Somerset talent drain is by-product of success, says captain Tom Abell

Tom Abell has defended Somerset’s record for retaining players despite some high-profile departures in recent times.

Over the last few weeks, Somerset have seen Jamie Overton leave for Surrey and Dom Bess announce that he will leave for Yorkshire at the end of the season. Jos Buttler, who left the club at the end of 2013, is another who felt he needed to move away to win more opportunities. All three might reasonably be described as home-grown.

But while Abell admitted he was disappointed to see such talented players leave Taunton, he insisted it was a reflection of the club’s success rather than a sign of any specific problem. In particular, Abell feels it demonstrates the depth of talent and the competition for places at the club.

Bess would appear to be a prime example. Aged just 23 and currently seen as the England Test team’s first-choice spinner, he is clearly a player with a bright future whom Somerset would like to have retained. But with his opportunities for first-team cricket at the club blocked by the presence of Jack Leach, who remains Somerset’s first-choice slow bowler in red-ball cricket, he has opted to join Yorkshire. He is, however, in Somerset’s 13-man squad for the Bob Willis Trophy final which is scheduled to start at Lord’s on Wednesday.

Jamie Overton’s case is similar. He hasn’t always been able to command a place in Somerset’s seam attack – one that has excelled in this year’s competition, conceding more than 200 just once in five group games. He has been offered more opportunity, with bat and ball, at Surrey, and has already left the club.

So while Abell, Somerset’s captain, admitted he “would love” to have such players available, he understands their need to move.

“It’s a by-product of the relative success that we’ve had,” Abell said. “We’ve won a lot of cricket matches.

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“But within that individuals have their own ambitions and we can’t necessarily guarantee them the opportunities they want in all formats.

“Jamie Overton has played a significant role for us in the competition and, in an ideal world, we would have him available. But he’s not a Somerset player now and, you look at the way our bowling attack has performed right through the competition, and it’s a huge area of strength for us so. We’re very confident that we’ve got what it takes to take 20 wickets in this game.

“Of course as a club we want our best players. We want our young players playing for Somerset. But ultimately that’s not always possible.

“We’re gutted to see these players go. They’re huge players for us and they’re very popular members of the team. But equally we have to respect their decisions. We only wish them well.”

Abell also had warm words for Tom Banton, who is unavailable to play in the Bob Willis Trophy final starting on Wednesday due to his IPL commitments with Kolkata Knight Riders.

While Banton’s absence has the blessing of the club, it has attracted some criticism elsewhere. John Cleese, a long-time Somerset supporter, took to Twitter to tell his 5.7 million followers that he was “appalled that Tom Banton cannot find the time to play for his county in the most important match in their history.”

“Shame on you, Tom”, he added.

But Abell was adamant that Banton’s commitment to the club remained absolute, he explained his “contractual obligations” rendered his absence inevitable.

“Tom is a great lad and a central figure within our team,” Abell said. “And I know from talking to him that he’s desperate to play in this final. He’s a quality, quality player and we would love to have him available.

“But equally, he has commitments that he has to fulfil. That’s the nature of the beast with the player that he is. You know he is in demand all around the world and it’s great to see him involved in these high-profile competitions.

“But I would reiterate: he’s desperate to play for Somerset but has to fulfil his contractual obligations elsewhere. We want what’s best for him.”

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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