Farnsfield cricket star Paul Franks has admitted heading off to coach at the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next month is a dream come true.
The Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club veteran and second XI skipper has been appointed to the United Arab Emirates’ backroom staff for the duration of the tournament.
Franks spent time with the UAE during a training camp in November and now hopes to push them on to impress on the world stage.
“This is right up there,” he said. “It’s the next best thing to being able to play in the World Cup. My eyes are wide open as I don’t know what to expect.
“I’ve dreamed of it. But I have been a professional player for the best part of 20 years and have always been ambitious.
“Now I am looking at coaching and management after playing and I am just as ambitious about that. I want to be as good as I can be. That will never change – it’s in my make-up and I got that from my mum and dad.
“It took me a while to get my head around even being approached by the Emirates Cricket Board in the first place. That was flattering enough in itself, and this is a huge opportunity for me at a very early stage in my coaching development.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn, but World Cups don’t come around very often and it was something that didn’t take long to decide about.
“I’m grateful for Mick Newell and the staff at Nottinghamshire for giving me the chance to go away, learn and apply myself and I’m hoping to bring that back to Trent Bridge this summer.”
He added: “Like anything, this initially came through the network of people I have met through my playing career. One of their High Performance coaches asked me if I’d like to go out there last November and I said yes.
“It was a bit of an adventure for a couple of weeks, it went well and I was very happy.
“You always hope something more will come of it. Now this week I fly out for what should be the adventure of a lifetime and I am really excited by it.
“I will be helping coach the bowlers, but it will be more of a general role as an assistant coach. I will help prepare the players the best we can which is something I have enjoyed doing at Notts. I will talk to them about game plans, opposition and venues.
“I built some good relationships quite quickly with players in November and I am looking forward to rekindling them and helping take them as far as they can go.”
The United Arab Emirates will be looking to impress in only their second appearance at an ICC Cricket World Cup, along with fellow associate nations Ireland, Afghanistan and Scotland.
Drawn in Pool B, the UAE will face South Africa, India, Pakistan, the West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland and will need to start strongly if they are to upset the odds and reach the super six stage.
We’ll come up against some players that I know a lot about, that I’ve played against before or seen a lot of,” said Franks.
“It’s a big challenge, no one is expecting us to go there and tear the World Cup up, we have to be realistic about what we can see and expect. But we set high expectations for ourselves and we’ll look to exceed them and really compete.
“We play Zimbabwe first and then Ireland. If we can start well, who knows? The realistic target is two wins and they have probably identified those first two games as the best chance of winning if we can play to our best and the others are not quite at it. Then maybe someone else will take us too lightly?”
Back at home, Franks has taken on a number of coaching responsibilities with Nottinghamshire, working with bowlers during the season as well as with the second XI and academy sides.
Keen to push himself as well as the players, Franks is looking to widen his coaching experience and instil the same work ethic in the UAE as he has with his young Nottinghamshire charges.
“I have to learn as much as I can, while implementing ideas and knowledge that I’ve gained from my time in the game, even little things about playing in different conditions and against challenging opposition,” he said.
“The chance for the players to showcase their skills on a world stage is something very special for me.
“I’m trying to help them be as organised and professional as possible. That’s one of the things I pride myself on, making sure people know what’s expected, the game plans are watertight and we can implement them on the pitch.
That’s no different to how I’ve worked here over the past couple of years with Nottinghamshire’s younger players.”
Franks hopes then to come home and push on with his county coaching career.
“I will be getting involved even more with the coaching this summer,” he said.
“I have been working with the Academy players this winter and I will be in charge of the second XI again though with less of a playing role with one eye on the future.
“I turn 36 in a couple of weeks and I can’t play forever. I am excited by the challenge of coaching.
“I am looking forward to getting settled in next week and seeing where it takes me.”
Away from the cricket, he continues to keep one eye on the fortunes of his beloved Mansfield Town Football Club.
“It’s exciting times down there with the January ins and outs,” he said.
“I think Paul Cox did a fantastic job at the football club. But these things always seem to come to an end and now Adam Murray has a fantastic opportunity.
“I hope the fans are behind him and I, for one, would love to see him succeed.”
Paul Franks, who had played senior cricket for Notts since 1996, was appointed second XI captain last year.
One of Franks’ most outstanding achievement for Notts came in 1997, his first full season, when he took the county’s first hat-trick for a decade.
In February 1998 he became a World Cup winner, vice-captain and influential performer in the England U19 side that defeated their New Zealand counterparts in the final in Johannesburg.
Franks was called up as a replacement for the England A winter team in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and was selected in his own right for the following winter’s A tour to Bangladesh and New Zealand.
Franks gained full international recognition with an appearance for England in a one-day international against the West Indies on his home ground of Trent Bridge in 2000, the year he was elected Young Cricketer of the Year by the Cricket Writers’ Club before a knee injury halted the rise of his star.
Franks was a member of the Nottinghamsire title-winning sides in 2005 and 2010 and has scored more than 6,800 first class runs.
The ICC Cricket World Cup takes place from 14th February- 28th March in Australia and New Zealand.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made it to the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time since 1996 when they gained a win against the Dutch. Coached by former Pakistan pace bowler Aqib Javed, UAE have made it to a global event for only the third time.