Jim Troughton believes Warwickshire’s players are learning how to deal with the more testing side-effects of success as they prepare for a serious tilt at retaining their championship title over the next two months.
Emphatic victories over Middlesex and Nottinghamshire powered the Bears from the Division One relegaton zone to the fringe of the title race in the space of little more than a week.
In both those matches, Warwickshire’s all-round game functioned strongly enough to give Varun Chopra, captain in the absence of the injured Troughton, the option of making the opposition follow on.
They were performances redolent of those which brought the pennant to Edgbaston in 2012 – and were much-improved on the more hesitant and scrappy displays, particularly with the bat, earlier in the season.
Some mitigation for the Bears’ patchy cricket in April and May comes from the deluge of injuries and international calls they had to withstand.
But Troughton admits there was also an element of his team taking time to adjust to the expectations and pressures of being defending champions.
“We have had a lot of stuff to deal with, many of the things not of our own making,” said the club skipper. “And at times perhaps we haven’t dealt with them as well as we could.
“But we are victims of our own success. For us to be without Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott is a given, but then we win the championship and see a lot more of our players called up.
“I have no complaints about that at all, that’s why we do what we do, to get players playing at the highest possible level. We want as many of our players as possible to do that.
“It does bring challenges though and, yes, at times, we have found it difficult, especially when you add in quite a few injuries that we picked up.”
But his squad having experienced those challenges and come through them only augurs well for the future, reckons Troughton, whose team’s next championship match is a crucial test away to fellow challengers Yorkshire at Headingley, starting a week tomorrow.
When Troughton’s side won the championship last season there was much talk of it being only the start.Much emphasis was placed on the need to build an era of success rather than record just an isolated triumph.
At times this season, that objective appeared to be a million miles from fruition, but that is not the case now that the confidence of the team and the conviction of their cricket has been restored.
“When you want to build an era of success you have to learn to deal with these things and we are doing that,” Troughton said.
“During the first half of this season we lost the sort of tight games that last season we were winning.
“We just lost key little phases of games that the previous year we were getting the better of.
“But the signs in the last couple of games are that we are getting back to where we were last year and we will be a better side for having had all these things to deal with.”
One of the more recent inconveniences has been the sidlining of Troughton himself with a back injury.
But while his runs and his leadership (the latter was perhaps the biggest and most under-rated factor of all in last year’s success) are missed, Chopra has proved a more than capable deputy.
Calm, composed and a deep thinker about the game, Chopra is a man about whom Troughton has no doubts as leader.
“Varun has led the side really well,” he said. “He thinks about the game a lot and enjoys the challenges of leadership and it’s great that he takes over so seamlessly because I’m not going to be captain for ever.
“We have not got a vice-captain, as such, because we don’t really need one. We know that Varun has the abilities to step in and do the job if required and there are a lot of other very experienced players in the side to offer their help.
“When I’m not playing, I keep out of it during games. I have an input to selection but once the game has started I am not involved. It would be unfair on Varun to complicate his job by me having a say as well.”
Troughton is aiming to be back in the team as soon as possible though, ideally for next week’s crunch championship clash with Yorkshire,
“I have just got a little problem with a disc which arose during the 2nd XI game I played a few weeks ago,” he said. “It is improving and I have done some very gentle batting but it is very hard to predict.
“I would like to be back for the championship game at Headingley but we can only wait and see.”