Somerset are looking to challenge for silverware in all three competitions this summer, but Director of Cricket Matt Maynard admits it’s the championship he most wants to win with his new county.
At the official launch of the LV=County Championship in Worcester this week, Maynard spoke of the huge sense of achievement that comes with winning the title after the demands of playing 16 tough four-day games.
“It’s the hardest tournament to win,” said Maynard, who won the title as a player with Glamorgan in 1997.
“You have to play good, sustained cricket for five and a half months. You’re allowed one bad game but literally it has to be the odd one, the odd bad half-session, but generally you have to play good cricket throughout the summer, and that’s tough and that’s why winning it is absolutely fantastic because you get such a great reward.
“After a four-day game it’s gone up and down, it’s gone to them, it’s gone back over to us, and if you end up nipping a four-day game it’s a great sensation. Times that by 16 when you’ve won it; it’s an amazing feeling.”
He added: “It’s 96 days of hard work and hard graft, some real good days, some tough days.
“When we won the championship in 1997 we got bowled out for 31 in a game and it was how we reacted to which was absolutely key and we won the next few games and that put us back on track. So alongside those great days you also have some shocking days as well and you’ve got to remember that in sport.”
A relaxed Maynard, joked about what a first championship title would mean for skipper Marcus Trescothick, who came close to taking the title in his first season in charge in 2010: “What he says is if we can win the County Championship he can have a roof on his stand.”
But he added: “I don’t think it’s just for Marcus. It’s the supporters who have tasted success over the years but obviously not the County Championship. It’s for them.
“It’d help get a monkey off the back as well, and you can just carry on playing. But that first one is always going to be the most difficult.
“Tres is doing very well. He’s keen as ever. He’s skippering the side in the four-day game. He loves the game, so he’s very much looking forward to the season.”
Just a couple of years ago Somerset were routinely challenging in all three county competitions and narrowly missed out on silverware on a number of occasions. In the past two years however, they have fallen short of those standards and faced a hard-fought relegation battle in the championship in 2013.
Maynard accepts there is no simple solution to again becoming challengers for silverware, let alone lifting a trophy.
“It’s about getting to the finals and semi-finals. It is about winning, of course, but you can’t win unless you’re in those finals and semi-finals at the back-end of the competition,” he added.
“It’s been a tough couple of years and hopefully I can bring back the top work Brian Rose and Andy Hurry did and allow the players to play to the best of their ability.”
While the squad have done work to prepare for the white ball game, it’s basic cricket skills which Maynard has been focussing on with his players during the winter, as he explained: “The skills that you work on are about creating 20 chances in a first-class match as opposed to creating 28 chances and spilling 8 catches or missing a run out and those are the crucial things.
“The four-day game is brilliant and it brings out the best in the players.
“It just, to me, gets all the skills together. At a level that you need to win the championship you have to sustain that throughout 16 first-class games, and Yorkshire did that brilliantly last year.”
Maynard said there had been a lot of attention on Somerset’s T20 side, following the recent signing of Chris Gayle.
“Ticket sales went through the roof for in the 48 hours after Mr Gayle’s signing, so we’re delighted with that. Obviously we’ve got Corey Anderson, Sohail Tanvir and Abdur Rehman as well.
“We’ve got to be a bit smart how we work out the registrations there, but it’s great to have such an assortment of overseas players.”
Finally, talking about the squad at his disposal at Taunton, Maynard said: “We’re looking strong; we’ve got some great young talent, some great young bowling resources and a couple of old stagers still going well.”