With a brand new season set to get underway, county cricketers typically greet the press with optimism and ambitious statements about their desire to make this summer their best ever. The Nottinghamshire media day took place under cloudy skies and a distinct chill in the air but the team were in good spirits and looking forward to getting their 2015 campaigns underway.
For the past few seasons Notts have had a strong bowling and batting attack at their disposal but a few run chases have fallen short, trophies have slipped through their grasp and last season dealt a particularly heavy blow as overseas signing Peter Siddle was recalled by Cricket Australia when they were in the running for all three titles, only for 2014 to leave them empty handed.
It’s testament to the skill and experience on display at Trent Bridge, however, that the team have two captains across three formats. James Taylor will captain the side for their Natwest T20 Blast and Royal London One Day Cup fixtures whilst wicket-keeper Chris Read will take the reins for the entire LV County Championship campaign.
Now in his eighth year leading the side out, Read treats the start of the season with cautious optimism.
“We’ve had a good winter programme, there was a good trip to Barbados and we’re in the middle of playing some friendlies here at Trent Bridge which so far are going well. We’re in a good position but there’s a long summer ahead and you can’t say too much this early,” Read admits.
In discussing their disappointing fourth place finish last summer, Read is characteristically honest and diplomatic saying, “Ultimately we’ve put our hands up and admitted we weren’t the best Championship side last year, we lost twice to Warwickshire and obviously Yorkshire were deserving champions so there’s a lot of work to be done there to match that standard and to push on further from where we were last year.”
As wicket-keeper, Chris Read has made over 960 dismissals with the gloves which could mean he’ll cross into the illusive club of having taken 1000 in his career this season. “I’ll try to cling on to as many as I can and hopefully the bowlers will help create those nicks which come my way. It’s obviously a well respected landmark and one that I’ve viewed with poignancy so I’d look forward to getting there if I can.”
However, the skipper maintains that his role as captain is his primary focus for this season and admits that despite having eight years of experience it never gets easier. “I don’t think you ever stop learning in this role; it’s a job which demands continuous improvement. I’m navigating a relatively new squad now as well as working on my own game and there are new players to integrate into the side. It’s a very exciting and constantly challenging time.” Read said.
If omens are anything to go by though Read and his men could take confidence from the calendar as they previously won Championship titles in 2005 and 2010 which could suggest they’re in a five year cycle which promises a return to the top in 2015.
Referencing their last County Championship win in 2010, Read says he’d be hard-pushed to think of a better day in his career but stops short of citing the superstitious ‘5 year fate’ as his reason for believing that this is the year. “I don’t read too much into omens or superstitions but I think we’re definitely well placed to challenge but the standard of Division One is very high and we’re set to come up against some excellent teams this year.”
Returning to the subject of the coming season, Read is taking much confidence from the squad changes made by the side throughout the winter. “I think there have been some excellent signings made; we’re looking forward to welcoming the overseas guys when they arrive next week. [Vernon] Philander and Ben Hilfenhaus are very exciting signings for us and the prospects for this year are much improved by having them onboard. Our other new players, Will Gidman and Greg Smith, look to be very fine additions to the squad, they’ve been involved in the pre-season tours and have already settled in nicely which stands them in good stead ahead of the competitive season starting.” he commented.
“We recognised a couple of seasons ago that we needed a senior seam bowler and I’d hope that between them they can have a very big impact. It was a definite blow for us when Siddle was recalled, he’d done a phenomenal job both on and off the pitch and so with that in mind we decided to divide the duties between the two overseas guys which will hopefully mean that between them they can lead the attack on the field and hopefully give some guidance to our young seamers coming through.”
On the issue of shared captaincy, Read is full of praise for his job-share partner: “I thought James Taylor did a fantastic job of leading the side last year. He took a bit of time to adjust to his position, as we all did with the new T20 setup, but whilst the team weren’t off to a flier I think he took the responsibilities in his stride and met the challenges he faced in a very impressive manner.”
Notts’ first fixture sees them take on last year’s lucky escapees Middlesex at Lord’s on April 12th. Whilst they fared much better in the Championship table than the home-side, Nottinghamshire struggled in their first away game at the Home of Cricket in 2014. “We got outbowled on what was a decent, early season wicket so we’ll be keen to redress the balance this year and hopefully put on a better show.”
So with such savvy signings, optimistic omens and a positive pre-season programme in place it’s safe to assume Notts are well placed ahead of their trip to Lord’s. Read’s outlook for the season is bright but he remains wary of the hurdles the side must overcome if they are to become the champions in 2015. “If you go through Division One there are no weak teams and the standard increases year on year. Every team has a match-winner in their squad and stand out players, we’re no different.”