Skipper Cobb sure Steelbacks will 'get themselves going' as T20 Blast starts behind closed doors
Steelbacks skipper Josh Cobb admits it is 'a shame' there will be no crowds in the stands for the new Vitality T20 Blast campaign that starts with a trip to Gloucestershire on Thursday (2pm start).
And he has warned his players they are going to have to 'get themselves going' to produce the performances needed to fire Northants into the knockout stages of the competition.
Winners in 2013 and 2016, the Steelbacks have targeted the T20 as the most important part of this truncated summer of cricket, with the Covid-19 pandemic ensuring the first four months of the season were wiped out.
Having played four first-class matches in the Bob Willis Trophy, attention now turns to the T20 with Northants in the Central Group alongside Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Somerset, Glamorgan and their opening opponents, Gloucestershire.
One of the big attractions of the T20 for the players is that they normally get to play in front of packed stands and big atmospheres, but that will be missing this season due to social distancing restrictions.
For instance, a midweek trip to Bristol to take on Gloucester would normally be played out in front of a big crowd and under the floodlights, but not this Thursday - it's being played at 2pm and with no fans in the ground.
It is not an ideal scenario, but Cobb insists he and his team are still going to be up for the battle once the action gets going.
"We are really looking forward to it, but it's just a shame there are no crowds," said the Steelbacks skipper.
"The razzamataz of T20 cricket is a massive part of it, and that is something we have spoken about, in terms of getting ourselves going.
"Sometimes the crowd can get you going, but without that we have to focus on what we do well, and trying to get ourselves going and we are."
It does of course mean clubs will also lose a lot of their home advantage, and Cobb added: "It probably does balance out most of the venues a little bit.
"Certain boundary fielders won't be getting abused out there like they are used to, and they will probably feel a little bit better about fielding out there!
"So it is a shame there will be no crowd, but we are still looking forward to an exciting competition."
Another difference to this season's T20 is that the teams will only play 10 matches in the group stages, as opposed to the usual 14.
It means there is little or no margin for error, and with the Steelbacks playing five of their 10 matches in the next eight days, they have to try and get off to a flying start.
"We have spoken about it, and we know that with it being 10 games in the group stage we have got to start well," said Cobb.
"The preparation we have had has been excellent and we have given ourselves the best chance of doing that.
"Now it is all about going out there and putting in the performances."
Cobb has been a key man for the Steelbacks in the T20 in recent years.
He was named man of the match in Northants' 2016 final win - as he was for Leicestershire when they won the competition in 2011 - and in 2018 he became the first Steelbacks player to score a T20 century at the County Ground.
His 1,712 runs place him third in the club's record run-scorers in T20 - behind Alex Wakely and Richard Levi - and is capable of destroying any bowling attack.
Cobb has certainly been in red-hot form in the Steelbacks' practice matches, hitting nine sixes in a 45-ball 80 against the Foxes last week, and he has also been dishing out punishment to club bowlers in the Leicestershire & Rutland Cricket League.
The former Leicestershire player has been turning out for his first club Kibworth, and last weekend hit 100 not out as Barkby United were dispatched by 145 runs.
Cobb also hit a a quickfire 83 in a win over Lutterworth, and despite the fact he has not featured in any of the County's Bob Willis Trophy matches, he feels he is great shape and form.
"I feel really good, I have played three practise games and they have all gone really well," said the 30-year-old.
"I have been playing club cricket, which for the first time in a long time has gone really well too. Maybe I should have four months off before the season starts more often!
"Kibworth is where I grew up playing, and I have a lot of friends back there, so the enjoyment of playing cricket with your mates has been good.
"I have found it difficult sometimes over the past few years, because it is a kind of different way of playing cricket, but I found a way this year and have really enjoyed it.
"So I am feeling really good and I am just excited to get going in the Blast."
Following their opening clash against Gloucestershire on Thursday (2pm), the Steelbacks take on Worcestershire at New Road on Saturday (1pm) before hosting Somerset Sabres at the County Ground on Sunday (2pm).