JACK RUSSELL believes that Gloucestershire are in a healthy position in the wicketkeeping department.
The former England ace has more of a distant role with the county these days after initially returning as team mentor in 2008.
Although Russell no longer coaches the wicketkeepers due to other commitments, he has maintained a keen interest on the situation and can sometimes be seen on the boundaries of local clubs or at second team and academy games during the summer months keeping an eye on the talent coming through.
And following Jon Batty’s retirement at the end of last season, Russell insists there is no shortage of keepers ready to wear the gloves.
Richard Coughtrie, 24, will be the most senior keeper at the club next year and will fight for a place with Academy graduate Cameron Herring and South African-born Gareth Roderick, who scored over 1,000 runs for Cheltenham in the Glos/Wilts Division of the West of England Premier League last season.
“I went to see him (Gareth Roderick) play for the second team at Taunton Vale,” Russell told the Gazette.
“He’s a good cricketer – a wicketkeeping batsman, which is the way the game is going. “Richard Coughtrie is a very good keeper and if he scores lots of runs I can sleep easy at night.
“You’re going to have three keepers thrashing it out for a place which is magic.
“I am chuffed with the wicketkeeping position as it stands and it’s now up to the young players to grasp their opportunity because it’s up for grabs.”
Russell has tipped 18-year-old Herring to push Coughtrie and Roderick for a place after watching him develop through the academy.
With the likes of ex-Marshfield youth player Patrick Grieshaber and former Winterbourne and Thornbury keeper Sam Bracey, who now plays for Frocester in the top tier of the West of England Premier League, not far behind, Russell believes the future looks bright.
“Cameron is a talented young man,” said Russell.
“He’s a brilliant fielder, he can bat and he’s going to be a very good wicketkeeper.
“He’s got a tremendous attitude and work ethic. He works hard on his game and he could be knocking on the first team door.
“There’s a young lad Patrick Grieshaber developing well and he’s a good batsman.
“Sam is in the mix – he’s improved very well and put in some good performances for the second team.
“There are a couple of others around as well so it’s an exciting time for keepers.”
Russell, who is still a member of the Gloucestershire board, thinks the development of the County Ground in Bristol could be a platform for more successful times ahead.
He claimed the club was “dying on its feet” when the plans were initially rejected by Bristol City Council, but after eventually being given the green light, work is now underway on making the necessary improvements needed for the club to continue hosting international cricket – a major source of income. Russell said: “The ground has to regenerate itself into something more attractive for players. It’s the only international venue in the area.
“The club needs more funds because it’s struggling to compete with the Surreys and the Yorkshires.
“ It’s a big move but it doesn’t mean success on the field. You’ve got to get the right product on and off the field and that’s the next challenge for the club. “If you can do that then you’re giving yourself the best chance. Hopefully it will make a difference.”