Dave Cartledge explains why he’s excited about Staffordshire’s summer prospects

Staffordshire County Cricket Club director of cricket Dave Cartledge.

Dave Cartledge has been overseeing Staffordshire cricket for a decade. And he has an extra spring in his step heading into this summer.

Cartledge, as the county’s director of cricket, has led Staffs to two Eastern Division titles, an overall Championship crown and a Knockout Trophy final appearance since taking the reins in 2013.

This winter has seen plenty of changes both on and off the field. James Kettleborough has been named as captain, while seamer Liam Hurt and spinner Tom Brett have arrived.

In the back room, Andy Carr has been appointed as head coach to mark the start of a new dawn for the county. And it’s one which has left Cartledge enthused.

‘Reasons to be cheerful’

“I’m very excited about the season. We have improved with what we’ve got and it was probably the shake-up we needed,” said the 66-year-old.

“We’ve added a couple of players because we were short of something.

“I’d say we probably have the best batsman in NCCA cricket in James Kettleborough and the best left-arm spinner in Tom Brett joining us.

“Our young seamers maybe didn’t have the penetration we had hoped last summer. But we’ve resolved that by bringing Liam Hurt in.

“It’s a younger squad, but has a good mix of experience and youth. We’re perhaps in a better place than we’ve ever been before.

“I’m looking forward to it and up for it. It’s a new broom and a fresh start. But not a fresh start in terms of not being up to speed with cricketers.

“There will be people playing who haven’t played before, so it’s the spring lamb effect.”

‘Ones that got away’

Cartledge says Staffordshire missed good opportunities to further bolster the trophy cabinet last summer.

They did enjoy their best-ever Twenty20 campaign, despite not qualifying for finals day, before their 50-over season flopped.

And there were some highlights in the three-day season, but a final-game defeat by Suffolk at Checkley put paid to any title aspirations.

“For me, the red-ball season was disappointing because it was in our hands in the last game,” added Cartledge. “If we had set Suffolk something big to chase, they’d have had to have gone for it. They needed to win to avoid relegation.

“They were staring down the barrel, but we put them in the pound seats and they went on to win the game.

“We’ve done that twice against them in the past two seasons.

“I put the 50-over campaign down as a one-off because we’re better than that. One or two might get a shock this year, while the T20 games were a bonus.”

‘New working relationships’

Cartledge says that the working dynamic between himself, captain Kettleborough and head coach Carr has seen a positive start.

And he believes Kettleborough’s impact as skipper can be the same as the cool, calm and collected approach adopted by Kadeer Ali. He led the county from 2015 to 2019.

“Ketts is a dead ringer for Kad. For me, batsmen make the best captains because they are in control of the game,” said Cartledge.

Former Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain Kadeer Ali.
Former Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain Kadeer Ali.

“Ketts is excited with the talent he has around him. The beauty of it is that he has a fresh piece of paper and he will get the backing he needs. He’s respected, scores runs under pressure and will lead the team well.

“It’s been good working with him and Andy, but I’ve got to give them room to do things their own way.

“People have bought into what’s happened over the winter and things are moving in the right direction.

“Everyone is always going to have a different view on how things should be done. What I would like them to do is get behind the side, support the county team and hopefully help us to get success.

“We’re never far away and I’d say that counties do look and see when they’re playing Staffordshire.”

‘Big target’

Cartledge is never short of confidence when it comes to Staffs’ prospects – but he admits there’s one competition he’s targeting.

“I think the three-day stuff is the top of the tree for me,” he said.

“I’d say it ranks three-day, 50-over and then T20, but I don’t see why we can’t challenge to win all three.

“But the shorter the format, the harder it is because in 10 minutes someone can take the game away from you.”

Interview by The Sentinel

Main picture: Staffordshire County Cricket Club director of cricket Dave Cartledge. Image: Pete Stonier