Somerset's 2021 campaign is just two days away now, and as we edge closer to Thursday's opening LV= Insurance County Championship fixture, we have three exclusive interviews to bring you. First up: Tom Abell.

WHILE the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that more of his team-mates have stayed in Taunton than in most previous years, Somerset captain Tom Abell has had a busy winter.

He helped Delhi Bulls reach the final of the Abu Dhabi T10 tournament, before heading to the Pakistan Super League - although the latter competition was suspended due to a spate of positive Covid tests among players and staff.

Nonetheless, both provided Abell with valuable experience as he seeks to continue his development across all formats of the game.

The 27-year-old told the County Gazette: "I was mixing with some of the top cricketers in the world.

"It was great to be a part of Delhi Bulls and Lahore Qalanders - both were filled with world class players, and it was great to learn from them in what I feel is still my infancy in white-ball cricket.

"In the T10 you're under pressure with the bat, so for me to score runs was massive for my confidence."

Having returned home as Somerset were getting stuck into pre-season, Abell describes his colleagues' attitude as "phenomenal".

"It was frustrating to miss the start of pre-season, but I can't credit the boys and the coaching staff enough," he said.

"The guys are in a great place, and there's a great energy around the club.

"I missed it when I was away, so it's great to be back."

Not only are Somerset's 1st XI stars driving each other on in training, but they're being pushed towards further improvement by the next wave of up-and-coming talent.

The likes of Jamie Baird, Sonny Baker, Lewis Goldsworthy, Ned Leonard and Will Smeed all showed what they can do in pre-season - so there is no room for complacency among the established players.

Abell said: "A huge part of our relative success over the last couple of years has been the competition for places.

"I was taken aback by some of some of the younger guys [last week] - the pressure is on us to keep getting better and stay in the team."

The club captain uses the words "relative success" because, although the Royal London One-Day Cup was won in 2019, Somerset's wait for a maiden County Championship title goes on.

The 2021 edition of the four-day competition is a little different, with two group stages, but Abell says the players' preparation does not differ much compared to previous years.

"Our sole focus is being as ready as we can be for our first game," he explained.

"Our intent is to give the best account of ourselves - we want to win the County Championship and bring it back to Somerset.

"There is a different format, but it doesn't change what we want to do.

"The hunger and the fire is burning bright in the group."

Should Somerset win some silverware this season, the hope is that they will be able to celebrate it with their supporters in a packed out Cooper Associates County Ground.

The return of fans "can't come soon enough" for Abell.

"It's always so special to represent Somerset in front of our incredible members and supporters.

"But safety is also crucial, and a lot of hard work has gone in [to make the ground safe].

"We have a job to do, and our focus is on our first game, but support will be so welcome.

"I've spoken to a few Somerset supporters, so I know just how keen they are to get back."