'Time right for change' as Liddle hangs up bowling boots to start coaching at Northants
It has been a whirlwind few months and a time of great change in the life of Chris Liddle.
When the 35-year-old wrapped up last season with Gloucestershire at the end of September he was looking forward to another year on the playing staff at Bristol, having agreed a one-year extension to his contract.
But here we are a few months later in January, 2020, and the Yorkshireman has made the big step of quitting Gloucestershire, hanging up his playing boots for good - and starting a new career as the bowling coach at Northants.
A coaching stint in October with the Netherlands national team as they qualified for this year’s T20 World Cup whetted Liddle’s appetite, and led to him applying for the post of bowling coach at the County Ground.
He was one of scores of applicants for the role to support head coach David Ripley, and clearly impressed as he was offered the job, and had no hesitation in taking it on.
“I still had a year to run on my playing contract at Gloucester, but I felt this was an opportunity I had to take,” said Liddle, who also played for Leicestershire and Sussex in a playing career spanning 15 years.
“I have been transitioning towards the coaching side of things for a couple of years now, and it’s not often that an opportunity like this comes up at a county, especially a county that has just got promoted and moved up to division one again.
“To be working with the first team and working alongside Rips and Sads (John Sadler, assistant coach), so as soon as I got offered the position I thought ‘yeah, the time is right’. It was something I didn’t want to miss out on.
“It has been a bit of a change, hanging my boots up as a player and then moving on to the coaching side of things.
“But I feel I can bring a lot of current things that I wanted as a player, and I can bring here as a coach, in the planning and working with Sads and Rips
“It has been brilliant, getting involved and getting to grips with the planning and what coaching we want to do and what training sessions we want to do.”
So what is a hard decision to quit playing?
“It wasn’t a tough decision at all, because it is something I have been looking to do, and this has come at the right time for me,” said Liddle.
“I had a great two months away with Holland for the World Cup qualifiers which went really well, and I came back from there and spoke to my wife, and I said ‘I really want to get involved in coaching full-time now, rather than playing’.
“I am quite an ambitious person and I want to see how far I can take the coaching, and how high I can go and stuff like that, so I am over the moon to be starting here.
Liddle officially started his new role on January 6, and he added: “I am really looking forward to it (coaching at Northants).
“At this time of the year there are still a lot of players abroad, and I think we have 10 or 11 players that we are working with at the moment.
"We are also keeping tabs on the players abroad, and it will be good when we all get back together for pre-season.”
Liddle’s main job will be to work with the bowling unit at the County Ground, and he believes the fact he was a player as recently as last summer, helping Gloucestershire to the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast, will be an advantage.
“My job here is to look after the bowlers, and when I am talking about game-plans I can relate to what the players are going through and what they are going to come up against,” he said.
“I want to try and keep things very simple for them, and not let them get confused by thinking ‘I am coming up against this guy, shall I bowl that delivery?’
“It is about working with them to get a game-plan that suits what they are as a bowler, and what we want to do as a team as well.
“I like to think I am coming in with fresh ideas, but it is nothing groundbreaking, it is just about keeping things simple for each individual bowler.
“Everybody is going to be slightly different in what they want to do, and especially when it comes to red ball cricket, it is about keeping things simple and sticking to strengths.
“I also have to be that sounding block and support for the bowling unit as well to make sure everything is fine with them.”
So has he been impressed with what he has seen do far?
“A few of the guys are away, but we have had Brett Hutton, Ben Sanderson, Gareth Berg and Luke Proctor in and they are the guys I have been around, and I have been very impressed with their work ethic, for one,” said Liddle.
“Also their skill levels and how they go about their bowling, and how they execute each delivery they bowl is great.
“To start with we have just done a lot of red ball work, and that’s what we will do for the time being before we start introducing white ball stuff.
“I suppose that is where I will get more involved in what options suit them, what deliveries suit them and their style of bowling, but for now it is about getting their workloads up and them getting their bodies used to being back bowling again.
“I have been really impressed with the bowlers that are here, and with the ones abroad I know a lot about them and have played against them and seeing them around the circuit as well.”
After 16 years as a cricketer, it must be a shock to the system to not be a player any more, so is Liddle missing it?
“I have been trying to get myself into the gym and to keep myself fit,” he said.
“But I certainly won’t be missing the yo-yo test when it comes around - this will be the first time I’ve not felt sick when I have heard the start of level whatever it is!”