What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

The grounds

The grounds - Credit: Alain Lockyear

Completely unaccustomed of late, to any degree of struggle, Somerset County Cricket Club hope that a hugely disappointing 2013 gives away to a positive and exciting 2014. But not too exciting! Photos by Alain Lockyear

Caption: Somerset's captain Alfonso Thomas is mobbed after dismissing Chris Woakes caught by Nick C

Caption: Somerset's captain Alfonso Thomas is mobbed after dismissing Chris Woakes caught by Nick Compton during their 10 wicket victory over Warwickshire at Taunton yesterday. - Credit: ALAIN LOCKYEAR

About to commence his second season as Director of Cricket and Head Coach, South African Dave Nosworthy has challenged both himself and his players to prove that last season’s flirt with relegation from Division One of the LV County Championship was a blip rather than evidence of terminal decline.

“2010, in my opinion, was the year that the team peaked,” he observes, “and since then there has been a trend heading in the wrong direction. It’s time to end that trend and try to turn it around. Last season was tough, in that we didn’t win trophies.

“We’ve always been consistent in that we’ve been at the top end of tables, but for the first time last year in the Championship we fought relegation. In a funny way it’s one thing learning to win trophies but it’s another thing learning to fight relegation.”Failure, of course, should not come easily to a squad featuring the proven qualities of Marcus Trescothick, Alviro Petersen, Peter Trego, Nick Compton and Craig Kieswetter, but winning just three Championship games last season was a surprisingly poor return.

“There’s some character in the side, which is good news, and there are a few players in our changing room at the moment who would like to put a few things

straight,” is Nosworthy’s blunt admission. “There are a few guys who didn’t have the best of seasons, so I’m sure they are chomping at the bit.”

Renowned for their strength in one-day cricket, Nosworthy – who boasted a fine Twenty20 record with Johannesburg’s Highveld Lions – also recognises that one quarter-final and one semi-final maybe also fell short of expectations.

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“There’s always room for improvement if you’re not winning a competition.

Whenever people ask, ‘is it possible to win three competitions?’, I always say that we haven’t informed the England and Wales Cricket Board that we’re not participating in any competition. Why put your name in the hat if you’re not trying to win it?” Buoyed by a new coaching structure, which features former Head Coach Andy Hurry as the Director of High Performance, Nosworthy hopes that preparation will harness his team’s flamboyant style.

“You’ve got four Level 4 coaches working one-on-one with the players, so you’d think there aren’t too many counties that have that sort of expertise,” he boasts. “But you can only take a horse to water. The players need to do it at the end of the day. They need to get out there and perform.

“None of us are going to change any players, we love the natural flair that everybody has. We’re only here to facilitate and to try to polish them a little bit, to give them different options. Ultimately, they are accountable when they cross those ropes.”With the talent at his disposal, though, Nosworthy is quietly confident of restoring the name of Somerset to its rightful place, but still recognises that victory is never guaranteed.

“As I said, there’s no point being part of a competition if you’re not trying to win it. I’ll try to bring something to all formats. If we can put it all together and mix a nice brew, and at the end of the day we’ll taste that brew – that’s success.”