Head Coach Alex Gidman believes the Bob Willis Trophy will provide a great opportunity for Worcestershire CCC players to prove to themselves they can perform at the highest level in domestic cricket.
With the four-day competition being regionalised, Worcestershire will face four County Championship Division One sides in the six-team group including Gloucestershire in the weekend opener at Bristol.
But Gidman says the squad are ready to embrace that challenge with the carrot of a Lord’s final for the best two of the three group winners.
Worcestershire will face Glamorgan, Warwickshire and Somerset at Worcestershire in addition to away matches against Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire.
The squad participated in a competitive intra-squad three-day game at Blackfinch Road and then this week a two-day friendly against Warwickshire at Edgbaston as part of their preparations.
Gidman said: “The players are very excited, I’m excited to watch them. It’s been two pre-seasons in effect. The first was a long, long time ago from early November up until late February and since then we’ve obviously had the break because of COVID-19.
“In the last couple of weeks the players have been outstanding, they are desperate to get going and are really looking forward to the cricket once it does get started.
“From a personal point of view, I was desperate for red ball cricket because I really wanted the opportunity for this group to learn and evolve.
“We are trying to get better at red ball cricket. We want to be more consistent. It’s not going to happen overnight but these five games are a great opportunity for players to stick their hands up and prove to themselves they are capable of performing at the highest level in domestic county cricket.
“We are playing against four First Division sides. Statistically we are up against it in that sense but I know the players are very keen to prove to everyone how good they think we are and it’s exciting to have that sort of attitude.
“It’s going to be an exciting opportunity. That’s very much the way I am looking at it. We want to win as many games as possible. But if we are not winning games, then certainly we will be learning a lot about our players which is always a positive.
“You see how different players react in different situations. So far, they’ve reacted extremely well to this situation and I’m really hopeful for the players that they turn that into performances on the pitch when it comes to playing.”
Gidman is confident the players will rise to the challenge of being unable to play in front of any spectators because of COVID-19. He said: “It will be strange but I think the players are just looking forward to playing.
“It’s just about that opportunity to play and enjoy doing their jobs again which has been a long time coming.”
Worcestershire CCC Cricket Steering Group Chairman, Paul Pridgeon, said: “It’s a long time since the lads reported back in early November and they are so hungry to get back out on the field and play some competitive cricket after all the work they’ve put in – before, during and after the COVID-19 lockdown.
“With the huge floods last winter and then COVID-19, it’s been a challenging time for everyone on and off the field and it’s fantastic that cricket is back.
“It’s great that we have three of the five fixtures at home including the local derby against Warwickshire which is always one of the highlights of the season in whatever form of cricket we play them.
“Of course, at the moment all first class cricket is being held behind closed doors, and everyone has to adhere to government guidelines.”