Director of cricket Dougie Brown has rejigged the coaching set-up at Warwickshire to enable batting coach Tony Frost to spend more time with the specialist batsmen.
In recent seasons the Bears have often leaned hard on their middle and lower orders for runs. They are fortunate to have effective batsmen down there but, in limited-overs cricket especially, any team needs the guys up top to be doing most of the run-scoring.
Now, in the light of Alan Richardson having replaced Graeme Welch as bowling coach, Brown has given the set-up a tweak. And part of that will see Frost, who combines his role of batting coach with that of second-team coach, spending more time with the batsmen during the season.
“Frosty has done a brilliant job with the batters and it’s a job he has only just started,” Brown said. “He is already making significant differences to the batting group and that’s great because we have never really had a batting group, as such, because we have never really had a specified batting coach.
“Last year was the first time and Frosty has made a huge difference to that group, particularly this winter when he has had a real chance to get stuck in to the coaching.
“We have made a couple of adjustments. Graeme attended all first-team games and would visit second-team games as and when time allowed. From now on there will be a bit more crossover between Richo and Frosty. For away games, one or other of them will be with us and one will be with the second team.
“Overall, the batters will get a lot more contact-time with Frosty than they have previously had and hopefully, with the guys spending more time with him regularly, we will get real consistency in the top order.
“Varun Chopra has been great for us in recent seasons, getting 1,000 championship runs three years running, and lots of people have put in some really good performances but we are looking for a more consistency from the guys up top,
“If we can do that, along with the power and experience we have got down the order, we will be in a strong position in a lot of matches.”
Under the new coaching set-up, the Bears academy director Gary Steer will have greater involvement with the Second XI next season.
“Gary will be a more constant presence at second-team level, almost to match-manage,” Brown said. “Gary is a very good coach in his own right so, whoever it will be with the seconds – Gary, Frosty or Richo – there will be an extra pair of skilled hands involved.”
More runs would be welcome not least in limited-overs cricket in which Warwickshire endured poor campaigns in 2013, due largely to too few match-shaping innings from the top order.
A big improvement is needed collectively – and Jim Troughton reckons changes to the limited-overs formats next season will work in the Bears’ favour.
In 2014, the Twenty20 group matches will be contested mainly on ten successive Friday nights from May 23. The ECB have switched to that schedule from a mid-summer block in an attempt to shore up the flagging T20 concept by making it a Friday-night “occasion”.
Bears skipper Troughton believes the restructuring of Twenty20 could also have a helpful side-effect for them as it will make it harder for other counties to hire overseas ‘big guns’ for the whole programme.
“The Friday-night schedule will change things – possibly in our favour. I am not sure how many counties are going to have a second overseas player sticking around all week just to play every Friday. That might play into our hands as we have never had a second overseas player in that format.
“I think we could do well in Twenty20 this year. Losing the first three last season set us right back but then we went on a good run and played consistently well.”
It remains to be seen whether the switch to Friday evenings will generate the desired big crowds around the country. If it does, the format will have a future in county cricket. If not, the ECB might have to grudgingly embrace the notion that they are flogging a dead horse.
The players are certainly hoping the switch brings punters flocking in.
“I hope people turn up on Friday nights,” Troughton said. “People have been crying out for a regular slot where they know it’s T20 so hopefully we will get the crowds.”