Notts warm to the task
Posted in Domestic Cricket
It is one of the quirks of the English cricket calendar that Nottinghamshire’s pre-season media day and photocall took place the week after the LV= County Championship campaign began.
As the champion county, Notts have had other commitments to fulfil in Abu Dhabi and were notable absentees from last week’s opening round of matches as they took on Oxford MCCU.
Hence there was the rather surreal situation at Trent Bridge yesterday of players and coaches discussing their prospects for a summer in which their first task is to make up a 22-point deficit on early pace-setters Yorkshire and Lancashire.
That aside, events were strikingly familiar to those that have been played out up and down the country over the last few weeks – years even.
At the risk of inciting further comments about my age from my colleagues in the office (barely a day goes by when they don’t make reference to my black and white TV or, worse still, hide my fountain pen and quill), I have been to a fair few media days in recent seasons.
The sight of players’ hands stuffed in pockets is de rigueur in temperatures more familiar with Arctic exploration than the nation’s summer sport, and upturned collars provide protection only until the snappers get to work. Woolly hats and fleeces don’t quite cut it on the team photo.
As ever, Graeme Swann described it best: “I was freezing my testicles off out there.”
Players sporting short-sleeved shirts fall into three categories: those who refuse to accept they are no longer in the Middle East; those with the skin of a rhino; and the plain daft.
Forget the final throes of a one-day run-chase - it is on days like this when experience counts for everything: the senior pros dashing towards the chairs to pose for individual head shots as the less alert members of the squad absent-mindedly join the queue, doing their best not to look like schoolboys during a January PE lesson.
Swann and Stuart Broad, both immaculately turned out, are among those to get a head-start, but any hopes they have of warming up are dashed by the demands of a stream of interview requests on the outfield. One of the perks of playing for England, you could say.
Even after three changes of clothing for each of the kits (Charlie Shreck, a former model, is surely used to this), the players’ work is not done.
There are dozens of bats in the changing room eagerly awaiting their signatures – there is enough wood on display to give Greenpeace activists a minor heart tremor – and then guests to entertain over lunch in the grand old pavilion.
The groundstaff have to settle for sandwiches out of clingfilm, nonetheless a deserved breather after spending a large chunk of the morning doing their best to interrupt video interviews. Spielberg has never had to contend with a lawnmower chugging into shot.
The outfield looks in splendid condition given that the daffodils are not long out, although I’m convinced I spotted one or two of the Notts seamers salivating as they cast their eyes towards a pitch that is not dissimilar in colour to their one-day kit.
Wherever you looked, there were jobs to be done: a group armed with Mr Muscle cleaning the seats in the stands; construction workers renovating the Radcliffe Road End; bar staff polishing glasses and folding napkins.
You get the impression that no stone is being left unturned at Trent Bridge, and players and coaching staff are at pains to stress that there will be no sense of complacency (a “horrible word”, according to Broad) when Notts begin the defence of their title against Hampshire there tomorrow.
As the guests piled into the pavilion for lunch and the players traded their whites for suits, the championship trophy, which had taken pride of place in the squad photo, was being packed away for safe keeping.
It was a salient reminder that Notts remain the team to beat this year – even if they have some catching-up of their own to do first.