As the players get set for the 2021 season, all-rounder Fynn Hudson-Prentice provides a unique insight into preparation, excitement for supporters returning and how the squad has been adapting to a pre-season like no other.
I can quite confidently say that it has been the strangest winter I have ever had as a professional cricketer. For obvious reasons, COVID-19 has changed the nature of our training sessions, our schedule and our face-to-face interactions. It has thrown up its challenges, mentally and physically, but I believe it can be used in a positive manner moving forward. The small things that we may have taken for granted before, will now be so much more appreciated, which can only have a positive impact as we finally start to see the light at the end of this very long and dark tunnel.
As a squad, our first training sessions in our bubbles began in January, having spent the entirety of October, November and December on the governments furlough scheme. It was an exciting but difficult time for us all. The usual experiences of being back in a large group with laughter, close contact and unrestricted movement was replaced with one way systems, limitations and the slightly awkward nature of social distancing. This is obviously the ‘new normal’, and how the current guidelines are in the UK for all citizens – but it still takes time to get used to, especially in an environment where cohesion and close contact is so natural.
The regular winter schedule would look entirely different to what we had this year. Usually, you would have a group of players that would be travelling overseas in October or November, going to ply their trades in the different parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Other players would be reporting back to the ground on the 1st of November, ready to start an intense block of strength and conditioning training, mixed in with the occasional technical and tactical session.
The only real length of time we would have off again before the new season in April, would be the Christmas and New Years break, before returning to the ground in early January to move into a lot more cricket based training. This would then coincide with the players, who have been playing overseas, returning ready for a pre-season tour, or block of outdoor training, usually beginning in early March.
This year, only the players who hold passports or residency in other countries were able to travel. The usual small group of players who stay to train in the UK, was now the large majority of the squad. This group being split into groups of six (our playing bubble) and the usual full-time schedule was now part-time.
Adding on to the fact that we were unable to report back to the ground until January, our extended workload and practice that we would have already built up was now to be attained in a condensed and short block. A very different schedule, something that has been tough for a lot of players and staff to deal with, but something that everyone has taken in their stride. On a positive note, the way in which the squad has adapted and been able to move past these challenges is a testament to the personalities we have in this dressing room.
It has also been great to work within the same bubble of players and build upon the progress I have witnessed in my two seasons with the club. Being in a consistent group has helped us push each other, and I think that environment alone has really excelled the progression and the excitement around the up and coming season.
Since we have moved outdoors, it has been great to see the intensity of practice really go up a gear. The lads are looking very sharp and if you factor in the extremely high quality signings of McDermott and Stanlake, the squad has some real strength in depth. The opportunity to learn from and play alongside a couple of international quality players is something we are all excited about! However, before they get here we have the opportunity to whet the appetite with some warm up games against Leicestershire, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cardiff UCCE before our first game against Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Thursday 8 April. The games come thick and fast from there on in, with eight first class games in the first nine weeks of the season.
Of course, in the middle of that run of games, we have the small matter of fans potentially being allowed back into grounds. The government guidelines currently say they are hopeful of fans being allowed to attend sporting fixtures from May 17th. A few days after this date, we have a four-day fixture at home against Durham. We know how dedicated and important the Derbyshire members are to our club, and I think I speak for everyone when I say how excited we are to see our supporters and welcome them back to the ground again.
It really has been a long time, and something we have all missed, but not for the sole reason of the match day atmosphere or the ripples of applause around the ground. The global pandemic has made it clear that spectators make our game very special. The loss of pre-game interactions with some of the dedicated fans, the fact we haven’t been able to see members and chat about the game, missing out on autograph sessions with the kids and future stars of Derbyshire Cricket after our T20 games; these are just a small sample of things that have been missed, so the thought of being able to slowly re-integrate these back into our game will be much appreciated by everyone.
I can speak for us all at Derbyshire when I say it is a great relief that the cricket season is finally back. We can’t wait to get going and are much looking forward to building on the progression we have made in recent times. Hopefully, it won’t be long until we can see the familiar faces of our members and what better way could we welcome them back than with a few wins and maybe another Finals Day at the end of it.
Written by Fynn Hudson-Prentice.
Together, We Are All Derbyshire. Club Membership for the 2021 season is on sale now, priced at just £199. Members to have priority entry and all Memberships backed by our new guarantees.