Not too long ago playing for Surrey had a certain glitz to it. In fact, just over 10 years ago it could be said that the Surrey side made up a considerable core of those in and around the England squad. In fact, just from the top of my admittedly small head, I can reel off the following players on the periphery of international cricket who were churning out results at the Oval.
Mark Butcher, Rikki Clarke, Mark Ramprakash, Ian Ward, Usman Afzaal, (the magnificent) Graham Thorpe, Martin Bicknell, Ed Giddins, Ian Salisbury, Alex Tudor, Saqlain Mushtaq.
Ok, of those only the supreme Graham Thorpe and the overseas player Mushtaq were truly international class, but all were of a standard above County level, and success inevitably followed. Admittedly not from the top of my head, Surrey won the County Championship in 1999, 2000 and 2002, the Benson & Hedges Cup in ’97 and 2001, the Pro40 in 1996 and 2003 (and a promotion in 2000), and the inaugural T20 competition in 2003. This was an era of success certainly not matched by anyone since, and they must go down as one of the greatest English County sides in history.
It is certainly strange how these domineering sides come and go. These days they are an odd-ball side of players with a fair amount to prove. The closed season signings of 36 year old Vikram Solanki and 37 year old Gary Keedy mirror recent policy and join Jon Lewis and Jonathan Barry (both 37) in adding experience to the squad. In Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach and Chris Tremlett there is enough potential to take wickets if they can muster enough games between them, but it is the batting line up which looks weak. It’ll take an inspired overseas signing and a couple of the youngsters to ‘come good’ (Ansari and Harinath look tidy enough), plus more runs from ‘keeper Stephen Moore for Surrey to have any chance of matching their previous successes. Actually, I can safely write that they won’t match the success of the side seen 10-15 years ago, even if that happens. No Graham Thorpe, ya see.