Gary Newbon: Giles is someone club and country turn to

Ashley Giles
Ashley Giles -Credit:David Rogers/Getty Images

Ashley Giles is one of the great heroes of Warwickshire cricket. He spent the whole of his first-class career – 14 years – with the county and in the process played 54 Test matches and 62 one-day internationals for England. Later, he had successful roles there in coaching as director of cricket.

Ashley, now 51 years old, was forced to retire from playing by a hip injury and these days he is chief executive of Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

Between playing and his latest post, he has experienced many different and successful roles in cricket.

As a person, I have always found him friendly, approachable and a class act.

At present, he is helping everyone come to terms with last week’s tragic news of the death of the county’s left-arm spinner Josh Baker at the tender age of 20. As ever, Giles found the right words and the right action to take.

He is an outstanding cricket individual respected throughout the game.

Do not just take my word for it. Keith Cook, Warwickshire’s cricket operations manager, told me: “I am in my 51st year with Warwickshire and Ashley is definitely the best director of cricket I have experienced.

“He handles everyone so, so well. I have the greatest of respect for Ashley and the way he treated me.”

Ashley, as a player, was a slow left-arm orthodox bowler. He set out as a fast bowler but injury was responsible for his switch to being a spinner.

His first-class debut for Warwickshire was in 1993 but he did not become a regular until three years later.

Then he was named ‘most promising young player at the club’.

He made his one-day international debut against Australia in 1997 and his 36 wickets in the following season led to his first full Test against South Africa when he took one wicket for 106.

However, Giles did not get another full Test for England for another two years.

His great asset was his height – 6ft 4ins – which enabled him to return plenty of bounce off the wicket.

Giles could bat a bit as well. He scored three first-class centuries.

His highest score for England was 59 in the great 2005 Ashes series, hit in the final Test at the Oval when he shared a century partnership with Kevin Pietersen, which made sure of a draw against Australia and England’s victory in the series by 2-1.

Earlier, Ashley had scored the winning runs in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.

As a bowler, he took 10 wickets in the series for an average of 57.80 runs.

He was named as one of the five cricketers of the year by Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

It is also worth recalling that against the West Indies in July 2004, Ashley claimed nine wickets in the first Test at Lord’s, which included his 100th Test wicket – dismissing Brian Lara.

Next, he returned nine for 122 in the second Test at Edgbaston as England beat the West Indies again.

At this time, Ashley had been nicknamed ‘King of Spain’ after a set of mugs ordered in 2002-3 for the club shop had misspelt ‘King of Spin’.

I think I am right in saying the BBC radio commentator Henry Blofeld nicknamed him ‘Wheelie Bin’ because of his run-up. I don’t think Ashley appreciated it.

We all felt for Giles on a far more serious matter when he flew home from the 2006 Ashes series in Australia. His wife Stine had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

However, after a worrying time and much care, Stine recovered and I am delighted to report is well today.

Ashley was soon suffering from his hip injury to such an extent that on medical advice he retired from playing completely on August 9,
2007. The following month, Giles became Warwickshire’s director of cricket and then two months later the spin coach of England’s Performance Programme.

His off-field talents were being noted and in the January he joined the new panel of England selectors.

Back at Edgbaston, Ashley guided Warwickshire to the Division Two County Championship in 2008, the Pro 40 Division Two title in 2009, the CB40 competition in 2010 and the Division One County Championship in 2012.

Then followed another set of appointments: England’s limited overs head coach in charge of Twenty 20 and one-day international teams; cricket director and head coach of Lancashire, then sports director at Warwickshire.

Next stop was managing director of men’s cricket for England in December 2018, but in February 2022 he left after a poor Ashes return.

Finally, he picked up the baton at Worcestershire, being appointed chief executive on July 3 last year. They are lucky to have Ashley Giles on board.

He was awarded the MBE in the 2006 New Year’s Honours for his part in the 2005 Ashes-winning series.

Gary is back on Tuesday with his in both the Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph.