Ashley Giles does not make pledges lightly.
Warwickshire’s director of cricket takes his job very seriously. The man who has been in charge of on-field operations at Edgbaston since the winter of 2007/08 is not one for setting silly targets and issuing bravado-driven, off-the-cuff claims which he has no prospect of backing up.
Far from it. Giles is, if anything, publicly cautious. By no means negative, but not one for trumpeting achievements banked or potentially in the pipeline. His mindset is, above all, realistic.
So when he pledged, in the recently published book ‘Warwickshire – On This Day: History, Facts and Figures from Every Day of the Years’ (£9.99, now available from the club shop at Edgbaston) that the Bears would “make a strong challenge for the championship in 2012” he meant it.
In the entry for December 31 in the above tome, Giles looks ahead to the 2012 season in the light of his team having been narrowly pipped for the title by Lancashire last year.
“Last season’s runners-up spot has inspired the team to do all we can to make a strong challenge in 2012,” he said. “We will work on a lot of things during the winter. We need to set ourselves apart from the opposition and to do that we need to work that little bit harder than everyone else.
“We need to kick on again. If we want to go from being a good side to a great side then we have to push on.”
Stirring stuff, uttered by the coach over a steaming coffee on a cold winter’s day in the Indoor Centre at Edgbaston. But even as we spoke, downstairs the players, under the guidance of Graeme Welch and Dougie Brown, were busy with that hard work.
These were no empty claims. Fast forward five months and the evidence is abundant from Warwickshire’s blazing start in the championship. They went into the current match against Durham at Chester-le-Street on the back of four wins from six games, having won away to champions Lancashire and newly-promoted Surrey and at home to much-fancied Somerset and bogey-side Durham.
You still won’t find any trace of triumphalism from Giles though. It has been a good start but that’s all it is – a start. He is, however, happy to point out that the players under him are gelling into a unit of which Warwickshire can be proud.
“These guys are hard workers and they are hungry to learn which is a huge factor,” Giles said. ”They are a good bunch and it is a privilege to coach them.
“We have worked them hard but it is not just a question of working hard but working smart and they do that. They have really bought into what we, as coaches, are trying to build here. And they know, just like we know, that we can’t afford to drop our performance levels even one per cent.
“It’s nice when you turn up at places and people say what a brilliant start you have made. And it has been a good start. But if you take your eye off the ball that can change very quickly. Momentum is a stange thing. Loads of time and hard work goes into building it up but it can be quickly lost.
“We are in a happy place at the moment but it is my job and Graeme Welch’s job and the job of the other management guys to make sure we keep doing things exactly as we have been doing them. The important thing is to stick to the basics and the disciplines that got us into this position.
“We are making a real effort to not look at too big a picture. We are getting a lot of buzz in the background from people who are saying we are championship contenders. But we have to keep that remote from us and just keep going out to do what we do every day. We have to stay focused, keep warming up well, keep disciplined and be specific and hopefully the rewards will come.”
* Warwickshire - On This Day: History, Facts and Figures from Every Day of the Year by Brian Halford is out now.