Northamptonshire County Cricket Club will be travelling to Barbados early on Friday morning for their annual, pre-season tour.
With players returning from Australia and other parts of the world, this is the first time the whole squad will be back together before the competitive season begins.
Barbados has played host to Northants for the last few years, and provides the perfect opportunity for the players to refine their skillset in a warm weather environment.
As well as red-ball and white-ball practice, Northants will also be taking on the North side at the Kensington Oval, as they prepare to take on the South side for the traditional North-South Series.
Club captain, Alex Wakely, admits he is excited to take on the North squad, explaining that it will provide an adequate test for himself and for the team.
“We’re really lucky this year, we’re playing against the North squad just before they play the South, so we are their warm up game.”
“It will be really good; we’re playing at the Kensington Oval so it’s a chance for us to go out against a very competitive side. You never know in the West Indies as to what kind of side is going to turn up, but it’s nice to know that you are going to be playing against some good opposition.”
Away from the games, Alex also spoke about how a pre-season camp, such as Barbados, helps get the players ready for the season ahead.
“Barbados is a time to dust off the cobwebs when everyone is getting a bit stale at this time of year.”
“There’re only so many balls you can hit in the indoor school, so many weights you can lift in the gym, so many shuttles you can run, so it’s nice to get some sun on your back and to play on some grass wickets.”
Speaking of dusting off the cobwebs, Head of Strength and Conditioning, Chris Lorkin, outlined how Barbados helps prepare the team physically for the season.
“From a fitness point of view, the competitive matches help prepare the lads for the season, and we'll look to supplement the training with some conditioning work as we have been doing all winter. The lads have worked hard so far and we'll look to continue that over the next couple of weeks.”
“For me, Barbados is the final push from a fitness point of view before the season starts so I'm looking forward to working the boys hard out there and continuing the good work they've put in so far this winter.”
So how does the annual Barbados pre-season tour look? Over 11 days, the team will be looking to squeeze as much as they can into their tour, ranging from training, competitive matches, and venturing across the idyllic landscapes of Barbados.
The journey begins with a 9 hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the long haul flight, a number of players have travelled far and wide over the winter break, so the majority of the squad will be well versed for these types of journeys.
Once they land, the players and the coaches will arrive at the Barbados Beach Club, where they will be quick to get some rest in preparation of the next days training session.
The players will be given the morning off to nurse their jet-lag, but the afternoon will consist of red-ball training sessions at Windward County Cricket Ground; the dedicated training facility for the squad
throughout the tour.
The following days will consist of a mixture of red and white ball training sessions, with sporadic breaks for the players and coaches to explore Barbados and see what it has to offer. This may be when the players make their way to the golf course, as a number of players and coaches are keen to get out onto the picturesque Barbados courses, none more so than Chris Lorkin himself.
“As a keen golfer, I'm looking forward to playing the course out there again. It was one of the highlights of last year’s trip, so I’m looking forward to losing many more golf balls again.”
As the players settle into the tour, it will be time for them to see if the cobwebs have been dusted off as they take on the North squad on Thursday 15th March. A 50 overs game, the players preparation will be put to the test, all while battling 30 degree heat.
Following on from this fixture, the players will be given the day off to relax and prepare for the other training sessions and fixtures that occupy the second week of the tour.
The team will also be partaking in a 50 over intra-squad game at Windward Cricket Club shortly before they fly home.
Speaking ahead of the tour, Head Coach, David Ripley, says Barbados has come at the perfect time for him and his players.
“With the season starting in early April now it is really important to get as much grass practice in as possible and Barbados gives us the chance to get started much earlier than if we stayed in Northampton.”
There are also less games this year, so it is more of a training camp. The games will be important for building the form and the confidence of the players as we continue with games on our return. These games will help shape the starting 11 for the start of the season.”