Warwickshire First Team Coach Mark Robinson says the meticulous planning for 2024 starts now as he reflects on the newly-released fixture schedule for next season.
Robinson described Fixtures Day as one of the most exciting in the cricket calendar as Bears fans begin the countdown to 2024 and start planning their sporting diaries.
The anticipation has been heightened with news that Warwickshire open their County Championship campaign at home to local rivals Worcestershire on 5 April.
There’s more weekend action to look forward to; a red ball return to Edgbaston in August; a series of Friday Night Lights games in the Vitality Blast; and the prospect of the Bears playing at regional out-grounds for the first time in 10 years.
But Robinson also admitted the new schedule has thrown up some logistical and player welfare challenges that he and his team will have to overcome.
“Mornings are dark, evenings are dark, but the release of the fixtures is a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“It’s exciting to start thinking about getting back on grass. Supporters can start planning their trips away, booking time off work, because it’s a great social event following the Bears as well as watching the cricket.
“Having a local derby to kick start our season is great for the players and supporters. We missed that old rivalry in the Championship last season, it’s good to have them back. We may well come up against Ethan Brookes, and we’ve got Barney in our side, so there are lots of little sub-plots within the game.
“They’re brilliant games to play in, to be involved with in any capacity, there’s always a fantastic atmosphere here at Edgbaston when the ground is full and it’s rocking.”
Robinson said his team are already planning the logistics around “pinch points” in the season – and none more so than the start to the Bears Vitality Blast bid.
Bears are due to play away at Durham on Friday 31 May followed the next day with a home fixture at Edgbaston as part of the Blast Off double-header event.
He added: “We go through the fixtures line by line, slot in 2nd XI games or practice days where we can, and look at where your pinch points are.
“It’s not an easy task pulling together the fixtures, it’s a hard job trying to keep everyone happy. But the Durham trip and quick turnaround for our next game, less than 24 hours later, is going to be challenging.
“We’re looking at a five-hour coach trip, a late finish on Friday night – we might not return till 3 or 4am – and then back at Edgbaston to prepare for a 6.30pm start.
“I’m sure other clubs will face similar dilemmas but that’s certainly a tough start for us and of course player welfare has to be paramount. We have to take it on the chin. It’s up to us to find a way to cope.”
The Warwickshire squad are deep into pre-season fitness and strength conditioning training before the focus switches to cricket after Christmas.
Robinson added: “At the moment we’re getting fit, getting the building blocks in place for next season, some individuals are doing some technical work around the strength and conditioning, and then we step up the cricket skills after Christmas.
“We’ve got players in and out of the country now, some playing abroad and getting winter training under their belt, the players are quite scattered at this time of year.
“And we’ve watched Hamza Shaikh and Theo Wylie, two of our exciting young talents, hitting 100s with England U19s. There’s still lots of things happening in the winter.
“We’ll be ready for next season, no doubt about that, but you need a bit of luck as well. We need our bowlers to be fit, we’d like a bit more depth in the bowling, that will take time to build.
“The Club is very supportive from a budgeting point of view but like any club we have our restrictions. If our best bowlers are fit, we have a bit of Woakesy and Hassan Ali is free from international duties, we’ll be there or there abouts competing on all fronts.
“April 5 will come around before we know it. I can’t wait.”
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