Bracewell opens arms to Russell
Jack Russell can play a prominent role in helping transform Gloucestershire’s fortunes, says the returning director of cricket John Bracewell.
Russell, 45, the former Gloucestershire and England wicketkeeper, served as a team mentor and strategist for the county last season in the absence of a first-team coach.
On his first day back at Bristol after six years coaching New Zealand, Bracewell made clear his intention to tap into the thought processes of the unconventional Russell, one of his key lieutenants in the side that ruled domestic one-day cricket at the turn of the millennium.
“Jack is a very good spotter of talent, and I’d like to use that ability if he’s available,” Bracewell told ecb.co.uk.
“From the opinions I have sought, Jack did a very good job (as team mentor) and liked the slight independence that he had from the committee and the team. That actually resulted in a lot of honest feedback.
“I'd like to utilise that this year, because he's a very good cricket thinker.
“I'm yet to speak to Jack about that formally, but I will do so in due course.”
Bracewell suggested that there are three possibilities for Russell. He could work as a specialist 'keeping coach, focusing on the county’s young glovemen. There are also openings in selectorial or scouting roles.
As a player, Russell was so wonderfully eccentric that he often resembled a character from a Lewis Carroll novel. His peculiarities extended to sewing the England emblem on to his old ‘flowerpot’ sunhat, and consuming countless cups of tea and portions of baked beans. He is also a highly-skilled artist.
Fortunately for all concerned, he was one of the most spectacular wicketkeepers in English cricket history, and an expert operator, especially in the shorter forms of the game.
But Russell’s touted involvement with Gloucestershire circa 2009 will not lead to a return for the missing link of the old brains trust, Mark Alleyne.
Alleyne, the former Gloucestershire captain, was appointed MCC head coach last week.
Gloucestershire won six one-day trophies between 1998 and 2003, when Bracewell was coach and Alleyne leading the side. The county won an unprecedented clean sweep in 2000 - lifting the NatWest Trophy, Benson & Hedges Cup and Norwich Union National League competitions in the space of three months.
Alleyne moved into the head coach role at the County Ground in 2005, but his tenure ended in defeat to Kent Spitfires in the 2007 Twenty20 Cup final.
“I'm delighted to see Mark Alleyne appointed to the MCC,” said Bracewell. “I’ve got a nephew who is going to spend six months on the groundstaff with him, so I’m doubly pleased.
“New Zealand have got back into welcoming the concept of apprenticeships in the game. With the way the game is moving, to have players who understand how the game is prepared for people to play, to have that apprenticeship is crucial for young cricketers.
“Mark will be a very good mentor of that programme, because he’s so clued up on the subject. He’s doing bigger and better things.”