Captain Grant Elliott wants the Birmingham Bears players to “just free up and enjoy themselves” in the Vitality Blast campaign which they start away to holders Notts Outlaws tonight.
The Bears face a tough opening to their North Group programme with away games against the Outlaws this evening then arch-rivals Worcestershire Rapids on Friday before starting their home schedule against Yorkshire on Sunday (2.30pm).
"Everyone had told me about how amazing Finals Day is and that lived right up to expectations but all the games at Edgbaston are special to play in."
But the Bears will go into action with confidence high from having reached Finals Day last season and in three of the last four years. And key to their bid to make it four Finals Day appearances in five years, the skipper believes, is to shed all thoughts of pressure and instead play with freedom and no fear.
“T20 is an exciting format with big crowds having fun and I want the players to embrace that, relax and just free up and enjoy themselves,” he said.
“They did that really well last year. The younger guys came in and showed what they can do and that was brilliant because, as senior players, it’s down to us to not only do our jobs on the field but also create that environment where the younger guys flourish.
“For us to start with two tough away games against the Outlaws and the Rapids is really exciting and also great for us because it will give us a really good gauge of where we are as a team.”
After those back-to-back away games, the Bears then face four at home, against Yorkshire next Sunday, Leicestershire Foxes on July 13, Durham Jets on July 15 and Northants Steelbacks on July 20.
With crowds averaging over 10,000 for the Blast at Edgbaston last year, Elliott and his team are looking forward to again being inspired by the famously noisy backing from the Bears fans.
“The atmosphere at Edgbaston is always fantastic,” the skipper said. “Everyone had told me about how amazing Finals Day is and that lived right up to expectations but all the games at Edgbaston are special to play in.
“The Bears fans get right behind us and, as a player, you can only be lifted by that so it is brilliant to have that sort of backing.”