BY MARCUS HOOK
New Surrey head coach, Gareth Batty was encouraged by the positive starts the Oval outfit made with both bat and ball in the opening game of the season.
But the message to his players following a high-scoring draw with Warwickshire was with a foundation laid, build on it.
“We were 117 for 0 after 29 overs, then, to have them 41-4, I was pretty happy with those starts, we just need to extend them,” said Batty who has taken over from Vikram Solanki as head coach.
“Looking at the first three days, we could pick out a few areas of improvement.
“But, on the whole, I asked the lads to start the season on the front foot and I thought they did that quite magnificently with the bat, then I think we did it with the ball.
“The big thing we saw in pre-season was the hard work the boys put in the winter nets.
“To transfer that to outside, in game time, is good. It’s good for their heads that the work they’ve put in has turned into runs and getting into good positions.
“The bowlers hit good areas and they took wickets. That’s all you can ask from them, particularly when the pitch was at its best for bowling on the first day. It got slower and flatter as the game went on.
“It was very flat on the last day and it became turgid at times, which is why the game panned out the way it did.
“But, as I say, I was super happy with the way we played. Yes, we can be better, of course we can.
“Traditionally and historically, for the last 10-15 years, we have started the season slowly, so we asked the players to start on the front foot. They certainly did and it was a solid performance.
“We just need to keep everybody’s feet on the ground and keep building from that performance, because there were some very good things in it.
“We just need to keep trying to be a fraction better.
“My job going forward is to keep people motivated if they get left out, but also to not let people get too comfortable when they get good news. We need that happy medium, with performance being everything,” said Batty, who was appointed Head Coach in January, following Solanki’s decision to join the Gujarat Titans IPL franchise as director of cricket.
“I’ve always enjoyed coaching,” added Batty. “I hope, from a management style, I will be similar to Vikram in some ways.
“I just can’t do it quite so eloquently and quite as cool as Vik used to do it. I’ll have to do it my way.
“There won’t be any of the Sir Alex Ferguson riot act sort of stuff, which people might expect if they watched me play.
“That’s just what I needed to do as a player to get the best out of myself. It certainly won’t be anything like that from a coaching point of view.”
Batty is also delighted to be working alongside Azhar Mahmood again. Mahmood, who made 192 appearances for Surrey as a player, entered as bowling coach in February; at the same time as the former Warwickshire skipper and head coach Jim Troughton, who will oversee that batting.
Batty said: “Azhar is someone who knows every facet of the game.
“He’s remembered for his bowling, but let’s not forget he was an all-rounder who got us a lot of runs.
“He’s worked with elite players, as a coach, for a period of time now.
“Jim has a wealth of knowledge and he has a way of dealing with players which I think is a really good touch – a firmness, but also an understanding and a softness with it, which is the biggest compliment I can pay any coach.
“They’re both huge assets. I’ve got one on my left and one on my right, and the one that sits on my head, in Alec Stewart.
But the proof will be in the pudding – whether our best-laid plans turn into output on the field.”