Neil Snowball expects Birmingham Bears to challenge hard in their 2017 NatWest T20 Blast campaign – and deliver some great family entertainment along the way.
The Bears launch their T20 campaign away to old rivals Worcestershire Rapids tomorrow (5.30pm), before starting their home programme against Notts Outlaws at Edgbaston on Saturday (6.30pm).
"We’ve done a lot of new and innovative marketing this year, very much targeting the family audience, and hopefully with some decent weather we hope to attract some really good home crowds."
Both will be games to savour – the customary full-house occasion at New Road and then the home debut for Blackcaps stars Grant Elliott and Colin de Grandhome against a buoyant Outlaws side which lifted the Royal London Cup at Lord’s last weekend.
And, with the backing of their passionate and noisy supporters in prospect, Snowball believes the Bears’ team is equipped to inject momentum into a season which has been disappointing so far.
“We’ve done a lot of new and innovative marketing this year, very much targeting the family audience, and hopefully with some decent weather we hope to attract some really good home crowds with upwards of 10,000 bears fans,” he said. “Last year we had the second-highest number of Under 16s across the whole country at our games which is terrific and we want to see a lot more of those families this season.
“In the T20, as in all formats, we are trying to build something special and that’s why Grant and Colin are great additions. We didn’t want players coming in for just two or three games but for the whole campaign so that they can make a mark here at Edgbaston and connect with our supporters.
“Last season we were probably just one win away from qualifying and in the second half of the campaign we fell off the pace a bit. What we needed was a couple of guys in the middle order to go out and express themselves and bash the ball about a bit. That’s what we’ve got with Grant and Colin in addition to being top blokes.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing them at New Road tomorrow when we take on Worcestershire Rapids for the Norman Gifford Trophy. Then we’ve got a great home game to start with on Saturday when Notts Outlaws come to Edgbaston on a high after winning the RL50 Cup.
“We can’t ignore the fact that we have had a very disappointing season so far. We had a disappointing 50-over tournament, particularly as champions, and it was a hard lesson for all of us that white ball cricket is moving on all of the time and we need to evolve with it.
“In the County Championship, the table doesn’t lie. We have fought really hard and been unlucky at times, certainly with the weather when we were in winning positions at Somerset and at home to Lancashire, and to lose by just one wicket against the current a champions was a great effort. But, overall we just haven’t played good enough championship cricket.
“But now the guys have a chance to get the yellow kit on, free up, play some T20 and hopefully build up some momentum to take back into the championship for our last six games, three of which will be at home.”
"It won’t happen overnight but the rebuilding process is very much underway and we really appreciate the support we get from our loyal members and supporters ."
Without question it has been a very disappointing first half of the season for the club as the ageing first-team squad enters a period of transition. But, says Snowball, that process is already showing the first signs of success.
And although a lot of attention at Edgbaston this summer focused on hosting the ICC Champions Trophy, nobody has ever lost sight of the importance of strong Warwickshire and Birmingham Bears performances on the field.
“It’s been a tough season but cricket goes in cycles, every team in the country will testify to that, and there’s is an awful lot of work going on here to improve the team, the squad and the player pathway.
“We have already signed Will Rhodes from Yorkshire who is a fine young player and the recruitment process is very much ongoing . Three of our youngsters George Panayi, Sunny Singh and Grant Thornton have made their debuts this season and Andy Umeed and Matt Lamb have taken their chances in the first team plus Panayi, Henry Brookes and Liam Banks were all named in the England Under 19s squad to face India later this month.
“It won’t happen overnight but the rebuilding process is very much underway and we really appreciate the support we get from our loyal members and supporters who I know have enjoyed the success we have had over the last few years and I hope will stick with us as we enter a new period for the club.”