I think most cricketers would admit that by this point, they’ve had enough of pre-season and can’t wait now for the real cricket to begin, writes Ben Brown.
We’re in a good position in that nearly everyone in the squad has had a performance in our warm-up matches – whether that’s here or on tour in Cape Town – and now we’re raring to go for our first Championship game against Leicestershire starting tomorrow (Friday).
The mood among the players is that we’re ready after a really good winter. The boys’ good form in the warm-up matches is the tip of the iceberg, underneath which are deep foundations of hard work.
A lot has gone on, both physically and technically, and we’re already seeing the results. We won all four one-day matches out in South Africa and we were dominant against Hampshire and Kent, who are both strong, division one opposition. They’re only warm-up matches, of course, but there have been some really good signs for the summer ahead.
Personally, I’ve had my own goals during the off-season, mainly focussed on improving my white-ball skills.
I’m a big believer that you have to reinvest in your own career periodically and put some thought in how you are going to become a better player, so Luke Wright and I went early to South Africa to get the input of some different coaches – including Gary Kirsten – and I was also able to really tap into Wrighty’s huge white-ball experience.
Talking of coaches, all the team were really pleased to see Dizzy after his winter back home. I actually think we’ve stumbled across some real positives with the head coach being here during the summer and away in the winter.
It gives both him and everyone else a chance to take stock, we as players can take more responsibility for the things we’ve been given to work on from the season before and there’s an opportunity for the rest of the coaching staff to step up.
It’s also been really refreshing to have your head coach come back in March, when a lot of the boys haven’t seen him for months. It feels fresh and exciting again and you’re ready to show off your new skills and the things you’ve been working on to the man in charge.
With a few days to go until the new campaign, it’s great that the guys have put Dizzy and I under pressure when it comes to selection for that first match. I felt that last year we didn’t quite have enough depth in the squad and that made it extremely tiring for the batsmen and bowlers who were asked to play every game.
For this year, we really need people to be pushing from underneath for places in the first team. The signs are that some of the squad players have really improved over the winter and they’ve certainly chucked their hat in the ring.
It will be very difficult for us to pick that first XI for Friday – both batters and bowlers – and there will be some very good players that miss out. It’s a long season though and there’s no doubt that we will need the whole squad firing as we go on.