Bears coach Mark Robinson and his players can't wait for the Vitality Blast to get underway with big Edgbaston crowds in full voice behind them.
The Bears open their Blast campaign at home to Northants Steelbacks on Thursday May 26 with West Indies legend Carlos Brathwaite as captain and Irish batting ace Paul Stirling making his debut.
They plunge deep into the Blast straight away with three games in four days on Thursday, Friday, Sunday – at home to the Steelbacks, away to Derbyshire, then at home to Durham (the latter also a double-header with Central Sparks taking on South East Stars).
The players are primed and ready to harness that famous Edgbaston backing to hit the group stage running.
“It’s fantastic to have the crowd behind you,” said Robinson. “We have all seen, whether it’s cricket or football or rugby, the difference a supportive crowd makes. When the crowd is behind the players and encouraging, it is a huge help and makes the occasion so special.
“Last year the fans at Edgbaston were brilliant. We were well-supported, as traditionally the Bears always are, and whether we won or lost, people just had a good time and that’s important because we want to win, of course, but also to entertain and that’s what T20 is all about.Mark Robinson
“It’s the nearest we have to football. Everyone wants to play in it because everyone wants to play in front of big crowds with the extra hype that goes around it.
“T20 can be emotional. When things are going well, that emotion can carry you along and when it goes badly, it can be hard because you finish late at night then have to turn yourselves round very quickly, sometimes for the next day. The successful teams will be the ones that stay level and ride those highs and lows. It is a volatile game and you have to accept that and embrace it.”
Last season the Bears reached the quarter-finals before losing to Kent at Canterbury. This time, a top-two finish in the group, securing a home quarter-final, is very much the objective towards bringing the Blast trophy to Edgbaston for only the second time.
“Any competition you are in, you want to win,” Robinson said. “To do that, first you have to get to the quarter-final and ideally a home quarter final because we know Edgbaston and love playing here, so that is the target.
“We have an exciting squad. The shorter the game the more that one person can influence it with one piece of individual brilliance – one devastating spell by a bowler or one great innings. So you want as many people in the team as possible with a record of winning matches and we have plenty of those. The addition of Stirlo brings us another and Alex Davies is a very skilful player who will play situations cleverly and score very quickly in his own way.
“Hopefully, Olly Stone will be fit to give us some extra pace with the ball and Henry Brookes, who missed a lot through injury last year, everybody tells me has great white ball skills, which I’m looking forward to seeing.”