Mark Alleyne hopes his partnership with Gary Kirsten can ignite Welsh Fire’s fortunes in the men’s Hundred this season and help the pair enjoy more white-ball success.
The Welsh Fire finished bottom of the first competition with just two wins, but Kirsten, who won this year’s Indian Premier League with Gujarat Titans as batting coach, has responded by changing the playing staff and bringing in a league winner.
Alleyne enjoyed a trophy-laden spell with Gloucestershire, helping them win nine one-day titles over seven seasons between 1999 and 2006.
This included victory in three consecutive Lord’s finals and he would love to be back at the Home of Cricket competing to win The Hundred on September 3.
He told the PA news agency: “It gives you a lot of space to be around winning groups, so it’s important.
“Gary also has his own pedigree. He just won the IPL recently and he will be lively and ready to go.”
Welsh Fire open this year’s Hundred on Wednesday with a clash at the Ageas Bowl against champions Southern Brave and are the representatives of first-class clubs Glamorgan, Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Alleyne’s achievements are written into Gloucestershire folklore with the former England international joining the county in 1986 and becoming a mainstay as an all-rounder, wicketkeeper and finally captain before taking over as head coach in 2004.
He left after three seasons in charge having been an integral part of one of English cricket’s most successful one-day sides with two Benson & Hedges Super Cup triumphs complimented by four C&G Trophy – formerly NatWest Trophy – successes and a solitary Sunday League victory during a campaign in 2000 where they won the whiteball treble.
“When it first happens you might not appreciate it too much, but looking back it was a fantastic run and it hasn’t been quite matched since,” reflected the 54-year-old.
“In some ways the secret is that there is no secret! It’s just accepting and demanding every inch from the whole squad and not kicking back or relying on certain people to win you a game.
“The best teams can take everyone in and make them feel special, even if their moment was just five or ten minutes, or three balls, whatever it took. I think that’s how you get a really consistent level of performance from the whole group.”
Given Alleyne’s decorated playing career and strong start to life as a coach, winning the C&G Trophy in 2004 and leading Gloucestershire to their only Twenty20 final in 2007, there remains a sense of bewilderment that he then spent more than a decade absent from the county game.
He is honest enough to admit it was partly due to his own decision to spend more time with his young family, but found many doors closed despite a long spell as MCC head coach.
It was Gloucestershire and former team-mate Ian Harvey who gave him a route back last year as one of their part-time assistant coaches, and he has toured the West Indies and the Netherlands since with England’s white-ball team.
Alleyne added: “It’s really exciting for me to get back in.
“It wasn’t entirely cricket’s fault. Yes, I went to MCC (in 2009) to improve and understand my overall coaching philosophy. I thought I would be there for three, maybe four years and then I would be ready to come back to first-class cricket. It was at that time that I did not find any opportunities.
“I took my eyes off the first-class ball a bit, but when my kids got to an age where I was happy with where they were, I started to get involved again and so far some options have emerged.
“I’ve had some good opportunities with England, with Gloucestershire and now with Welsh Fire. I feel like the next four or five years are going to be pretty exciting.”
After a long absence, Alleyne wants to seize the moment and play a role in inspiring a new generation of black coaches.
In an alternate world, Alleyne is England’s head white-ball coach and Kirsten is in charge of the national Test set-up after both interviewed this summer, but instead they aim to mastermind a turnaround at the Welsh Fire.
Going from scratch to a hundred winners in 12 months could help Alleyne fulfill a long-term ambition.
“I would love to see more black coaches out there,” he insisted. “I hope, if anything, this will give everyone the encouragement to get fully qualified, put themselves out there and at least give them a shot at a role.
“I think I have the skills and that’s how I’ve always operated. I look at myself first and say can I do this job and make an impact on the England team? When I can say yes to myself, of course I want to put myself in a position to deal with it.
“I wouldn’t do anything for tokenism, I’m not wired that way, but at the moment I really feel I can influence English cricket and I’d like to do that with the national side.”