CAPTAIN Ian Bell is confident that Warwickshire are ready for the challenges of the Specsavers County Championship Division One, which he believes is the strongest and highest quality it has ever been.
As he leads the Bears into a season for the first time as club captain, Bell is under no illusion about the demands of the fixture-list which begins with a brace of away games, against Hampshire at The Ageas Bowl and Middlesex at Lord’s.
Warwickshire are heading towards the new campaign in the unaccustomed position of having everyone fit and available.
Not only is the squad injury-free but Bell, Jonathan Trott and Chris Woakes, so often away on England duty in recent years, will be in the mix for the early games.
The Bears have a squad which appears capable of challenging for honours in 2016. But Bell knows that, with Surrey and Lancashire having come up from Division Two, this year’s Specsavers County Championship Division One is brimming with powerful squads.
“Division One this year will be the toughest that it’s ever been with the two counties having come up with Test Match grounds and looking strong,” the captain said. “The squads in the First Division get stronger every year. The standard is very high.
“But we know what’s in front of us. We will have some good days and some challenging days and it’s how we react to the latter that will be really important.
“It is the first time for a long time that we will have everybody available for the start of a season. Usually we have been without a couple of myself, Trotty and Woakesy.
“But we will have Woakesy for the first few weeks so we are going to have a lot of competition in all departments of the team. For the early matches we are going to have to leave out two very good seam-bowlers.
“We have tough decisions to make but those sort of tough decisions are nice to have.
“We have got a strong squad which, injuries permitting, will allow us to rotate our seamers the way Yorkshire have done to such good effect in the last couple of years. We won’t have to flog our bowlers in the first few weeks.
“I am very excited about the season. There is a lot of cricket ahead and a lot of hard work ahead and no doubt there will be ups and downs but myself and the guys can’t wait for the challenge in front of us.”
Warwickshire entertain Gloucestershire in the first home friendly of the 2016 season at Edgbaston on 28th and 29th March. Play starts at 11am and entry is free.