An overseas bowler is top of First Team Coach Mark Robinson’s New Year shopping list as he looks to bolster his squad ahead of the new season.

Robinson has freshened up his bowling options with the addition of left-arm pacer George Garton – the England international arriving from Sussex in November – and the permanent addition of fellow quick Michael Booth.

But with the unexpected departure of Henry Brookes to Middlesex, following the release of squad bowlers George Garrett and Manraj Johal, he’s looking to add more depth and quality to his bowling attack. 

“I’m the head coach, I always want more,” laughed Robinson. 

“George Garton will be a real bonus for us in T20, he gives us a difference with that extra yard of pace, he’s a fantastic fielder and has potential with the bat. He’s an exciting signing and, alongside young Boothy who also bowls a heavy ball, will hopefully get us that bit closer to winning trophies.

“I feel you can never have enough bowlers. In my time here, when our bowlers have been fit we’ve looked a very strong outfit, but when we’re missing a couple we’ve struggled. So we know the importance of a strong bowling line-up.

“I’d like to bring in an overseas bowler but with competing factors like the IPL, international programme and the T20 World Cup which takes a lot of potential targets out of the equation, it’s not easy to find the right person.

“Fingers crossed we have Hassan Ali – but there’s a chance he could be in the Pakistan T20 World Cup side – and Chris Woakes availability is never certain.

“It was never in the plan to lose Henry. But we have to understand where players are. He doesn’t want to be in and out of the side, and from a performance point of view we’ve not been able to give him consistent selection. We have to listen to the player and releasing him from his contract early was what he wanted and the right thing to do. 

“In a perfect world I would love to also bring in an overseas batter to support the young, talented top order we already have. But you can see from other clubs that the state of the game’s finances in general isn’t great and it’s important we live within our means. I understand where we are; we get well supported by the Club and Board.”

Robinson hopes to have Liam Norwell available again for the start of the season but admits to a waiting game and patience on the seamer’s fitness.

“Liam’s pain-free right now, but we’re not sure how the injury will work out. Hopefully the bulging disc in his back will settle down and he can return. I’d love nothing more for Liam as it’s been an emotional, frustrating time for him – plus we’re missing out on one of the country’s best red ball bowlers.

“Ed Barnard has undergone quite a serious operation. Hopefully he’ll be fully fit for the start of the season. There’s a chance he may not be ready to bowl right at the start but he’s doing well.

“Jacob Bethell is pain-free. He’ll have another scan to see how the stress fracture is healing but we’re confident he’ll be back on both the bowling and batting front soon. He’s a fantastic prospect.”

Robinson is confident his side will be in the mix to win silverware in 2024 after a strong 2023 campaign in which only one team won more games across all formats than the Bears.

And said he and his team have also been looking to strengthen minds as well as bodies ahead of what’s likely to be a grueling summer.

He added: “We’ve done a lot of work in the last year on what it means to be a Bear. Being a progressive club but not forgetting our proud roots. Central to that is support for each other so we can ride the bumps that will undoubtedly come our way.

“With Kate Green (sports psychologist) we’ve been working for the last two years on how we deal with pressure and putting layers underneath us so, when we’re out there in the arena, we’ve got the psychological armour on we need to deflect the rocks and arrows that hit you as a professional sportsperson.

“All the performance KPIs measuring our progress and trajectory over the last few years are pointing in the right direction. That’s good, it shows we’re on the right path. 

“It’s an exciting part of the year. Everyone starts with a clean slate. We’re all looking forward to the 2024 season and united in our conviction to win trophies and entertain.”

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