Nick Browne sad to see Chris ‘Spoons’ Silverwood leave, but backs Anthony McGrath to keep Essex flying
PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 January 2018
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In an article from our ‘Year in Sport’ pull-out, the talented opener looks ahead to the new County Championship Division One season and reveals his target
After a stellar 2017 for the club, opening batsmen Nick Browne is confident Essex can build on their County Championship Division One success despite losing head coach Chris Silverwood during the winter.
The 42-year-old, affectionately known as ‘Spoons’ to everyone at the County Ground, bid farewell to the Eagles soon after their title triumph to join the England set-up as their fast-bowling coach.
Silverwood has been replaced by Anthony McGrath, who was appointed assistant at Essex in February 2016 and played a big part in the club winning promotion from Division Two six months later and then becoming the best in the country last year.
Browne is sure the new man in charge at Chelmsford will do a great job, but on the person he is replacing, he said: “Firstly I’m over the moon for ‘Spoons’ because he has backed me throughout and even when I was in the second XI.
“He gave me the second-team captaincy and he has always pushed me to become a better player, so it is bittersweet.
“I’m chuffed for him to get the chance to join England, but I’m disappointed he has to leave us in the process.”
McGrath now follows in the footsteps of Silverwood by being promoted from assistant to head coach at Essex.
Browne provided an insight into the former England Test and One-Day International cricketer and explained the impact he had on the players last season.
When Essex went through tough times during their historic unbeaten Division One season, McGrath would always find a way to lighten the mood.
Although Silverwood’s team won 10 of their 14 games and claimed draws in the other four, it wasn’t all plain-sailing.
Lancashire pushed Essex close in the season opener at the County Ground, but the hosts fought hard to earn a draw.
A similarly tough match occurred at Lord’s against Middlesex weeks later, but the Chelmsford side held on and never looked back.
“With regards to Anthony, he really is a great guy and I think he has made a real difference over the last two years,” said Browne.
“He is a proper laugh and his calmness in pressure situations is brilliant. He would make sure we all had a laugh if we ever had a tough session and I think that helped us always go out with a positive mindset even if we had been struggling.
“I don’t think he will change too much, I think he will keep it quite similar and the worry if it had been someone new would be them changing things which have made us successful.
“But whatever he does I’m sure he will make us successful and he will be a big success because he is a great guy.”
If Essex are to build on their first Division One title since 1992, Browne will have a key role to play at the top of the order.
The South Woodford ace scored 952 County Championship runs last season, the most of anyone in the squad, and finished with an average of 43.27.
Browne, 26, struck five fifties and one memorable hundred – a score of 221 during a 373-run opening stand between himself and Alastair Cook against rivals Middlesex in June, which was a record for the club.
But the former Trinity High pupil wants even more highlights in 2018 and knows he needs to go past a thousand runs if he wants to put himself in the reckoning for an England call-up.
After passing that total in 2015 (1,157) and 2016 (1,046), Browne is looking to record his best-ever total in a County Championship season this year and knows what is key to him achieving that.
He added: “A thousand runs has always been my target, but it seems like you need to get more than that to get recognition, so I really want to start well.
“I’ll be going to South Africa shortly to try and improve my game and become a better player, so 1,200 runs is something I’d look to get past.
“Last season I nearly got to a thousand, but I didn’t think I had a great season, so I’ll be aiming to convert a few more of my fifties into hundreds this time around.”
Even though Browne felt he could have done more with the bat, he still played a massive role in Essex’s amazing Division One triumph.
The big challenge now for the players and McGrath is to ensure the club follows in the footsteps of Yorkshire, who retained the title in 2015, and not Middlesex, who were relegated after winning the crown two seasons ago.
But whatever happens this year, you can bet Browne and his team-mates will be doing everything they can to succeed again.