Smith looking for batting consistency

Senior Coach Ben Smith was a model of consistency when batting for Leicestershire during his successful playing career.

Now Smith, who was a key figure in two County Championship title wins as a player, is passing on his knowledge and expertise to others at Grace Road.

Smith learnt the value of scoring runs consistently – he was the last Leicestershire batsman to score three consecutive centuries in first-class cricket – and wants the current crop of batters to be greedy out in the middle.

He said: “Backing scores up as batsmen is key. It’s alright scoring some runs in a good first innings total but psychologically it is a dangerous position for a player to be in. I know that from my days as a player.

“A player will probably think he is safe in the team for the next couple of games if he has got a good score in the first innings of a game but you need to have that drive and back up those runs to put the team into a winning position. You then need to take the same approach into the next game and perform over a whole season.

“As a batsman, I would much rather have the label of somebody who is a matchwinner rather than somebody who played nicely and looked good. The first innings is always key, don’t get me wrong, but our problems last year were in the second innings. If you’re in form you have to cash in; you have to back up scores and have consistency.

“We had a successful side at Grace Road in the 1990s and there was lots of competition for places but it was a bit easier for me given the way I batted.

“I was not so aggressive and didn’t score as quickly, so there wasn’t the need for me to take as many risks as those batsmen around me. But there was still pressure to keep a healthy run rate and to win games at the time, as there will be next season for our batsmen.”

The players have been back since the start of November as part of their winter programme and Smith is happy with how things are shaping up.

He said: “I’m pleased with the batsmen who are here, they have all come in with the same qualities and we will build on their strengths this winter. Everybody is looking to become more complete before the new season starts and everybody will benefit from having another winter getting their heads around the requirements of county cricket.

“We have lost two or three players who would have held top six batting positions so there will be opportunities for players who did so well in the Second team last season with Lloyd. It would be great to see those lads taking their opportunities when they come.

“There will be a nice blend next season with some experience and the youth and exuberance to work along side each other. There will be plenty of competition with two or three players playing for one or two positions.”

One of Leicestershire’s signings is Neil Pinner, who Smith knows well from their time together at Worcestershire. The 24-year-old will be one of those batsmen pushing for a first team place after being unfortunate with a serious injury while on trial at Grace Road last summer. Dan Redfern also had to spend time on the sidelines after his move from Derbyshire, so it was a tough time for the talented batsmen.

Smith said: “Neil is a good all-round athlete, his main skill is batting but he is a good fielder who also bowls off-spin. He’s very talented, always seems to have time at the crease and has a vast array of shots in both four-day and one-day cricket.

“When you look back at it, both Neil and Dan Redfern were extremely unfortunate last season. They both got injured just when they had emerged as the in-form batsmen in the respective teams.

“Dan had played beautifully in pre-season before breaking his finger, and Neil had just got back-to-back hundreds in one-day and four-day cricket when he was hit at the non-striker’s end and broke his arm.

“When you have played so well early on, you’re knocking on the door and somewhere near to first team selection, so the timing could not have been any worse. They will be both looking forward to a fresh start in 2015.”