Paul Franks: Hitting the ground
running in defence of title
Comment and Analysis | 14th April 2011
Playing domestic cricket in Zimbabwe either side of Christmas for the Mid West Rhinos, I found a very different country from when I last visited in 1999.
Life in general is very different. The country has been through a transitional phase and it has been well documented about the changes in lifestyle.
People are still very friendly, though, and they are desperately trying to drive their cricket forward.
I have made some good friends and worked with some great people.
The international and overseas players have certainly helped lift the standards of play significantly – and that will help Zimbabwe's younger players in the longer run.
Inevitably, those standards dropped when those players left – there were five in our side who have been playing in the World Cup – and it felt like a different competition.
One thing that definitely needs improving is the pitches, which weren't great, often being slow and not encouraging positive cricket.
But on the whole they are getting things right and the development of the game is progressing well. There is much to be proud of and they are going to produce some very good players in the long run.
As for Zimbabwe re-entering the Test arena, I don't think it is going to be easy for them.
They have suffered from not playing for the last few years and there is, in effect, a missing generation of players.
Those men have moved elsewhere to further careers, playing abroad, or have changed tack altogether and turned their hand to something else.
But they have got systems in place committed to bringing through young players and they can only get better for that.
They are not going to get straight back into the top six in the world within two months, that is for sure. There is a lot of hard work ahead first.
It is the same for any players who are moving into international cricket anywhere around the world – there is a big step up from domestic level.
But. hopefully. in time they will start to get things right and the wins will follow.
Getting some cricket in during the winter is certainly going to be an advantage for me looking ahead to Notts' new season.
I have not done anything since the end of January because I didn't want to be coming back into the fold at Trent Bridge feeling tired.
When I'd played in Australia the previous winter it had only been week-to-week. I played plenty of four-day cricket in Africa, which really takes it out of the body.
But it is definitely better than being sat around basking in the glory of winning the County Championship last summer.
Don't get me wrong, I did do it for a while, but not for too long! You have to move on.
I think that's where we suffered in the past. After winning in 2005, we were relegated in 2006 and we don't want that to happen again.
I think there was a little bit of complacency involved, although in the end it is down to performance and we didn't perform.
But it's been made very clear by Wayne Noon that we need to be at it from ball one when the season begins today against Hampshire.
You can't just turn up on that first morning and expect to do the business.
I am happy with where I am at. Since we have been back in pre-season at Notts I have felt in great shape and it feels like I have got the balance right.
Wayne Noon has been working very hard since stepping up to take over the reins while Mick Newell was away with England Lions in the West Indies.
Similarly, captain Chris Read has also taken a step forward to help things run smoothly, which has helped. But Wayne knows how things run at Trent Bridge – he's been here a long time and put together an excellent plan leading into the new season.
Kevin Paxton, our fitness coach, has been heavily involved and so have the rest of the backroom team.
Just because Mick wasn't here it doesn't mean we won't be well prepared.
I think Wayne has found it very different to what he has expected but at the same time has enjoyed it and thrived on it.
Some people perhaps underestimate the amount of good work he does anyway as Mick's assistant – a bit like a football assistant, it is sometimes underestimated.
There is more to it than simply laying out a few cones for training drills and I had no doubt he would take on the senior job and do as well as he has.
It should mean we hit the ground running. If not, it certainly can't be blamed on our preparations.
Read Paul Franks' column in the Nottingham Post throughout the season.