As the snow finally melts away and with the sun beginning to poke through the clouds, it is finally time for the season of cricket to begin.
Although the weather may be bleak and miserable in the UK, players and coaches at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club have experienced warmer climates over the winter in preparation for the upcoming campaign.
The warm weather training camps in Barbados and Barcelona were the perfect remedy for the players after a long winter break, but since landing back in the UK, the squad have been greeted by less than ideal conditions, according to Head Coach, David Ripley. Despite the snow and the rain, however, Ripley has been impressed by his sides attitude and performance during the winter training camps and practice sessions.
“Training has gone as well as it could have. While we were in Barbados we had snow and we had relentless rain and the grounds staff have worked extremely hard to give us the facilities we had. Obviously the conditions haven’t been ideal, but I’m pretty sure we’re not alone in that boat in terms of the amount of wet weather we’ve had in the country. Some grounds have already had games called off – we’ve had three University games that haven’t bowled a ball, so I’m pretty sure it’s country wide.”
“As far as our practice is concerned, it hasn’t gone how we would like but we’ve got the best of what we can and that is thanks to Craig and his staff.”
Although training and practice sessions have kept the cobwebs at bay throughout the winter, the season has quickly fallen upon us. Press day typically marks the time where players and fans can really begin to get excited about a summer of cricket, as the players pose in their kits and share their thoughts on their preparation for the new season with various media outlets.
Ripley spoke of his plans for the forthcoming season;
“Unity and togetherness has been one of our biggest strengths in recent years. We celebrate our victories together and commiserate with defeats and we celebrate individual successes. I think we’ve got a nice feel and a nice sense of diversity to keep us fresh. I do believe, in terms of team spirit, that it is such a difficult thing to actually explain but I think we are as far down the road as anyone else is in terms of developing that feel for each other and hopefully that stands us in good stead and will continue to do so.”
That sense of brotherhood and togetherness has been particularly important for allowing the new signings to settle into the squad and to help them make Northampton their home. Having welcomed Brett Hutton from Nottinghamshire and Luke Procter from Lancashire, as well as South African wicket keeper and batsman, Ricardo Vasconcelos, Ripley believes the players have settled in well and that they will go a long way in helping the team achieve its goals for the season.
“They’re experienced cricketers. We weren’t expecting them to need a great deal of adjustment, they are seasoned professionals and that is one of the reasons as to why we signed them. They’re hungry to succeed and they’ve had a great winter. Obviously, they’ve been with us all winter for training, they’ve been to Barbados with us and now they are well cemented in the group.”
“They’re just like everyone else really, they like to get the most out of these practice days before we can start on our proper cricket. They’ve been great and we’re expecting them to settle in well this year and to be here for years to come.”
Although the players have hit the ground running in terms of preparation and pre-season training, Ripley and the rest of the coaching line up hope that the new competition for places will motivate the entire squad to fight for their place in the starting XI.
“They’re going to bring competition for places. They are proven first class players, they performed well for Notts last year with Brett, and Luke came on loan and was very good in the games he played for us so we’re expecting them to be pushing for first team spots in all competitions.
“That just adds a little more hunger so that once they’ve got a spot they hold onto it. We’ve got a small squad so it’s added to our number and added to the quality of our number so in terms of competition for spots it’s just about the right number we need. Sometimes you can have too many people waiting in a queue and that’s unhealthy but this gives us a perfect number.”
There is a sense of the final piece of the puzzle falling into place. With a couple of warm weather training camps behind them and with some much needed strength in depth, there is an overriding sense of optimism circling around Wantage Road at the moment. Despite having clear goals outlined for the season, Ripley understands that there are a number of strong sides competing for the same prizes.
“We want to compete on all three fronts. Now that the season is blocked up, I think that helps us more. I think the bigger squads had more of an advantage when the season was pretty chaotic but now you can plan for each competition. There is still some cross over but it is much better than it was before.”
“Last year we spoke about giving ourselves a real opportunity to progress in the Championship and we won 9 games, so we were very unfortunate to not be promoted. We have to try and back that up.”
“Our seam bowling looks strong in terms of taking 20 wickets and then we get back to whiter ball cricket and we’ve got a good white ball squad. We aim to reach the quarter finals in both competitions, that is our goal. If we don’t do that then we’ll be disappointed but we recognise that there are a lot of good sides around and achieving that isn’t a given.”
The true strength of unity, new additions and the effect of the miserable weather will be on display for Northamptonshire’s first game against Middlesex at Lords on Friday 13th April. You can book yourself in for a summer of cricket through our website; click here to check out all of our season ticket options for the 2018 season.