Steve Rhodes will be straight back into work with Worcestershire tomorrow morning, having relished every moment of his winter away with England Lions.
Rhodes has been an ever-present alongside Head Coach Andy Flower through the Twenty20 and 50-over series against Pakistan A, as well as the Performance Programme training camp that preceded them last November – and the pair have forged a close working relationship.
It is the opportunity to have worked alongside Flower, as well as the lower-profile members of the coaching staff and the consultants Dan Vettori and Gary Kirsten, that has Rhodes fizzing with ideas as he returns to New Road to plot an immediate return to Division One of the County Championship.
“We’re definitely on the right track with what we do at Worcester but there’s a few things I can take back,” said Rhodes.
“Picking the brains of Dan Vettori and Gary Kirsten has been excellent but the main brain has been Andy Flower – a great guy to work with who knows the game inside out and is very passionate. It tears him inside out when things aren’t going well, but that’s only an indication of how much he wants to win.”
Rhodes shared Flower’s pain when the Lions were unable to arrest the momentum of a Pakistan A comeback from 2-0 down in the 50-over series, pointing to the failure to capitalise on a winning position in match three as the key turning point.
“For the team the biggest thing to learn is that in a five-match series we had them on the canvas, and we let them get up and punch back,” added the Yorkshireman. “So that’s the point, that when you get a sniff you’ve got to make it count. The third game was the really crucial, pivotal, and momentum-changing match when we’d played so well but really messed it up towards the end.”
Rhodes has been accompanied throughout the winter by two of his Worcestershire stars, Joe Clarke and Ross Whiteley, who both personified the change in fortunes through the 50-over series as after sharing a hard-hitting partnership in the second match they were dropped for the fifth.
“They were both sad to miss out on the last game but they both feel they’ve learned a hell of a lot over the two tours, with the training camp as well,” Rhodes reflected. “They will be better players for this experience.
“No careers go in a straight line all the time, you always have peaks and troughs, and hurdles to get over – and sometimes you trip up. But they’re both determined characters and they’re both going to be very important parts of the Worcester team.
“I’m sure that whatever they have learnt from these tours will make them better players and people. They’re both looking forward to getting back to Worcester as well.
“I was very proud of them when they put on that stand, but when I’m here as an Assistant Coach of England Lions it’s about all the players. So watching Vincey play so well, watching Dawid Malan score hundreds has been excellent, some of the bowling and fielding too.
“To work with different players has been one of the great things about the trip for me, as well as with coaches like Andy and Chris Taylor on the fielding side after Christmas. I’ve got some terrific young guys at Worcester who I love working with day in day out – and some coaches, too.
“But it’s also quite nice and refreshing because it stretches you as a coach to work with different people, having to get used to different personalities.”
But now it is back to the day job for Rhodes, one which the former England wicketkeeper loves so much, having become part of the furniture at New Road since joining the county from Yorkshire more than three decades ago.
There has been one significant change during the winter, with the departure of his fellow Bradfordian David Leatherdale for the Professional Cricketers’ Association, to be replaced on an interim basis by Tom Scott.
“I’m straight back in,” Rhodes said last night, before the Lions’ flight home today. “Monday morning we’re at Malvern College with the lads and then I’ve got a load of meetings in the afternoon to catch up in the office, including with the new interim CEO.
“We’ll have a very busy February, then we’re back out here to Abu Dhabi on March 4 for our pre-season tour which is always great fun.”