It has been a very busy winter for Director of Cricket Matt Maynard since the season ended last September with that fantastic win against Warwickshire at Taunton. In all seven players have been recruited over the different formats including the prolific Chris Rogers, who will captain the 4-day side in 2016. Roelof van der Merwe and Ryan Davies are also likely to make their first class debuts for Somerset in the first game at Durham while Mahela Jayawardene joins up for T20 Cricket and West Indian World Cup winner Chris Gayle returns to Taunton after his explosive spell last year. Scotland international Michael Leask will be battling for a place in each one-day side and Yasir Arafat returns on loan from Hampshire.
Heading out of Taunton this winter were Alfonso Thomas, Adam Dibble, George Dockrell, James Regan, Michael Bates and Tom Cooper (all released), while Craig Meschede made his loan move to Glamorgan permanent.
So after a training session in the Spanish sunshine of Desert Springs and some useful preseason games the new season is but days away so does the DOC believe the squad are well equipped to mount a serious challenge for silverware in 2016?
Yes very much so. I think it’s been a long winter but everybody’s itching to get out there and I just hope that we build on what we did in the second half of last season where we played some really good Cricket in the championship, where we played well as a unit and were more disciplined as the summer went on. So they almost set a benchmark and I’m really pleased with our bowling preseason and I’m sure in the match up at Durham their batsmen will find it very hard work.
Among the big names that have come in are also a couple of players of serious potential, including England under-19 keeper Ryan Davies and Scottish international Michael Leask who played in the World Cup recently. What hopes do you have for these players?
Well Ryan’s going to start as keeper as he has shown his quality through preseason; he’s had some useful knocks and kept wicket superbly, he has great hands and the boys have likened him to Knotty (Alan Knott) in the way his hands work. So he has impressed the lads which is obviously great as you want to make an impression when you join a new club.
And as for Leasky, he is an off-spinner so he brings something different to the side and he’s a good lower order batsman and his aim for the summer is to push Jack Leach and Max Waller for a place in first team Cricket in the white ball game. He is more suited to that as the associates play a lot of white ball Cricket and less so the longer form. But he will learn in the 2nd XI, learning how to bowl slightly differently. He’s an exciting talent and I hope it works for him.
Chris Rogers has signed and will play his part in an ominous looking top four that includes Tres, Tabes and Hildy. It looks like this top four could generate 5,000 to 5,500 runs between them so are you hopeful that this combination will give us better starts in games?
Yes but there will be times when they don’t perform and they knocked over then it’s up to the rest of the batting line up to get in the runs so we can’t rely too heavily on the top four, or any component of the team for that matter or you’re always going to be in trouble. They can’t do day in and day out – that’s proven – not even the greatest score a hundred every day. Don Bradman failed twice in every three innings so it’s important to understand we have a strong top four but we have a string middle order as well. Put it all together and we want to regularly to get scores of 450 and 500.
And I suppose it is a sign of the strength of the squad that the likes of Hose & Myburgh will be pushing hard to get in the side therefore pushing those in the higher order?
Yes exactly. Hose, Myburgh, a youngster coming through called Eddie Byrom. From the Academy there are some very exciting prospects with the likes of Tim Rouse coming back from Uni who is an all-rounder and in the bowling Ben Green is in the squad for Durham and could well make his debut up there – very exciting prospect again from our Academy. Look at Josh Davey – big season ahead for him I believe?
So we are in good shape heading up to the North East for the opener?
Yes we go into the first game without the Overton’s, Craig & Jamie, but it’s a long summer and if we bowl like we did in our last warm-up game then we’ll put a lot of pressure on the Durham batsmen. And that is the objective all season, to be in the game for 24 hours playing time over four days going at the opposition with the ball and occupying the crease for long spells with the bat.
So you think this is a side that can bring home some trophies?
I absolutely believe so. I wouldn’t be in this position if I didn’t. I think the signings we made during the winter have strengthened the squad and competition for places is greater so there is far better balance and I expect the players not in the first team to be pushing really hard for a place.
Thanks Matt – all the best for the season.