Sport

Queensland Country in mix for national cricket crown

EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Len Martin and Ben O’Connell.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS: Len Martin and Ben O’Connell. Sarah Harvey

EXPERIENCE counts for plenty.

It is the reason Len Martin is certain Queensland Country will do better at the upcoming national country cricket championships than their third place last summer.

Ipswich-based Martin is coaching the team for the second successive year and is confident he and the players now know what it will take to win the championships, beginning in Bundaberg on January 3.

But while home advantage might seem like a huge bonus, history suggests otherwise.

"All the planning is done and we're all ready to go," Martin said.

"I always go in confident.

"It is our home championships but there tends to be a lot more pressure.

"There is greater expectation on the players and from the supporters.

"And Bundaberg really gets behind their cricket.

"In 2003 there were a lot of spectators."

Only two teams have won their home titles (WA in 2010-11 and Victoria in 2006-07) since Queensland took it out in Toowoomba in 1996-97.

But Martin has a simple strategy to try and counter the trend.

"It is difficult because of the pressure you put on yourself," he said.

If we can avoid putting so much pressure on ourselves by treating it as though we are playing away from home, it should help.

"I'm confident we're well enough equipped to go well."

"We're good enough.

"This year we've probably got a bit better blend."

Last year's experience plays a big part in Martin's confidence.

"The experience the fellas gained last year will stand them in good stead this year," he said.

"They've got the experience of what it's like to lose games they should have won."

"Hopefully we do a lot better than third," Martin said.

"I don't think we played well enough in pressure situations."

That included collapsing against NSW, from 4-190 to all out for 235 chasing 240 and failing to defend 270 against Northern Territory.

"We had to toughen up mentally and we will," Martin said.

"There will be no backing off because the players all know their roles.

"Last year we were setting those roles up.

"Now they know their roles, they will execute them very well.

"Last year our execution in two games was very poor."

Martin expects big things from second-time skipper Ben O'Connell, who captained the Country Inferno to take out the KFC T20 Challenge earlier this month.

"Ben will be a lot tougher and a lot better," Martin said.

I couldn't fault him last year but he's got more experience now. He's a quality player and person and a good leader.

For Martin, "no backing off" means targeting a win in very game.

"The attitude and approach is to win every game," he said.

"Then you don't have to worry about other results going your way at the back end of the championships."

The Queensland Country squad will meet for two warm-up games against the Queensland under-19s on December 31 and January 1 at Allan Border Field, Albion.

Ipswich-based shadow squad member Craig Cumming has been forced to withdraw due to a shoulder injury.

Topics:  len martin national country cricket championships queensland country



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