Glamorgan are looking for new local heroes to fill the considerable boots of Mark Wallace and Dean Cosker, two county stalwarts whose absence from the playing staff at The SSE SWALEC in 2017 will mark the end of an era.
Cosker was the last survivor of the club’s 1997 County Championship title-winning squad, while Wallace made his debut two years later – meaning Robert Croft, a former team-mate of both who will be starting his second full season as Glamorgan’s head coach, has lost almost four decades’ worth of experience, with the pair making a combined total of more than 1,200 appearances in the three domestic competitions.
Both will still be on the cricket circuit – Cosker as one of five new Cricket Liaison Officers, and Wallace as one of the Professional Cricket Association’s personal development and welfare officers.
But their twin retirement throws the focus on a new generation of Welsh cricketing talent – which has been a major priority for both Croft and Hugh Morris, another member of that Championship-winning team two decades ago who is now the county’s chief executive.
There were some encouraging signs in the summer of 2016.
David Lloyd, a proud son of North Wales who is evidence of Glamorgan’s determination to represent the whole of the Principality – with Sussex this summer’s visitors to Colwyn Bay for the Specsavers County Championship match on the August Bank Holiday weekend – scored the first two centuries of his career, and excelled as an opener in one-day cricket
Aneurin Donald, the former England Under-19s captain from Swansea, struck a record-breaking 234 against Derbyshire in last year’s trip north to Colwyn Bay – and has just returned from a winter in Perth on one of the ECB’s Overseas Placements.
Kiran Carlson became the youngest player to score a first-class century for Glamorgan, against Essex in August, and 22-year-old Owen Morgan had also recorded his maiden first-class century against Worcestershire earlier in the month.
Lukas Carey, a seamer from Pontarddulais, took seven wickets on an impressive debut against Northamptonshire, and Will Bragg will now be the elder Welsh statesman on the playing staff a decade on from his debut.
But Croft and Morris continue to balance the desire to promote Welsh talent with the need to improve results on the field.
That means a continued reliance on proven competitors from overseas – Colin Ingram and captain Jacques Rudolph with the bat, and Michael Hogan to lead the seam attack, with support from Timm van der Gugten, the Aussie-born Dutch international. Further Glamorgan still hope to make a significant addition to that seam attack before the season start.
Hogan and van der Gugten bowled more than 950 overs in the Specsavers County Championship last season, with the latter voted the club’s Player of the Year after taking 56 first class wickets and a further 19 in the T20 Blast. Timm is currently recovering from a shoulder injured playing for the Netherlands in Hong Kong last month, but is hopeful of being fit for the first Championship game against Northamptonshire.
Chris Cooke, who has put down roots in Cardiff since joining Glamorgan in 2011, is set to be given the task of replacing Wallace as wicketkeeper – a daunting one, given the latter’s remarkable fitness record.
Glamorgan will look to Ingram to repeat the heroic T20 form, with bat and ball, which fired them to second place in the South Group of the NatWest Blast.
Other highlights of the season in Cardiff include four matches in the ICC Champions Trophy in June, including England versus New Zealand and one of the semi finals, with Eoin Morgan’s team returning for the third match of their NatWest IT20 series against South Africa on June 25.
That is followed immediately by Glamorgan’s first day-night Championship match, as they will host Derbyshire in the round of floodlit fixtures that will be played with pink Dukes balls.
It promises to be a busy summer, as Glamorgan hope to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that 1997 title triumph and fifty years playing at Sophia Gardens, in style.