TWELVE months can be a long time in cricket . . . ask Steve Rhodes and Alistair Cook.
Last summer Worcestershire were probably at their lowest ebb for a long time, struggling near the foot of the LV= County Championship Division Two, no chance of qualifying in the Twenty20 competition and awash with disenchanted supporters.
The focal point for many of those frustrated fans was director of cricket Rhodes who had to suffer a torrent of criticism, particularly on this page, as there seemed little prospect of his team dragging themselves out of a malaise which had been festering for some time.
Second best was a difficult pill for the New Road supporters to swallow after the glory years of Botham and Dilley, Moody and Hick and a succession of top-class overseas signings.
Cash was the key to Worcestershire’s demise and a lack of it meant that some difficult decisions had to be made in terms of the playing budget.
The County were no longer able to cherry-pick some of the best players in world cricket and instead pinned their faith in an academy system bearing fruit and some nuggets on the fringes of rival clubs.
Rhodes was the spearhead of that plan and now deserves all the praise for producing a young and exciting team that seems set to bounce back to Division One at the first attempt and has qualified for the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast.
No one should be surprised that ‘Bumpy’ has bounced back. His pugnacious Yorkshire grit was the feature of his game during his playing days and the same resolve has stood him in good stead as coach and director of cricket.
Worcestershire are fortunate to have him and the prospects for the future at New Road look bright with Rhodes holding the reins.
England captain Cook has suffered a similar torrid time after the euphoria of retaining the Ashes last summer.
It’s been downhill all the way since then as loss of form and internal wranglings have blighted the England camp with Cook bearing the brunt of criticism.
Like Worcestershire, England are in transition and their relatively inexperienced team has struggled in successive series against Australia, Sri Lanka and India.
But there have been chinks of light from individuals and this week captain Cook burst into the sunlight with a fine 95 that has lifted the pressure of the sack from his shoulders.
There is no doubt Cook is one of England’s finest ever batsmen, his record proves that.
If ever the old adage ‘form is temporary class is permanent’ needed confirming, then Cook and Rhodes are excellent examples.