Essex jet off to Barbados tomorrow (March 14) where they will spend 12 days as they continue their pre-season training with coach Paul Grayson keen to ensure that his squad have the best possible preparation ahead of the 2011 season.
“We went out there last year and it proved an excellent experience which served us well because we went into the season in good nick,” he said.
“It’s nice at this time of the year to be able to practice and play in a superb climate and in excellent conditions because, with so much cricket to play in the first few weeks of the season, it’s vitally important that our players are well-prepared and ready for the demanding campaign ahead.
“Everything out there is well-organised, the facilities are excellent and so we believe that it is well worth going. Our pre-season has gone well so far and we are looking forward to continuing our preparation in the sun.
“We are determined to reclaim our first division place and, with eight County Championship matches in the first two months of the season, we want to be amongst the pace-setters rather than have to try to play catch-up in the second-half of the year.”
Apart from practice and fitness work, Essex will also be taking part in a Twenty20 competition involving Derbyshire, Hampshire and Warwickshire and, additionally, they will face Hampshire in a 40-over per side match before concluding the trip with a two-day game against Warwickshire.
The touring party will be without Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate, who are on World Cup duty, plus Owais Shah who is still playing in South Africa and Maurice Chambers who is in the Caribbean but with the England Lions.
A squad of 17 players will make the trip and Grayson is taking the opportunity to introduce three young hopefuls to life in and around the first team.
“We’ve got three of our Academy lads – Ben Foakes, Tymal Mills and Reece Topley – making the trip with us and will be introducing them into a first team environment that will stand them in good stead for the future.”
Both Foakes, a wicketkeeper-batsman, and Mills, a left-arm fast bowler, are 18 while 17-year-old Topley is another left-arm quickie whose father Don played for the county from 1985 to 1994.
“These three lads are very talented cricketers and it is vital that we integrate them quickly into our squad, to let them get to know the rest of the players,” Grayson added. “As a coaching staff, we have the opportunity to get to know them a little better while also having the opportunity to work even more closely with them.
“We’ve always been mindful of making that transitional period from Academy to second team through to the first team as smooth as possible so that if a player does get to that level, it’s not a shock to their system and they are already aware of what first team life is about and what is expected of them.
“It’s important to have a good environment so that the younger players don’t fear coming into the dressing room and mixing in with senior players.
“I think this tour will be a great opportunity for all three lads to show what good cricketers they are as they embark on what we hope will be a long and happy career with the club.”