Josh Baker is determined to keep improving all aspects of his game after starting the season with Worcestershire in excellent form with the ball.
The spinner returned career best figures of 30-11-51-4 during the second innings of the drawn LV=Insurance County Championship match with Leicestershire at the Uptonsteel County Ground.
It was an ideal way for Baker to begin the 2022 campaign after breaking into the first team at New Road during the second half of last season.
But Baker wants to better all facets of his performances and is always happy to take on board advice from all different personnel.
Worcestershire Assistant Coach, Alan Richardson, 2022 overseas signing, Azhar Ali, and England Under-19s Head Coach, Richard Dawson, are amongst those Baker has been able to listen to and learn from.
Baker said: “It was nice to take my career best figures, but obviously I wanted to help get the lads over the line.
“Bit disappointed not to pick up another wicket and make sure of the win but, on a positive note, it was nice to get my career best figures.
“In the first innings, and against Durham, I’d been struggling a little bit with my rhythm so I had a good long bowl with Alan (Richardson) before the game, about 45 minutes, to try and get a bit of rhythm back into me.
“It was nice to settle into a long spell. I found as I bowled more overs, my rhythm started to come back a lot more, which gave me a lot more confidence in my bowling.
“Sometimes it just clicks. I spoke to Alan about that and he said sometimes you will bowl just one ball and it will click.
“I bowled a couple in the warm-up and I took that into the game which was really nice and I’m a lot more confident now.”
Worcestershire came within one wicket of victory against Leicestershire despite more than a day’s play being lost to the weather.
Baker said: “There were a lot of positives to take from the game like Brett D’Oliveira’s hundred, Ed Pollock’s hundred, and the bowlers getting long spells into their legs and taking wickets.
“There are a lot of positives moving forward and it shows we can compete. We outplayed them for the majority of the three days and I think we’ve got a bit more to give as well, a few areas we can improve on, which gives us a lot of confidence going into the season.”
Baker was thankful for the advice from Pakistan star Azhar when bowling against Leicestershire.
He said: “Azhar gave me some good tips. Even though he doesn’t bowl a great deal, he has played Test match cricket with a lot of top spinners and gave me little pointers about things like fields.
“He was quite good at working out the batsman so he was talking to me about what fields I should have to different batters and what line and length I should bowl to them.”
Baker was also given some tips by Dawson when on England Under-19s duty during the winter, firstly during the series in Sri Lanka and then as a travelling reserve for the ICC Under-19 World Cup in the West Indies.
He said: “When I was away with the England Under-19s, Richard Dawson spoke to me about getting a little bit more energy on the ball.
“He spoke to me quite a lot about bowling in the Championship over here and what pace to bowl on the wickets, probably a little bit quicker.
“I’ve gone from a longer run-up to try and get a bit more energy onto the ball, which helps with how much spin I get and the drift as well.
“There were a few bio-mechanical things they picked up on, like trying to get my front foot back a little bit more as I land, so it is not bent as much and I can get a few more revs on the ball and try to be upright as well.”
Baker was determined to put aside the disappointment of not being included in the full World Cup squad and turn it into a positive.
He said: “I looked on it as a pre-season tour, to go out there, train hard, do a lot of gym work, get myself ready for the season.
“It was obviously disappointing not to be playing but there were a lot of positives I took from it.”
Baker is also aware that improving all aspects of his game will be beneficial.
He said: “I looked at things and fielding and batting are two areas I really want to improve on.
“Obviously keep improving my bowling as well, but if I can bat and field, that will help to get me into sides as well.
“I want to try and get up the order as well. I’ve worked really hard on my fielding and batting.
“I will be too old for the next Under-19s World Cup but the Lions would be one to tick off the list if all goes to plan.”
*Fast bowler, Josh Tongue, is set to miss the first half of the season due to ongoing shoulder issues.
Fellow pace bowler, Pat Brown, has been ruled out for the first four to six weeks as he continues his rehab from a back setback.
Batter, Josh Dell, is unavailable for the first six weeks after breaking his finger during pre-season work.
The Club will provide further updates as and when things progress.