Northants mulling over marquee nets for pre-season

With the Covid-19 pandemic sadly showing no signs of easing any time soon, Northants are having to think outside the box when it comes to preparing their players for the 2021 cricket season.

By Jeremy Casey
Friday, 15th January 2021, 10:21 am
Updated Friday, 15th January 2021, 10:24 am
Northants are considering erecting a marquee for net sessions at the County Ground ahead of the new season
Northants are considering erecting a marquee for net sessions at the County Ground ahead of the new season

In recent times, the club has travelled abroad to get the players the crucial practice time on the grass before getting stuck into the County Championship season, but that scenario is looking more and more like being a non-starter.

Head coach David Ripley admits he hasn’t yet totally given up on the squad being able to travel abroad to get some training in with the sun on their backs, but he and his fellow coaches are already looking at alternative plans.

And one that is beginning to look a real possibility is the erecting of a clear marquee at the County Ground, giving the players the chance to get out and practice on the grass, regardless of what the Northampton weather throws at them.

Northants are considering erecting a marquee at the County Ground for pre-season nets

It is something that other clubs have done to get their players match-ready in recent seasons, most notably Surrey, and Ripley has revealed that is is an option Northants are seriously looking at ahead of the new season’s scheduled start in April.

“I wouldn’t have thought an overseas trip is looking high up on the agenda at the moment,” admitted Ripley, who welcomed his players back for pre-season training at Wantage Road earlier this week.

“We have to deal with the fact that things are going to change, and I am not very good at that if I am honest.

“I do like to know what I’m doing and when I’m doing it, and I like the players to know what’s happening, but at the moment you put a bit of effort in and then the next day you have to rip that up and do something different.

Northants head coach David Ripley

“I haven’t given up totally on an overseas trip, because there are places you can go and come back and not have to quarantine, but we have seen how quickly things can change.

“So we have looked into putting up a marquee, and sitting here now that would probably be the favourite if we can get that organised, but we have only had a first base look at that.

“Surrey have done it before, and I have spoken to Alec Stewart about it and he thinks it is a very good investment for him and his club, although they do have a massive square.”

The wickets at the Oval cover virtually the whole width of the outfield, and although that is not the case at the County Ground, Ripley believes there is still plenty of space to play with.

“We do have nets in three different places,” said the head coach.

“We use nets on the edge of the edge of the square, and we have the old bowls bit, but we also have the nets we used to have for years, just in front of the old scoreboard.

“They were nets when I first came down here, they were good nets, and we still use them from time to time when we get stretched.

“So for us, I think they would probably be our best option.”

Surrey and other counties use a marquee that lets in the natural light, and it is pretty clear if Northants go down that route it would have to be a large structure, but how big exactly?

“We would cover at least four wickets in width, and we would want four run-ups in there as well,” said Ripley.

“You don’t get a wicket-keeper or slips in, but it is still pretty long to get full run-ups in.

“It also needs humidifiers in there, heaters, and it needs to be up for at least three weeks before you hope to start to give the groundsman a chance to get the wickets ready.

“The feedback I have been getting is that the wickets may still be a little bit slow and low, with the ball nibbling around a little bit, but they get better.

“It’s not a new thing, and other counties have been doing it for a while.

“It has always been my preferred option to get away from the ground for a while, but needs must and it could be a good option for us.

“It would at least get us out of the indoor school, and that is what you need is that timeline that says ‘we are coming out of the indoor school on that date, that’s our last session, so let’s make good use of it’.

“If you haven’t got anything planned, then you are just looking at the weather forecast and thinking we have got another week in the indoor school, and then another one, which drags a bit.”

Northants are due to start their County Championship campaign with a home game against Kent, starting on April 8.