Andy Cornford

  ‘Issues need addressing to build on recent successes’      by SportProm

THE island’s tight housing regulations are having an impact on the senior island cricket team, as are poor fitness levels. That’s the viewpoint of Andy Cornford, who ended his five-year stint as the island’s part-time national cricket coach back in the autumn.

Ahead of the imminent arrival of Guernsey cricket’s first full-time director of cricket, Cornford has spoken on a wide variety of issues affecting the local game and, at the same time, looked back at his spell in the hot seat. ‘When I first took on the coaching role, the senior side only really had the inter-insular and MCC as major fixtures. These are still high profile games, but we could rely on a small player pool to cover these and any other odd games. As we’ve moved into ICC cricket the player demands and tournaments have increased, putting more pressures on our set-up and limited player pool.’

‘I quickly realised that we had to become outstanding at producing locally-born players to add to our ageing player base. We don’t have the luxury as other nations, who are able to issue passports, and therefore able to attract players through ancestry residency. While we’ve had some good players, such as Ami Banerjee who worked on the island and qualified through the normal four-year qualification, we were unable to hold on to him because of the States of Guernsey Housing Licence Regulations. This is obviously a huge disadvantage to Guernsey cricket and while I’d want the Guernsey cricket team to be made up from locally grown players, it would certainly help to be able to utilise people who move to the island over a longer period.’

Cornford is, though, able to look back at his term satisfied and complimentary of the GCB board and players. ‘I have been incredibly fortunate to have the full support of the GCB when preparing the senior team. They have been a pleasure to work with and I have always had a very good working relationship with the GCB. The players as a whole have also bought into new ideas and news ways of preparing. They have all enhanced their skills over the years and I’m always encouraged by the amount of players asking for further training sessions. Of course they can still do more and continue to improve. The one area we never worked hard enough on and which always disappointed me was fitness. With such a small player base and with our funding being directly linked to our on-field performances, we cannot allow poor fitness to potentially affect our results. Fitness is about attitude and takes hard work. Some of the players did work really hard but too many paid “lip service” to fitness and this will have to change in the future. One player who that finger could never be pointed at is Jeremy Frith.’ Cornford rates him highly. ‘Frithy has been a prolific player for Guernsey and has undoubtedly been a major factor in our recent successes. ‘His record speaks of his dogged determination to succeed and his mental toughness. The squad have to prepare for the time where Frithy is either no longer available or unfit.’

‘But it would be wrong not to mention the outstanding contributions from Stuart Le Prevost. He has been a fantastic leader of this team and is widely respected by all the players and management. A lot of the work he does is not seen by others, but he works tirelessly in his role as captain. There are, of course, other players who have made significant improvements. Jamie Nussbaumer is an integral part of the team with his all-round ability. He has a big heart and is a fighter on the field. If he can manage his physique to withstand the workloads on his body as an all-rounder then he will continue to do damage and impact games for Guernsey.’

Of the younger generation, Cornford says Max Ellis has shown good skill and composure under pressure. ‘With the recent retirement of Gary Rich, Max had a big hole to fill and I believe he will continue to improve. David Hooper is another young and exciting player who has already made a mark at senior level being the leading wicket taker in the World Cricket League Five played in Singapore. He is a talented all-rounder and passionate about representing Guernsey.’

When it comes to his finest moment in the job, Cornford recalls his team’s exploits in Malaysia in September  2011. ‘The moment I enjoyed the most was seeing the team all together on the podium in Kuala Lumpur with the World Cricket League Six trophy. We were unbeaten in that tournament but had to fight hard. I saw so much of the character of the team come through at key moments and the belief within the team was at an all-time high. As a player and coach I have seen many cameo innings, but never from young players, in a final, with 35 overs to bat and under extreme pressure. Watching the innings of Tom Kimber, David Hooper and Jamie Nussbaumer in the final against Malaysia will always remain with me.’ As for regrets? ‘I think as coaches you always have some regrets, but at the time you do your best. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I was disappointed in the way we batted in Singapore. Up until then we had got away with being sloppy as our opposition were often not good enough to exploit our frailty, but in this tournament it cost us promotion. I tried to prepare our players for it but we were not able to make the right decisions under pressure.’

The Sussex man will continue to work with some of the younger island players who are linked with Sussex CCC where Cornford is the Emerging Player Programme (EPP) head coach. However, Cornford added that it is high time the island got its domestic product right. ‘The domestic game in Guernsey always caused issues. ‘In the UK, clubs play a vital role in assisting with developing young cricketers. In Guernsey that just doesn’t happen. That therefore puts all the onus on the GCB to produce every single cricketer. That just isn’t realistic. The best Guernsey players simply don’t get enough challenge in their domestic games. If I’m honest, the games I watched were often “docile” and did nothing in the way of preparing our players to play ICC cricket. There were not enough quality players to fill the weekend teams and too many key players played for the same clubs. ‘I challenged the players on this as it was so clear to see that they could get away with becoming sloppy in preparation and performance for their clubs and that pretty soon it would become in-grained and a habit. When they stepped up for the island they were unable to switch.

‘Domestic cricket is a difficult one and I know how much hard work the GCB put into trying to find a solution. The Cl League was not producing the cricket it was expected to as the travel was putting some players off. As for the Evening League, it is social and should just remain that way. It used to frustrate me when I was asked to explain why we didn’t produce during the T20 as we played so much evening league cricket. The fact is simple. In the Evening League when does a batsman really get tied down by quality bowling and have to work out how to rotate strike while minimising risk? They don’t, as they know every over will present at least one or two boundary balls meaning that pressure is rarely applied.

‘There has also been talk in the background of taking the island team to play in the UK, but financially and logistically I think this is a non-starter. I know other sports have taken that step, but cricket is a seven-hour game and so to play away would incur more travel and overnight stops. The finance required would be massive. Also what would happen when we have an ICC tournament? The league we play in would hardly put everything on hold for us. Maybe more games against minor counties and county second XIs would be the right way, but I think to play in a consistently high standard domestic league is unlikely to be found in the Channel Islands.’ As for the ongoing Sussex-Guernsey link, Cornford says it is important it remains. ‘Links have not only been built on the pitch, but very importantly there are very close links within the administration too, including fund-raising, groundsmanship, planning and structure and HR.

‘There is a clear pathway for young Guernsey players should they be good enough and have the desire to pursue a career in professional cricket. Young players from Guernsey have benefited from the link by going away to Abu Dhabi on the Sussex CCC/GCB Training Camp and James Wilkes-Green will be joining Sussex in Cape Town on the Academy Tour. From a coaching view Ben Ferbrache, Jeremy Frith and David Hooper have gained experiences from trips away with Sussex CCC.’

Encouragingly for the ears of his former employers, he reckons they are right to seek a full-time replacement, even if the job specification is different. ‘I had said for sometime that I felt Guernsey needed to move towards a full-time coach as I feel there is much work to be done to sustain our current ranking and to move forward, as is the wish of everyone involved with Guernsey cricket. It goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed my time as coach. It was an absolute honour to work with some great people and represent Guernsey.’

 

 

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