Maynard, who joined the county in October, said he had been hugely impressed by the way the players had stepped up and taken responsibility for their own performances during the pre-season training camp in Spain earlier this month.
Speaking at the club’s media day yesterday, Maynard said: “We have a lot of exciting players and for me to see what makes them tick in practice is really encouraging.
“Spain was a real eye-opener really. You can talk about whatever you want to do in nets, but it’s up to players to deliver to enable that net to be successful or a failure and since we’ve gone out on grass, the practices have been very intense, led by the bowlers.
“They’ve come in hard and made life difficult for the batsmen. That’s the way it should be in my book, but I can’t lead that, the players lead that and they’ve done it fantastically well.”
Giving an insight into his leadership philosophy, Maynard said: “It’s about ownership and if the players have ownership, they then have the responsibility to deliver. And if they’re not then I can then question them on that.
“But if I tell them too much about what is expected – and take that ownership away – then in a way I’m not giving them that responsibility. And I believe that responsibility is critical, when you come to certain points in games, to making the correct decisions more often than not.”
Club chairman Andy Nash said Maynard’s approach was already paying dividends: “Matt has brought with him a highly infectious brand of leadership and optimism and I know it’s rubbing off on the players and the squad already. Our levels of optimism and the way we’re looking forward to the season are as robust as it’s been for a long while.”
Challenging in all competitions
Maynard said his aim in his first season in charge was for the club to reach the semi-finals of both limited overs competitions and still be in contention with three rounds of championship matches to go.
“I can’t see any reason why we’re not going to be in the mix in all three competitions this year towards the final stages,” he said. “I believe we have the squad to do that. It’s up to me to create the environment around the players to do that and to give them full support in whatever they decide to do on the pitch.”
Maynard said he would be focussing on the margins that win championship matches such as avoiding missing chances in the field so that the side didn’t need to create more than 20-22 chances to bowl a side out.
“Our plans are coming along nicely,” he said. “Not everything’s finalised for the various competitions but there’s progress there.”
Unique Somerset values
As well as allowing the players to train outside on grass, the recent eight-day training camp in at the Desert Springs facility in south-east Spain also gave the team the opportunity to agree a clear set of values about what it means to play and be involved as a member of staff at Somerset.
Asked to share those values at yesterday’s media day, Maynard said they were unique to Somerset and revealed that the team’s winning song played a special part: “Blackbird has a very strong meaning within the team. It’s the winning team song. It signifies quite a lot, so that is one of the key criteria we’ve come up with.
“I will not expand any more on that, but it’s about having certain things we know as a team incorporate professionalism, ruthlessness, bouncebackability, all these kind of words, but something that ultimately pulls the team together, plays a brand of cricket that we believe is synonymous with Somerset County Cricket Club and allows the players to play with freedom.”
Maynard wouldn’t be drawn on whether those traits had been missing at the club over the past two years while he was away coaching in the Caribbean. However he said they were very much in evidence during his time at Glamorgan, including the time when Somerset “hammered” the Welsh County by 185 runs in a T20 encounter.
“It’s about looking forward now and establishing how we want to play and how we want to go about things, so the pre-season tour was a great start to that,” he said.
Squad rotation crucial
One thing which is central to Maynard’s planning is rotating the pace bowlers to avoid injuries and breakdowns and ensure captains Marcus Trescothick and Alfonso Thomas have as strong an attack to select from as possible all season.
“We have a very strong unit. It’s a case of making sure we still have as strong a unit as possible to select from come August and September.
“So we’ve got to be smart with our selections. We don’t want the players to be playing every format and then breaking down. It’s very tough for young bowlers, especially young fast bowlers to play a full season of county cricket. It’s about being smart in selection, looking medium term in the season to keep everyone fit to the last day of the season.”
Two bowlers who have faced their fair share of injuries in the past couple of years are Jamie and Craig Overton. Maynard was able to report good news on both twins.
“Jamie’s coming on really well. His work with the England Performance Programme in South Africa was a huge success. Both he and Lewis Gregory came back with fantastic reports from that, so he’s progressing really nicely.
“Craig had an operation on his left ankle and again is progressing quite nicely. He’s probably slightly ahead of schedule, so could be available for selection for the Durham match on April 12, but there’s no point in rushing him through for that.
“If he’s available for selection for the second round of matches for us, that gives him an extra two weeks of recovery, so we don’t want to rush any of our injured players back. It’s a long summer.
“We’ve got plenty of cover in the seam department, so there’s no rush, but he’s progressing nicely. But they both look tremendous talents.”
Strong batting line-up
Somerset batting line-up will look very different this year in the absence of Nick Compton, Alviro Petersen and Craig Kieswetter.
However Championship skipper Marcus Trescothick is confident that the club’s new signings bring huge strengths of their own: “We’ve got Jim Allenby & Tom Cooper coming in, so you’re almost getting like for like replacements. Both guys have got fantastic records in their own right. Their records speak for themselves.
“You have to rejig obviously a little bit, with Craig ‘s being an all-rounder position keeping wicket, but we saw Alex Barrow at the end of last season starting to progress and produce better results, so it opens the pathway for him or someone like James Regan to step up into that position.”