County Championship: Essex legend James Foster backs new head coach Anthony McGrath to be a big success
PUBLISHED: 08:00 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:52 13 April 2018
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Wicket-keeper discusses new head coach, new assistant coach Dimitri Mascarenhas and his own coaching ambitions
Essex wicket-keeper James Foster believes new head coach Anthony McGrath’s experience of defending County Championhip titles in his playing days will aid the team this year.
After a magnificent unbeaten season in Division One last year, Foster and his Essex colleagues start the new campaign as defending champions.
However, Essex will have to make their defence without the man who guided them to the title last year.
Chris Silverwood left his role as Essex head coach over the winter to take up the fast-bowling coach position with the England national team.
McGrath was Silverwood’s assistant last season, but has stepped up to the top job ahead of the new campaign.
During his playing days, the 42-year-old was part of the Yorkshire team that won the County Championship in 2001.
It means unlike most at Essex, McGrath knows the pressures of defending a title, and Foster is confident that will aid last year’s champions this term.
“‘Maggs’ has been quality since he joined us a couple of seasons ago. Anthony and Chris had a good relationship and knew each other for many years,” said the 37-year-old.
“They were good mates and, along with ‘Tendo’ (captain Ryan ten Doeschate), worked very well together.
“‘Maggs’ fully deserves the head coach role and his own experience of winning championships as a player with Yorkshire, as well as the potential challenges and pitfalls we may be coming up against this season, will help us.”
With McGrath having stepped up to the top job following Silverwood’s departure, it left Essex with a vacancy to fill as assistant coach.
And Dimitri Mascarenhas, who played in 20 one-day internationals for England, is the man Essex chose to fill the void.
Despite having only retired from professional cricket less than five years ago and being just 40, Mascarenhas already has a highly-impressive coaching CV.
The former all-rounder has already held roles with Hampshire, Rajasthan Royals, Hobart Hurricanes and Otago Volts, and was previously bowling coach for the New Zealand national team.
And with Mascarenhas now focussed on his new role with Essex, Foster believes he is a tremendous addition to the coaching staff, adding: “What struck me about Dimi is that he’s very confident and he’s going to have a huge impact on our changing room, not just from the technical side of things, but also in terms of the mental side,” added the wicket-keeper.
“I know as a player he was a very clever cricketer, which bodes very well for him as a coach.
“Dimi in his short coaching career so far has already had some huge roles, so he has a lot of experience.
“He’s a fierce competitor and it feels like he’s been around the group for quite a few years already, even though he’s only been with us a short time. He’s fitted in very easily and is a great addition for us.”
Foster played alongside Mascarenhas in several T20 internationals for England, including at the 2009 World Cup.
Being coached by someone he previously played with must have the wicket-keeper seriously thinking about his own future after his playing career.
It seems, though, Foster has already laid the groundwork for a coaching career once he hangs up his gloves.
Foster already works as a cricket professional with Forest School in Snaresbrook, but added to his own coaching experience over the winter.
The 37-year-old had a spell coaching in the Bangladesh Premier League, and also spent time with the senior England coaches during their time in Australia, as well as aiding the England Lions staff.
Foster says he thoroughly enjoyed his winter of coaching, but insists his focus for now is back on playing for Essex.
“I did a lot of coaching over the winter. The month I had in the BPL with the Khulna Titans, working with Mahela Jayawardene and his team, I absolutely loved it,” he said.
“I’ve had a really enjoyable winter on the coaching side of things. Now, though, it’s time for me to get my playing head on and get my mindset round that.
“It’s now about batting and catching balls, rather than throwing them.”
Foster will hope this season proves to be another successful one with Essex in the County Championship.