Read Out To Recharge Batteries
Featured News | 6th October 2011
It is hardly surprising that the only thing Chris Read wants to do at the end of a hectic 2011 season is have a rest.
Counting the curtain-raising games in Abu Dhabi and Dubai at the start of the season, Notts contested exactly 50 matches between the end of March and mid-September.
And Read was there behind the wicket for all but one of those fixtures, directing operations as skipper – apart from the t20 games.
The only match in which the 33-year-old did not play was a t20 match against Lancashire in July, a remarkable record that is testimony to his fitness and stamina, as well as his mental strength.
Thankfully, for the next few weeks at least, Read will get his chance to put his feet up and spend some valuable time with his family.
But, like his director of cricket Mick Newell, the Devonian will also have one eye on planning for the 2012 campaign when Notts, as ever, will be out to challenge for honours on all three fronts.
Looking back on 2011, where the green and golds claimed sixth in County Championship Division One, went out in the quarter-finals of the t20 and finished second in Group C of the CB 40, Read has mixed feelings.
On the face of it, the green and golds have had a satisfactory season.
But like any ambitious club, they are striving to do better, especially in four-day cricket where they were famously champions in 2010.
That's why Read is casting a critical eye when he evaluates a campaign that has been affected by international call-ups of Alex Hales and Samit Patel, together with the unexpected absence of overseas player David Hussey, who spent only a brief spell at Trent Bridge, rather than most of the summer, because of Australia commitments.
"It has been a strange season because we are not used to having nothing to fight for at the end," said Read. "We have usually been fighting relegation, for promotion or for the title.
"I think we have played OK, but just OK. We haven't necessarily fulfilled our high expectations, but at times we have played some very good cricket.
"When the pressure was on we beat Lancashire and Durham with two of our more memorable wins to move away from the relegation scrap
"But it was a disappointing last couple of weeks to the season, especially to lose back-to-back games by an innings as we did.
"It almost mirrored the first half of the season when we also lost to Warwickshire and Sussex quite convincingly and they are two sides that had the wood on us.
"Ultimately you have to look where we can improve for next year because the past two weeks have highlighted some of our failings. Things that we can work on over the winter.
"Our batting hasn't been good enough again. It's been nice to see the top order in the second half of the season contributing a little bit more.
"It's probably the middle order that hasn't fired in the second half of the season. We have never had all six of our batsman in form at the same time."
Read is also looking to see more from a bowling attack that will inevitably be younger in its make-up next summer.
With Charlie Shreck having departed for Kent, Notts are looking to the next generation to support the excellent Andre Adams, who took 60-plus wickets for the second successive season.
Read said: "I feel that our bowling attack has not been penetrative enough at times, Andre Adams aside.
"We are looking at guys like Luke Fletcher and Andy Carter to take on his mantle going forward.
"Not just them but also the likes of Jake Ball, Brett Hutton and Harry Gurney when he arrives here (from Leicestershire). All theses bowlers have to aspire to be someone who can take 50 wickets in a season.
"I don't think we have come to a point where we are looking to bring in younger bowlers – I think we are always looking for young guys to come through.
"It's not time to make wholesale changes because I think we have one of the best seam attack units in the country.
"When Andre Adams and Darren Pattinson, who can bowl pretty quickly, are firing, then we look a very good outfit.
"There was proof of that at Southport (where they beat eventual champions Lancashire)."
Having kept wicket to them all year, Read insists there is no hard and fast rule as to where the bowling unit should take strides forward.
His thoughts are supported by the contrasting styles of some of the leading performers in Division One this season.
"I don't know how to answer how we can get better because each individual bowler has to work out how they can be more effective," said Read.
"There are certain times this year that other teams have had a yard more pace in their bowling attack and we have been a yard short.
"But it may be more variation, more hostility or more accuracy. – it's not the same for everyone."
With Hussey out of the equation for all but one Championship match this season, the overseas duties were combined between Adam Voges (11 matches) and Darren Bravo (four), with limited success.
But with international fixture lists now so busy all-year round, it is increasingly difficult for counties to find a high-class player who is available all summer.
Read said: "It's almost impossible because it is so hard to tell who is going to be around all the time.
"Adam Voges, Darren Bravo and David Hussey all played their part and I think Darren did well for such a young cricketer at the top of the order. We have missed the experience of Huss, but this is the world we are now living in."
Read was pleased with the way an often youthful Notts line-up acquitted themselves in the two one-day competitions.
"I thought we played fantastically well in the group stages of t20 being unbeaten at home and we just came up against a very good team in the knock-out stages (Somerset) and didn't play quite to our best," he said. "In t20 individuals can win the game and in that case they had two (Jos Buttler and Kieron Pollard) who played the perfect game.
"Had it not been for that, who knows, we could have won it. In the CB 40 having lost our first two games, we came back pretty well to finish second in the group and giving some of our younger squad members a go."
Read is torn on the future of 40-over cricket, which is not played by England on the international scene.
He said: "From the players perspective I think 50-over cricket would prepare them better for international cricket.
"But I quite like the 40-over format and I know the spectators do because you can play it over the course of an afternoon rather than a whole day."
But whatever the make-up of the 2012 fixture list, Read will be back come April to fight it out, as always.
The conscientious Notts captain will not be resting on his laurels for long.
Matt Halfpenny is the Midlands Sports Journalist of the year and follows Nottinghamshire for the Nottingham Post.