Essex head coach Paul Grayson says there will be no excuses or distractions

HEAD coach Paul Grayson says there will no reasons for excuses or distractions at Essex this season.

A disappointing campaign last summer was played out against the backdrop of the spot-fixing cloud that hung over the club.

Grayson, who was speaking at yesterday’s Press Day ahead of tomorrow’s opening county championship Division Two game at home to Gloucestershire, said: “I have to say the players have been excellent.

“They have completely ignored whatever has gone on and all they have tried to do is concentrate on their cricket. We have left it to us as the management – myself, captain James Foster and chief executive David East to deal with things off the field – and they have been very professional.

“There will be no excuses from us this year. There are no distractions now. All we want to do is concentrate on our cricket and to perform to the best of our ability this year.”

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Essex chose to stay at home rather than go on a pre-season tour, and groundsman Stuart Kerrison came up with an outdoor cage in which they could practise. This cost around �3,000, whereas past tours to Barbados and The Emirates have cost around �30,000-�35,000.

Grayson said: “It never really got tested because the weather was so good, but it was warm in there and it provided good conditions for the batsmen as the ball swung around.

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“It gave us the opportunity to be practising outside from the 12th of March and I couldn’t be happier with the way pre-season has gone, to be honest.

“This gave us the chance to potentially invest more in another t20 player. Also last year when we went to Barbados I felt we were a little rushed when we came back. We had three or four days off and were then straight into our first game.

“What it has done is given us the opportunity to concentrate on our red-ball cricket. When you go overseas often part of the deal is to play some one-day cricket, but because we are so top heavy with championship cricket at the start of the season it has been really good for us.”

Although Grayson felt Essex played some good four-day cricket last season, steps have been taken to improve performances.

“For a couple of seasons we have struggled for runs at the top of the order, but we have addressed that by bringing in Alviro Petersen, who is a quality Test player, so we hope he is going to have a massive effect on our younger players and they will learn and develop under his guidance.

“We have also made a couple of good signings in Charl Willoughby and Greg Smith who have both fitted in really well.

“I sense a determination within the squad this year, particularly the younger batsmen – Tom Westley, Billy Godleman and Jaik Mickleburgh – who we have given good opportunities to and I think it is time for those three to deliver and show they are good players.

“They have got that word ‘potential’, but we need to see more results from those three this year and Maurice Chambers from among the bowlers.

“From the first day we came back I sensed there was a real determination within the squad that we want to achieve things this year.”

“My priority has always been four-day cricket. We have been a bit up-and-down in the past and gone from Division One to Division Two, but I want us to become an established four-day side in Division One.

“We didn’t play well enough last year, but four-day cricket has always been the number one priority for me and the committee and then the T20 and the CB40 comes in that order.

“We have had some success in one-day cricket in the last few years more than a lot of other clubs and we want to keep improving our one-day skills, but I think everyone is really switched on this year for four-day cricket and the beauty about the fixture list is that there are seven championship matches before the end of May so that is all we have been focusing on in pre-season, so let’s hope we can make a positive start to the year.”

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