CRICKET: Rugby Cricket Club 2016 season preview

Owen Edwards bowling for Rugby against Kenilworth last summer
Owen Edwards bowling for Rugby against Kenilworth last summer

First friendly tomorrow evening at the Close, Rugby School

Rugby CC begin their season tomorrow night (Friday 15th) with a T20 match against Rugby School at the Close, the first of three friendlies over a weekend that will kick start their summer.

They then travel to Coventry & North Warwicks on Saturday, before a longer encounter with Rugby School on Sunday, and we caught up with captain Owen Edwards ahead of these curtain raisers.

Rugby’s 1st XI enjoyed mixed fortunes last season, starting and finishing the season in great form, but suffering a severe loss of confidence in the middle, which saw them finish the season in fourth place.

This was the club’s highest ever Warwickshire League standing, since being promoted to the Premier Division in 2011, but it felt like an under achievement to Edwards.

“We signed some quality cricketers in the winter and started the season with three wins from our first four matches,” he explained, “So naturally we started to believe we could win the league.”

However Edwards soon realised that it wasn’t going to be as simple as that, “I think we got ahead of ourselves. I underestimated the transition we were going through, bringing in new players and it was also my first year as captain.”

“The new guys needed time to settle in, understand their roles and feel comfortable in the team, while I needed to be clear about how I wanted to lead the team and the brand of cricket we would play.”

After a period of five consecutive matches without a win, Rugby’s form turned around in the second half of the summer in emphatic fashion and Edwards hopes to carry this momentum into the 2016 season, “We had a great win at Bedworth and that turned things around for us.”

“It felt like the team had finally gelled and we knew how to win games. We won seven consecutive matches, playing attacking cricket and were ruthless once we got on top.”

“We’d accepted that we were too far from the promotion spots to win the league, but we really enjoyed the last half of the season and produced some great performances. We beat most of the top sides in the process and showed what we are capable of.”

Ahead of the new season, Rugby have not focused on recruitment, but have still brought in a couple of new faces, a fact Edwards was keen to elaborate on, “When I took over as captain, my ambition was to build a club that represented the town’s strongest cricketers.”

“The only signings we’ve made this winter are the brothers Vishaal and Bhavik Rathod. I’ve played with them both in the past and they are talented, enthusiastic cricketers who will add important depth to the squad and live in the town.”

“Apart from those two coming in, I didn’t want to sign any other players. We found our feet last year with a relatively new-look side and established a way of being successful. For me, this season is all about building on that with the squad we have.”

“There is a great team spirit at Rugby CC, which counts for a lot. After the way we finished last season, I know other teams are looking at us nervously at the start of the summer and it is key that we hit the ground running.”

Edwards wants his side to follow in the recent footsteps of the young national side, “It sounds a bit cheesy, but the kind of bold, fearless cricket that England have talked about in recent months is exactly what I want our guys to do.”

“We have an explosive batting line-up and a battery of seam bowlers that can deliver a lot of success. We all learnt important lessons last summer and if we continue to progress as a group like we did in 2015, then I believe we will be genuine title contenders this summer.”

The new season is also an exciting prospect for Rugby’s 2nd and 3rd teams, both of whom were promoted last year and face fresh challenges.

Under the new leadership of Robbie Stipanovic, the 2nds will compete in Division 3 and are the highest ranked 2nd XI in the Warwickshire League structure, competing predominantly with 1st XIs, including local rivals Rowlands.

Meanwhile Tom Mitchell’s 3rds line up in Division 10 East and are targeting successive promotions after winning Division 11 last year and finishing 94 points clear of their closest rivals.