Staffordshire skipper Ketts backing players to come good

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

James Kettleborough insists his confidence in Staffordshire’s players hasn’t wavered after back-to-back defeats.

Staffs have turned in below-par performances against Norfolk and Herefordshire in the NCCA Knockout Trophy as they failed to back up their opening game success at Suffolk.

That has left them on the brink of elimination from the competition at the group stage for the second successive season under skipper Kettleborough and head coach Andy Carr.

Staffordshire’s batsmen have failed to fire in the two recent outings, being dismissed for 157 by Norfolk at Smethwick and 163 by Herefordshire at Eastnor on Sunday.

The runs may not be flowing at the moment, but Kettleborough believes his players will soon show their true potential.

“It was a strange feeling after Sunday, but the lads deserve to be backed. We’re in a strange place at the minute and it’s tough to put my finger on,” said Kettleborough.

“It’s fundamentally, I believe, about confidence. I don’t really think players go in and out of form.

“If you get 100 on a Saturday and a duck on a Sunday, are you in or out of form?

“I have full confidence in the group. It’s about knowing what their roles are and performing.

“The execution has not been quite right for one reason or another recently.”

‘Sport is fickle’

Kettleborough says the sharp turn in fortunes perfectly highlights the nature of sport.

But while the past couple of displays have fallen short of what he wants to see, he is at pains to stress that’s not for the want of trying.

“Against Suffolk we had the perfect blueprint about how we wanted to play 50-over cricket,” he added.

“Sport can be fickle and you have to ride the wave and be prepared for the highs and lows. It’s important to stay level headed – not be too high when you win or too low when you lose.

Head coach Carr left concerned after another below-par batting display

“Our integrity and quality was questioned after we lost to Norfolk. That can happen when a performance is put in that doesn’t meet expectations.

“We’re realistic to know that we won’t execute our skills perfectly every game – otherwise we’d be playing at a higher level.

“But the desire in the squad remains as strong as ever. We have quality players and everyone is determined to bring success to the county.

“Staffordshire have been hugely successful during their history and we want to add to that.”

Staffs are, undeniably, a tight-knit group since Kettleborough and Carr assumed their positions ahead of the 2023 season.

The pair have already sampled success in their short time in charge, winning last summer’s Twenty20 Cup for the first time in the county’s history.

‘Stick together’

Kettleborough says that team spirit can help them to get back on track for the remainder of the season.

“The lads were deflated after Sunday. But the strength of our group is how close we are.

“It’s not a great feeling when we don’t get results, but we will stick together and I have full belief in the players.

“It’s not the time to make drastic changes and we will put things right.

“Experience comes into it. That’s where my approach as captain comes into play. I will remain level because I can’t afford to be up and down.

“Sport is a rollercoaster and we have to stay on the level.

It’s another bad day for Staffs as Herefordshire ease to win

“We want to enjoy what we are doing and enjoy each other’s company and hope that we can execute our skills from there.”

Staffordshire have a free day this Sunday. They wrap up their Knockout Trophy Group Two commitments against Shropshire at Moddershall & Oulton on June 23.

Staffs need to win that match and hope other results go in their favour to stand any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.

But even if they fail to advance, Kettleborough wants to see a performance to build confidence ahead of the three-day Championship format, which kicks off next month.

“We have got to bounce back against Shropshire,” explained Kettleborough.

“My message to the players is to play with freedom and look to build confidence ahead of the three-day format which can often define a season.

“They need to go out there, be confident about themselves and their game and enjoy representing Staffordshire.”

Main image: Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough says he’s confident his players will show their true colours. Picture: Pete Stonier