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GREAT WINTER – NOW THE BUZZ BUILDS

I’m about to enter my 18th season as a professional cricketer and the buzz of anticipation I’m feeling today is every bit as great as it was back when I first started in 1999.

There is nothing quite like the start of the domestic cricket season and we are just eight days away from our opening game in the Specsavers County Championship at Surrey.

I drove past Knowle & Dorridge Cricket Club last weekend and, with glorious weather and the square cut, there was a real sense that the action is ready to get underway at cricket grounds across the UK.

I’ve had a very busy winter with the unforgettable experience of winning the Big Bash with the Perth Scorchers and then playing in a new tournament in Hong Kong, but I feel extremely fresh and excited for the challenge ahead.

It’s another hugely important season for everyone involved with Warwickshire and the Birmingham Bears.

We know the levels of expectancy are always high here and so they should be – we are a big county and want to be challenging for silverware come the latter stages of all competitions.

While we won the Royal London One-Day Cup last year, there was inconsistency in our performances in both Championship and T20 cricket and that is something we are desperate to put right.

We certainly couldn’t have had any better preparation and that included spending two weeks at a pre-season training camp in Abu Dhabi.

The work ethic from the whole group during the fortnight was fantastic and we also had plenty of game time in the form of an internal practice match, a two-day game with Worcestershire and playing in a T20 tournament.

We lost both T20 matches but – as is always the case in sport – pre-season is not all about results and it was pleasing to see plenty of lads producing good performances against both Lancashire Lightning and Lahore Qalanders.

The only real blip of the trip came on the way home when weather and airport issues in Doha meant the squad was delayed returning to the UK by around 30 hours.

I have a slight confession to make here as, because we were travelling from different parts of the world, myself, Josh Poysden and Director of Sport Ashley Giles were all on different flights home and avoided the chaos.

I’m bracing myself for plenty of stick from the lads for that one but I can put my hand on my heart and say there were no captain’s privileges being utilised!

That said, I did feel guilty about being back at home in Birmingham while the rest of the lads were stuck in Doha, but I’m told the squad dealt with the issues brilliantly so full credit to them for that.

We arrived back from the trip at the weekend but there has been no thought of scaling back preparation ahead of the season.

We played Northamptonshire in a two-day game Tuesday and yesterday, and start a three-day game at Oxford University on Sunday before we head down to The Oval.

Entry for all warm-up games is free so it would be brilliant to see a few members and supporters down there as we continue preparations for the big one at Surrey on April 7.

Finally, I’m excited to be bringing all Bears followers the inside track on the season with this column, courtesy of our club sponsors Selco Builders Warehouse.

I will be as honest as I can and try to bring an insight on life as a professional cricketer – and hopefully a very successful season!