Hope springs eternal for Glamorgan cricket fans, but this season there is genuine belief that all will be different.
Talk of improvements and platitudes from the players have not changed since the 2004 season, the last time silverware was seen at Glamorgan and promotion was gained to Division One. Ever since, the club has wallowed in the lower reaches of Division Two.
However, the main reason for the optimism stems from a very important off-field signing in the form of Hugh Morris as Chief Executive. Morris was a distinguished player for the Daffodil County, going on to win Test honours with England.
After retiring fairly early in his playing career, he has worked his way up to the top ranks of the English Cricket Board and has made the switch to Chief Executive at Glamorgan.
Many observers think Morris is one of the main reason behind England’s continued success, and many praise him for steadying a very rough ship after the Pietersen-Moores debacle in 2009.
After hearing Morris speak on several occasions, he talks repeatedly of re-engaging with the Welsh cricket community, and has a desire to pack the team with local Welsh talent – plus some astute signings from other counties – which was the blueprint for the Club’s last Championship win in the 1997 season.
Morris will have to improve on and off-field matters. Since borrowing vast sums of money to fund the SWALEC Stadium post-2006, the club have struggled to be in the black on a yearly basis. This puts emphasis on financial guile and helping the emerging youth players break through, rather than purchasing expensive foreign imports.
That being said, this season will see seasoned English-cricket pro Jacques Rudolph join the ranks. Remarkably, he will miss the first Championship game because of Iron Man commitments in his native South Africa.
Commitment issues will not be a factor for the other foreign star, Western Australian Michael Hogan, who qualifies as a ‘home’ player. Due to his 12-month England-Australia cricket calendar, this fiery fast-medium bowler took 108 first-class wickets in 2013 – the most of any bowler in world cricket. This included over a hundred wickets for Glamorgan in all forms of the game.
It’s hard to predict where Glamorgan’s best chance of success will be. After again flattering to deceive in the four-day game last season, there is a lot of room for improvement, but a top order including opener Rudolph might just bring the stability needed to post some big totals.
In the one-day format, a Lord’s final last season was a great achievement for the club. To see thousands of Welsh cricket fans descend on The Home of Cricket was a great sight and something not seen in recent times. Whether this was a one-off, however, is yet to be seen.
Casual cricket fans will be most interested in the new Twenty20 format, which has been re-marketed as the ‘T20 Blast’. Chaotic fixturing in the past has seen the T20 format lose appeal, but a clever initiative this season to play the majority of the games on a Friday night will hopefully see large crowds and team success.
Glamorgan want to be seen as ‘the place to be’ on a Friday summer night, just like Cardiff Arms Park is a place for rugby and non-rugby fans alike to have a drink and watch some sport on a weekend in the winter.
With no funds for high-profile acquisitions, a lot will rest on T20 captain Jim Allenby’s shoulders. Allenby is a fine county cricketer in all formats but, at the age of 31, time is running out to realise his England ambitions.
Overall, a genuine and tangible improvement in performances, a push for promotion to Division One and stronger showings in the shorter formats of the game will content beleaguered Glamorgan fans for the upcoming 2014 season.