Paul Edwards talks to Lancashire coach Peter Moores ahead of the Friends Life t20 Finals Day
I may be risking the wrath of "Aggrieved of Accrington" or "Disgusted of Darwen" here, but I'd be prepared to take a bet that Lancashire coaches of the pre-and post-war eras didn't talk that much about fun. Hard work, responsibility and a clutch of rather more strait-laced virtues are more likely to be have been their watchwords.
Peter Moores preaches the value of those latter qualities too, but he also plainly believes that it is unreasonable, and even unwise, to expect young men heading for one of the biggest days of their sporting lives to practice too much emotional restraint. Saturday is, after all, Friends Life t20 Finals Day. Even those who are not too enamoured of the format concede that it is one of the biggest days in the English cricket season.
"The key is to enjoy it," said Moores. "It's an exciting day, so treat it for what it is. Don't say it's just another game, because it's not. It's something else. It's a Finals Day which is great fun. Players should go there and challenge themselves to relax enough to enjoy it and play their best cricket. Soak it up and have a go. The people who have a go and are a bit braver than the others are the ones who normally come out best."
As for nerves, Moores is hoping that his Lancashire players will have accustomed themselves to the inevitable butterflies well before Edgbaston's refurbished arena rises before them on Saturday morning.
"You're better getting nervous early than on the day," he said "Then, when you get there, you're used to it. You don't want a shock. If you walk in to the ground and there's 28,000 crammed in there, then those people are going to make a lot of noise. There's going to be a great atmosphere. You want to embrace that, enjoy it, get stuck in and have a go.
"There'll be things that happen on the day that you'll love and things that you wish you'd done a bit better. The side that stays the calmest and delivers their skills the best will be the winners. It's not always the most fancied team that wins, it's the team that pitches up on the day and can handle the pressure.
Finals Day will be a new experience for Moores too. Despite his remarkable success with Sussex in the Championship, he never took the county to English cricket's eleven-hour hogfeast of runs and wickets. So does he regard Saturday as a test of his skills too?
"Everything's a test of the coach," he said, with a slight smile. "But what international coaching does for you is that it gets you used to full stadiums. You have it every day and that was something I found to be great fun. I'm looking forward to that - and of course you want to be tested."
See, there's that word fun again. And why not? Lancashire's players have demolished the low expectations of some of the punditry this season. They have played with skill, daring and a pleasure in shared achievement. This has happened because they are a squad of underestimated cricketers who are determined to show off the skills they have acquired and their ability to reproduce them under pressure.
"People say we're a team without stars," said Paul Horton with typical laconicism after the quarter-final. "Well, we'll just carry on winning games with no stars."
But if Lancashire's line-up does not possess any galacticos, it certainly contains one or two cricketers whose possible development paths would excite any lover of the game, particularly in the last month of the season.
"Some of the younger players have developed quicker than we thought they would," said Moores. "Whatever happens on Finals Day, it'll be a great thing to go through for those players. When you park up at Edgbaston, and someone says, "Good luck today, it means everything to me," you've got to handle that.
"Don't put a cap on expectancy; don't say: "Because we're this young. we shouldn't do this." Instead, say: "No, we'll do what we do, we'll work very hard every day, find out what we're good at and try to do lots of it."
Should Lancashire beat Leicestershire in the semi-final, Moores acknowledges that there may be a change or two for the final. The condition of the Edgbaston wicket will help determine some very tough selections. And prior what he hopes will be two games on Saturday, Moores will have his usual chat with his players on the outfield.
"You've done all your preparation by then," he said. "You're just reminding people about stuff like the size of boundaries and the the lines they might bowl. Or someone might asked you about field placings. A lot of it is about getting people in the right state to play. In county cricket you sometimes have to get people going; on Finals Day, you're trying to calm them down and get a damp cloth out there.
"What we try and do is ask everyone to captain themselves. What Glen Chapple has done is say to the bowlers "You set your field, you do it, you get on with it" Crofty does the same. The fact that Chappy is captain by name doesn't mean that Crofty isn't doing his stuff or that the bowlers aren't doing their stuff. Anyone who's watched those finals days know that they can be chaotic. If you're not in control of what you're doing, it's carnage."
And on Saturday, carnage wouldn't be much fun.
Photo (c) SWpix
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