Warwickshire captain Jim Troughton candidly admits that: “It’s time we turned our Twenty20 fortunes around.”
And the Bears skipper is backing overseas pair Jeetan Patel and Shoaib Malik to help make that happen in the T20 campaign which starts against Yorkshire tomorrow night (6.30pm).
As the club’s overseas player for the whole season, Patel will be available for all the T20 games. Malik has been signed for just six matches in the middle of the schedule but Troughton reckons that both men will wield a big influence.
“Teams that have won the T20 in the past make the game look very easy and often have a couple of overseas players performing extremely well for them,” he said. “We are hoping that Jeetan and Shoaib will make a real difference for us.
“Jeets has been a fantastic player for us for a number of years while Shoaib is our first overseas T20 signing. He’s someone who has been there and done it at international level and brings with him a wealth of experience with the bat and ball from his time in the Big Bash, the IPL and the Caribbean Twenty20.”
Troughton’s own experience and quality will be missed in the batting order for the first few group matches at least as he continues his rehabilitation from back surgery.
He is aiming to back in action some time in June by which time, all being well, the team will be challenging hard for qualification for the quarter-finals.
Since last season, when for the second year running the Bears failed to qualify from the group, much have thought and work have gone into how to galvanise Warwickshire’s Twenty20 fortunes,
“We have underperformed in the competition in recent years,” Troughton said. “I think our dominance in four-day cricket has had an effect on our T20 skills but this winter we have tried to up-skill as much as we can.
“I have been to watch a couple of Finals Days since we got to the first one in 2003 and been very jealous of the teams competing. The guys are really geared up to making that a reality this year.
“The most important thing about Twenty20 is having a formula; if you are well-drilled, you know what your role is and you are performing well together tactical decision-making isn’t always needed.
“It’s time we turned our Twenty20 fortunes around. Generally we’ve been out-fired with the bat and out-skilled with the ball.”
After starting their T20 programme tomorrow, Warwickshire will return to championship cricket on Sunday when they face Somerset at Edgbaston where they will be eager to bounce straight back from defeat by an innings to Yorkshire at Headingley last week.
That defeat brought a jarring end to the momentum they had built up during two successive wins. And after seeing his side bowled out for just 89 in the sceond innings at Leeds, director of cricket Dougie Brown wants them to relocate their resilience against Somerset.
That was an emphatically bad day at the office, admits Brown. But he also points out that every team in the division has already suffered something similar this season in the early throes of what is promising to be a very open title race.
“So far this season every team has had ups and downs already and I think that tells you the strength of Division One cricket,” Brown said. “For example, Yorkshire have got well over 400 in the first ininings of every game they have played but they only won two of them.
“There is a lot of ability and resilience being shown by teams who are on the wrong end of games. We have those traits but didn’t show tham at Headingley and that’s what we need to get back to.
“We had chances during the game and didn’t take them and good teams will make you pay when you don’t take your chances. Good teams only need one opportunity to get themselves ahead of the game and that’s what Yorkshire did.”
Warwickshire’s biggest challenge against Somerset next Sunday and beyond is to compensate for the loss of Ian Bell. The England batsman has been head and shoulders above most of his colleagues during the early weeks of the season, scoring 506 runs at an average of 72.29, but will now be lost to international cricket probably for the rest of the season.
Brown is confident the rest of the batsmen can find enough form and runs to compensate for Bell’s absence.
“It’s easy to say that Belly propped up the batting,” Brown said. “But he is a world-class player and when he plays for Warwickshire our expectation of him is that he goes out and dominates. That is what he has done in the four championship games he has played. He has shown why he is world-class.
“Of course we want other guys to step up but it is a long season and, whilst guys haven’t quite managed to hit the ground running, we hope they can get going during the Twenty20.
“We have Ian Westwood coming back to fitness, Sam Hain knocking on the door and also Tom Lewis, Freddie Coleman and Jon Webb in the mix. We are in a nice position of having guys who are good young players pushing for places.
“Our batting resources are good with a number of batsman who we feel can cut their teeth at first-team level from what we have seen in the second team.
“Twenty20 has come at a good time for us. It is normally a good chance for guys who have been short of runs to get back to form and get flowing again.”