Imagine you are a young cricketer, on the fringe of your county’s first XI, fighting desperately for a regular spot in the side but aware that there are some big-name superstars ahead of you. You’ve had a good start to the 2021 season proving you worth in all formats after progressing in the truncated 2020 season. But now you have been asked to go to a meeting in the coaches’ office and walk in to find Andy Hurry, Jason Kerr and Paul Tweddle waiting for you.
“IT’S NOT THE SORT OF MEETING YOU WANT TO BE CALLED IN TO”
As Ben Green describes it, “it’s not the sort of meeting you want to be called to”, but, thankfully for Green the news was all good, unbelievably good, as he was asked to captain Somerset in this season’s One-Day cup competition.
Reflecting on that conversation 10 days ago Green describes the feeling as surreal with a mixture of emotions that he felt at that moment clearly fresh in his mind: overwhelmed, nervous and excited being his immediate reactions.
Reflectively it should not be that much of a surprise to Somerset supporters that Green has been given the leadership. He has captained through the Somerset age groups and has been skippering the second XI this year having expressed an interest in the role at the very start of pre-season.
Green also recalled a couple of times recently that Abell took him for a coffee and a chat. Nice as it would be for any of us to have a coffee in the company of captain Tom it seems very likely that Abell’s mission wasn’t entirely caffeine and good company on these occasions!
When I asked Green about his cricket brain, something that is regularly commented on by the media, he seems slightly embarrassed but goes on to admit that he has always been someone who thinks beyond the narrow confines of his own role when he is on the field adding that he finds it helps his game at the same time.
Green mentions his role opening in the Bob Willis Trophy last season as an example of his determination to secure a place in the first team. He reasoned at the start of 2020 that there was an opportunity at the top of the Somerset order, so he set his stall out to claim such a spot. The fact that he did and made a polished 50 in the final justified for Green and the coaches this strategy. Although he did admit that his experience last season made him realise what a tough job opening in the Championship is, especially the way the red-ball season is squeezed into the margins of the season.
I asked Green what his ideal role is. From my perspective it is difficult to determine this s he has played as a specialist batsman in the championship, a bowling all-rounder and fulfilled a variety of roles in the T20 side. Green said he would ideally like to have a similar role to his boyhood hero Andrew Flintoff, by which I took to mean a genuine all-rounder but goes on to add that last season his bowling took a back seat while this so far it is his bowling. I suspect Green will captain the side bat at 7 and take responsibility for bowling the tough overs, a role his skill set seems well suited to.
There is clearly an understanding of the history of Somerset in this competition. Green’s answer when I ask him what he feels to be looking to follow in the footsteps of Brian Rose, Ian Botham and much more recently Tom Abell to lift the one-day cup. But you feel that Green is level-headed enough to see this as a positive and opportunity rather than a source overwhelming pressure.
So, what sort of captain will Green be. He immediately rules out the Tom Abell model remarking that if he led with the energy “Abes” expends he wouldn’t be able to walk off the ground at the end of the 50 overs. Expect someone who is quietly assured, committed but not overtly demonstrative and who is not afraid to tap into the vast experience the likes of Steve Davies, James Hildreth and Jack Brooks will bring into the games.
IF I CAPTAINED THE WAY ABES DOES I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO WALK OFF THE FIELD AT THE END OF THE INNINGS!
Green goes on to say that his role on off days is, in his view, as important as the on-field part. He rightly expects his players, operating at this level, to know their roles and limitations on the field. Supporting his squad and ensuring every one of them is in, “the best possible headspace on the day” will be a priority for Green.
There is another challenge for Green, one which he diplomatically plays a solid verbal forward defensive to when asked, namely managing the change in the dynamic around the Cooper Associates County Ground this week as a large part of the first team squad disperse to other places for other reasons. All Green will say is that it is clearly, a strange dynamic with a large number of “big characters not around at the moment”. The transition has been slightly eased by the presence of the still rehabbing Tom Abell in Taunton but he has now departed to the midlands. Green turns even this into a positive commenting that it is a huge testament to Abell that he is so highly regarded, that even injured, his franchise want his presence around at the start of the competition.
Turning to the reigning champions’ prospects in the 2021 iteration of the one-day cup, Green is realistically optimistic. You wouldn’t expect Green to say anything other than positive things about his side’s prospects which he summarises as the aspiration to retain the trophy being realistic. Green cites the blend of experience and exciting youth to support this confidence.
Looking ahead to the opening game on Sunday Green said that he was pretty certain of 10 of the starting XI but said there were still “one or two niggles” preventing him and Tweddle from being certain. Disappointingly but understandably Green wasn’t willing to name that side for us!
He did however pick out five players coming into the squad who he believes Somerset supporters will especially enjoy watching and will give a good account of themselves: Kasey Aldridge, Sam Baker, Ned Leonard, James Rew and Sam Young. Don’t expect them all to play in all the games but hope that when they do get their opportunities they will use them.