James Foster hoping to make his coaching mark with Northern Superchargers in the Hundred

James Foster was honoured to be named as the first homegrown head coach in the men’s Hundred, but the new boss of Northern Superchargers insists his breadth of experience is more important than his birthplace.

Last year’s inaugural edition of the the city-based tournament saw high-profile foreign imports dominate the senior positions in the men’s draw, with five of the eight posts doled out to Australians and one appointment each from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

Local coaching talent was restricted to supporting roles, in stark contrast to the women’s competition where the likes of Charlotte Edwards, Danielle Hazell and Jonathan Batty were empowered.

But when Darren Lehmann relinquished his role at Headingley, the Superchargers decided to break the mould by recruiting former Essex wicketkeeper Foster.

England wicketkeeping coach James Foster during a nets session at Emerald Headingley, Leeds. (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

The 42-year-old, regarded as the best pure gloveman of his generation, was a three-format format international with England between 2002 and 2009 but believes his experiences on the global franchise circuit – including in the Indian Premier League, Pakistan Super League and Bangladesh Premier League – outweigh the colour of his passport.

Speaking ahead of this week’s launch, he said: “I’m incredibly proud to be the first English coach, it’s a great opportunity, but it’s not necessarily about that for me.

“There was a fair bit of bad press about it last year but maybe because of the journey I’ve been on in coaching I don’t see it. I wasn’t involved in The Hundred last year but I was asked ‘what are your thoughts about there being no English head coaches?’ and I said it’s a great thing for English coaches to work under foreign coaches. I hope the English guys involved last year were able to do that.

“I’ve deliberately tried to work under numerous people to gain experience and see other ways of doing things beyond the so-called ‘English way’.

James Foster in his playing days with Essex County Cricket Club has stepped up to be the head coach of Northern Superchargers Men (Picture: Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

“You can tap into great minds and in my career so far I’ve worked under the likes of Stephen Fleming, Mahela Jayawardene, Trevor Bayliss, Tom Moody, Shane Bond, Mohammad Akram, Andy Flower....there’s so much diverse experience there and I’ve been very fortunate to learn off these guys.

“It was a deliberate plan. Why wouldn’t you want to try and work under some of the best foreign coaches in the world? For the last three years I’ve been working under (England Test coach) Brendon McCullum at Kolkata Knight Riders, which has been an absolute joy.

“I’m absolutely not surprised about the success he’s had with the Test team. I worked under him in the T20 format but I understand how he goes about his business and what he brings to the table.”

The appointment of the New Zealander, alongside Australian Matthew Mott in the white-ball side, invited some awkward conversations about the ECB’s domestic pathway but, in Foster, they may have unearthed a future candidate for the top jobs.

“I’d love to coach at the very highest level, in international cricket,” he said.

“I retired from playing in 2018 and I’m just trying to gain as much knowledge as I can. In terms of the England set-up, maybe at some stage in the future, but I think it’s probably a long way off.”

England all-rounder George Garton, meanwhile, is hoping for a fresh start in The Hundred after opening up on a six-month battle with long Covid-19, a condition that left him with scarring on his heart and lungs and feeling “like a really unfit 80-year-old”.

Garton started the year on a high, making his international debut in January against the West Indies, but things took a sharp turn for the worse when he tested positive for coronavirus on his return from Barbados.

It was the second time he had contracted Covid, having missed out on the chance of an England cap the previous summer during an outbreak in the squad, and the symptoms were dramatically increased.

Only now, as he prepares to help Southern Brave defend their title in the second edition of the ECB’s 100-ball tournament, does he feel back to full fitness.

Garton said: “I spent a lot of time in the dark, not knowing what was wrong with me. Not many people know much about it and even the doctors don’t seem to know what causes it.

“I had an abnormally high heart-rate. My resting rate was up from about 50bpm to 75-80 and if I did anything – walk around, go downstairs for a coffee – it was up to 100-110.”