McGrath knows Essex face different kind of pressure
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Four months into his role as Essex head coach and Anthony McGrath is straining at the leash. He has yet to oversee a ball bowled in anger and the confines of his office on the balcony of the Chelmsford pavilion feel like a prison cell.
So the present pre-season tour to Barbados – culminating in the four-day County Champion match against MCC, which starts today – is like the days before release.
“Barbados is very important because we’re into match-play,” he said.
“It’s three weeks till the season starts, so it becomes that little bit more real.
“The problem we have in this country is that the off-season is so long. People can get good at being indoors and it becomes a safety net.
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McGrath was promoted when Chris Silverwood moved on to England duties. The handover has been almost seamless and there will be no discernible change in philosophy; the two men worked together for the last two seasons in which Essex finished top of Division Two and then top of Division One.
“We set out genuinely to win every competition, not to prioritise at all,” he said..
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“Ten wins out of 14 last year [in the Championship… unless you’re aggressive and play with that intent you can’t win that amount of games.
“So with the ball we bowl really attacking lengths, and with the bat we look to score. When you play that way you’re going to fall on your face sometimes; as yet we haven’t, but I’m sure we will, without a doubt. There is a different kind of pressure this season; I guess it’s an expectation from the outside for us to repeat last year. But from within the dressing room it’s very similar.”
McGrath, 42, knows the two sides to the season after the season before: in 2001 he was a member of the champion Yorkshire team who were relegated the following year; conversely, three years ago, he was coaching at Yorkshire when they won back-to-back titles. He is equally aware of what happened to Middlesex in 2017: from champions to Division Two in 12 months.
“To win this league you do many good things. What we’ve got to do is focus on what we did well and then, obviously, improve on what we didn’t do well,” he added.