2015 was a great year for Rory Burns, but Surrey’s newly appointed vice-captain is excited to get the new season underway.
The only player to pass one thousand runs in Division Two, Burns’ form was instrumental in his county’s title win. Despite not coming into the side until their fourth match, his Royal London One-Day Cup form, in which he scored 364 runs including four half-centuries, was described by captain Gareth Batty as “a revelation”.
Now, the 25-year-old is looking to resume his work and feels that coming into the season, he is in a good position to do so after spending the winter months in Sydney playing grade cricket with former teammate Moises Henriques. Burns describes Henriques’ club Saint George as playing “a good standard of cricket” that presented “different challenges”.
“[I had] five months of batting out there and now I’m back.”
Since returning to England, Burns scored 77 in Surrey’s pre-season match against Loughborough MCCU, while he was also a part of the MCC side that played Yorkshire in the Champion County match, scoring a half-century.
“I’ve got a couple of nice scores early on, obviously playing Loughborough and playing that game in Abu Dhabi. It’s nice to have a few runs under your belt heading into the season. I feel like I’m hitting the ball quite nicely.”
With the club now in the County Championship’s elite, the tests facing them are going to be much bigger, but Burns isn’t too concerned by the jump in quality.
“Having played in both [divisions], there’s obviously going to be a step up. There’s a lot of good sides there. I think a key difference will be the wickets; in general, I think that should be better.
“I’m not going to say [it’ll be] easier [for an opening batsman]. It’s never going to be easy, but there’s a greater depth in Division One and it should be interesting.”
Michael Di Venuto joins the South London outfit as head coach this season, and despite only being at the club for just over a week, Burns says that “he’s certainly already put his stamp on it.
“He’s quite a relaxed character and he’s trying to help the boys wherever he can. It’s an exciting time and it’s just good to have him here.”
Looking towards the season, Burns is unsure as to whether the side are aiming for more than just survival in the County Championship, but feels that their success will be based on the first set of matches.
“I think if we get on a good roll early on then you never know. Obviously the squad is pretty settled at the minute and we found a way to win in four-day cricket, so hopefully if that can continue. We might be up there at the right end of the table, but I think success will be fairly relative to how we start.
“The challenge lies ahead now in cementing ourselves in Division One as a good side.”
It’s not just four-day cricket in which he thinks Surrey can compete. Though he still feels “very disappointed to lose in the final” of last season’s One-Day Cup, Burns believes that his side are “really well set up for white ball cricket this year.”
Competing in the T20 Blast is also an objective. “I think we’re looking for that as well. Obviously we’ve signed some big names in Dwayne Bravo, Chris Morris, [Kumar ] Sangakkara and [Aaron] Finch so hopefully we have a good campaign there.
“Obviously we’ve got our own boys in [Jason Roy] and that sort of stuff so hopefully we can challenge on all three fronts.”
The addition of former Derbyshire seamer Mark Footitt will be a major factor in Surrey’s quest for silverware, and Burns says that he has slotted into the squad well.
“He’s a good lad so he’s fitted in quite nicely. He’s chatty, he’s gotten around the boys, and we’ve got around him so he’s fit in beautifully.
“He swings the ball, he’s a left-armer and does it at pace so he’s obviously going to add to any squad that he comes into.”
Asked to compare Footitt with fast bowler Stuart Meaker, Burns finds it difficult to separate the two. “I think it’s whoever gets it right on the day. Whoever gets in a rhythm, they’re both pretty sharp and they both swing it so as an opening bat it’s a little bit of a nightmare.
“Me and [Footitt] have had some pretty big duels playing against each other. I’m not his biggest fan of playing against him and it’s vice versa there. I got one up on him here last year actually but I’m glad he’s on my team now.”
With four other wicketkeepers at the club, including former Sri Lanka keeper Sangakkara, Burns feels that his contributions will come almost exclusively with the bat. “I think opening the batting and wicketkeeping [in first-class cricket] is probably not a goer. I’ve had to do it once actually in one first-class game and that was enough, I think.
“Obviously I keep ticking over with it, I keep cashing in the gloves so I’m ready to go if needed but I don’t think so in four-day cricket.
“I’ve actually been turning my arm over in Sydney, actually became a death bowler in a semi-final in the one-day competition. We actually got to the final so I must have done it alright.
“If I’m required, off spin or seamers, then I’ll certainly bowl them but hopefully I won’t have to be called upon.”