sized counties, resisted the temptation of the Kolpak market. Worcestershire’s teams rarely feature (if any) players that have played for another first-class county.
It is a strategy that has begun to bear fruit at last, especially this season. The Worcs have lost just once in all competitions. This should come as no more than a mild surprise, it is a reward for the faith the club has shown in its young players over the last few seasons. Nobody is more indicative of this than Tom Kohler-Cadmore, a 22 year-old who has already played 106 times for his county.
He was persevered with after struggling to adapt to first-class cricket and Worcestershire have reaped the rewards as a result. Now, in typical Worcestershire fashion, another county will benefit too. Last season, he hit the highest T20 in the club’s history, and the fastest hundred of the season, with a stunning 127 off 54 balls. This year, he has made centuries in both the County Championship and the One-Day Cup, the latter against his new county. His 63 against Derbyshire, that used up just 34 balls and near enough ended the contest inside the powerplay, secured Worcestershire’s home semi-final, which could also be against Yorkshire. The numbers tell the story of his calibre.
Having invested that much time into Kohler-Cadmore, Worcestershire will be understandably frustrated at his decision. Likewise, the fans will be disappointed and many fans – me included – will have bought tickets for the semi-final looking forward to see Kohler-Cadmore teeing off at New Road in two weeks’ time.
Whether he plays in that game remains unclear, but it would be a shame for someone, who more than played his part in the campaign, to miss out on the opportunity to take the club to a Lord’s final.
However, as disappointing as Kohler-Cadmore’s move will be to those in the West Midlands, it is understandable. Having grown up playing age-group cricket for Yorkshire, the opportunity to return would have been a difficult one to turn down. For a player who has shown particular talent for limited overs cricket, it would be remiss to not think the ECB’s new T20 competition has no bearing on Kohler-Cadmore’s decision.
At best, it will see many of the top players from Division Two head to bigger counties; at worst, it spells the beginning of the end for the likes of Worcestershire. It limits the scope for fairytale endings.
Not that the club will think like that and Rhodes, I’m sure, will seek the positives – friday’s game against Sussex provides an opportunity for another. Most likely, Ross Whiteley, very much cut from the same cloth as Kohler-Cadmore, will get an unexpected opportunity back in first-class cricket. If not him, then George Rhodes, who made 125 for the Second XI today, will get another chance in the first team. Neither has played first-class cricket so far this season and both will certainly will relish the opportunity.
There are others waiting in the wings. Olly Westbury, who hit an unbeaten 157 on debut for England Under 19s last season, is perhaps the long-term replacement for Kohler-Cadmore. No doubt, there are others too. They will rebuild and go again, for that is the Worcestershire way.