Paul Farbrace has given the Birmingham Bears players just one directive ahead of the Vitality Blast: “Go out there and have a lot of fun.”
The Bears’ Sport Director has a strong track record in the short format having tasted success at the very highest level when he coached Sri Lanka to the World T20 title in 2014.
Farbrace has experience and knowledge by the bucketload – but as he looks ahead to the Blast campaign which the Bears begin away to Worcestershire Rapids on Friday, his outlook is very simple. Let’s enjoy!
“The Blast campaign gives the players a chance to free up and enjoy themselves,” he said. “That’s what I want them to do. It’s a great format and they will be playing in front of big crowds who are not there to see cat-and-mouse cricket, they want entertainment, so let’s all have some fun.
“The players are under no expectations from me other than to go out there and have a lot of fun and see where that takes them. We have some skilful bowlers, exciting hitters and excellent fielders so if we bring all those things together hopefully that will deliver a lot of entertainment for the Bears fans.”
The switch to T20 cricket will be even more pronounced than usual for the Bears players who will make it off the back of a gruelling string of five away four-day games. That sequence saw the squad hammered by an unprecedented glut of injuries and international calls, but players are returning now and the Bears are further bolstered for T20 by the arrival of Australian spin-bowling all-rounder Ashton Agar.
“Ashton is a very shrewd signing,” said Farbrace. “He is a three-in-one cricketer; a dangerous batsman, a highly-skilled bowler and a brilliant fielder – and, to add to all that, he’s a great guy.
“There won’t be two better spinners in the tournament that Ashton and Jeetan Patel and that will take a lot of pressure off the seamers who have done such a lot of hard work in tough circumstances in recent weeks.
“It has been a tough season for us with a lot of injuries but the players have responded superbly over the last month. The spirit and skill they have shown and their desire to compete for the Bear has been exceptional.
“They have done a lot of hard yards, and we know there are plenty more to do if we are to stay up in the championship, but for now they deserve the chance throw off the shackles in the T20. I just want them to enjoy that freedom and let’s see where that takes us.”