Kurtis Patterson hopes having the New South Wales captaincy to focus on will help free up his batting as he searches for a return to the form that earned him two Test caps three seasons ago.
Since playing for Australia, and scoring a maiden century in his second outing against Sri Lanka, Patterson has endured a frustrating couple of seasons: first through injury which disrupted his 2019-2020 campaign followed by a struggle for runs last year as he averaged just 21.29 in the Sheffield Shield.
He admitted considering whether it was the right time take over the Sheffield Shield captaincy from Peter Nevill amid looking for a batting revival. Having had a taste of the role at the end of last season, though, he believes having other areas of responsibility will be an advantage.
"I guess being able to do it last year doing for the one-day final and the last couple of Shield games was good for me to see how I reacted and how I thought with it," he said. "To be honest with you, half of my battle with my batting is getting myself out of my own head, so the captaincy does that naturally because you can't just think about yourself, you have to think about the rest of the team.
"I certainly felt that when I was batting last year as captain that it allowed me to kind of see the bigger picture. But it certainly was something that I thought about because at the end of the day, even now that I am captain, first and foremost I'm a batter, certainly when we are batting it's no longer Kurtis the captain I have to perform as a batter.
"It's something that I probably won't really know the answer to until we're in the depths of the season, but last year I felt really comfortable, it didn't feel like it hindered my batting at all. It felt if anything like it helped. So looking forward to hopefully seeing that come through again this year."
Although Patterson's only substantial score last season was the 102 he made against South Australia, he felt he had found something close to his best rhythm during the Sheffield Shield final against Queensland, where he scored 43 in the first innings against a strong attack in demanding conditions.
That had coincided with him delving back into footage of the run of scores he had in the 2018-19 summer, which included twin centuries for a Cricket Australia XI in Hobart and the Test century in Canberra, as well as a conversation with New South Wales batting coach Chandika Hathurusingha.
"I feel like I'd got to a place that I was satisfied with before the Shield final and it wasn't until before the final that I'd looked back on my lead up, my Test series I played, and the Australia A game," Patterson said. "I watched some footage and just tried to focus on one or two of the basic things that I did well. Really they were just being still at point of release and looking to get forward.
"I had a really good chat with Chandika, just spoke about simplifying things as much as we can. I only scored 40-odd in that Shield final but in terms of just the way I felt, it felt like I was back to my normal self, which was nice in a way but also a bit disappointing that it took me the whole season to work that out.
"I think that was just I was just lacking confidence last year coming off coming off the injury the year before, there was probably an extra layer of thought in my head that probably didn't need to be there. It was a challenging year for everyone. It's been nice to take a step back and take learnings out of it."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo