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Keith Barker is keen to hit the ground running for Warwickshire next season – having already put in some extremely hard yards during the winter.

Bears batsman Adam Hose commented from Australia last month that every time he spoke to one of his team-mates back in Birmingham it was clear they were “getting beasted” in the gym.

As a player who’s been Edgbaston-based all winter, Barker can testify to that.

It’s been tough with a lot of time in the gym alongside working on our cricket skills. We all have our fitness targets to achieve and they are tough, but it’s been well-organised and should stand us in really good stead for the season.

Keith Barker

“We’ve been pushed hard,” said the all-rounder. “It’s been tough with a lot of time in the gym alongside working on our cricket skills. We all have our fitness targets to achieve and they are tough, but it’s been well-organised and should stand us in really good stead for the season.

“For us as bowlers it’s also been great to have Pop Welch back with as bowling coach and I’ve had some really good sessions with him, so now it’s just a question of building up to the season.”

Warwickshire are looking to bounce back hard from the blow of championship relegation in 2017. And sport director Ashley Giles has stressed that senior players like Barker will have a big role to play as the Bears strive to regain First Division status at the first attempt.

“We know that getting straight back up won’t be easy,” the left-armer said. “There are some good sides in Div Two and we can’t expect just to turn up and win games. We have got to be on our game every session, every day.

“We’ve got to make sure we capitalise on winning positions when we create them. Last season we only did that once in the championship, against Middlesex at Lord’s. In other games we got into strong positions but then let the opposition off the hook. We’ve got to be more ruthless.”

Barker, 31, has been a major component of Warwickshire’s team over the last decade but has now entered the last year of his current contract. In the championship last season he was second (of players that played more than a handful of games) in the Bears’ batting averages with 536 runs at 29.78, but admits that his wicket-haul – 26 at 36.54 – was disappointing.

“I didn’t do too badly with the bat but, even though I missed a few matches, I would have liked to have taken more wickets,” he said. “During a career you get dips and last season for me was a dip with the ball. But, just like the team, I’m looking to bounce back hard this year and then we’ll see what the future holds. I’d love to earn another contract and play for a few more seasons.”

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