Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Leicestershire Cricket Prospects Look Brighter

With the start of a new cricket season, prospects for Leicestershire look brighter than for some time.

I have myself been a member of Leicestershire for a good few years now, having been an Essex member in my younger days.

Two new appointments give me, at least, more hope for the coming season.

After James Whitaker, at the helm off and on for several seasons, was made redundant, Tim Boon, another former Leics batsman, has been appointed as Director of Cricket. Tim comes with a high reputation, having been a member of the England coaching set-up.

H.D.Ackerman, the South African batsman signed on a Kolpak contract for 2005 and immediately made captain, has relinquished the role, and says he will now concentrate on his batting.

He is replaced by Jeremy Snape, the all-rounder who has played Limited Over Internationals for England. Jeremy was formerly with Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire, where he won the Player of the Year award. He has recently obtained a degree in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University. Although he has not officially captained the side before, he has on a number of occasions taken over on the field, and done a good job. Jeremy is largely credited as the brains behind Leics’ Twenty 20 Final win in 2004.

Those two appointments, I believe, give a much need more positive look to the county structure.

Since the brilliant days in the mid 90s when Leics, fired up by the splendid Phil Simmons, won the Championship twice, the county have descended into negativity.

Indeed, last season the aim from the start of each match seemed to be, not to win, but to avoid losing. On a number of occasions, they continued to bat on and on and on, destroying any possibility of a result. On one famous occasion, to add insult to injury, a declaration did eventually come – with the county needing just a few more runs for another bonus point!

Hopefully, all that can be consigned to the past.

The batting is in the hands of the solid ex-Essex opener Darren Robinson; the splendid Leicester-born former England all-rounder Darren Maddy, whose well deserved benefit year this is; former captain H.D.Ackerman; Dinesh Mongia of India; another former England Test man Aftab Habib, who spent some time with Essex; ex-Middlesex man John Maunders; ex-Yorkshire player John Sadler; and James Allenby, born in Australia.

The fast to medium bowling is in the hands of David Masters, formerly with Kent; the outstanding prospect Stuart Broad, son of Chris Broad, who was recently drafted into the England A side; Mohammad Asif, who has played for Pakistan; Ryan Cummins of Loughborough University; Maddy; and Maunders. Alamgir Sheriyar, who began his career at Grace Road before moving to Worcestershire and Kent, is at present having a trial.

In the spin department Snape and Mongia are joined by Claude Henderson, the South African Test player who was the first Kolpak player to join an English county.

The wicketkeeper-batsman is the experienced Paul Nixon, who left to join Kent some years ago but returned, replacing Neil Burns. He will be pushed all the way by the talented young Tom New.

The overseas players are Dinesh Mongia and Mohammad Asif, both good cricketers. However, it appears that we have two players from the Indian sub-continent in order to capitalise on the large number of Leicester residents with family backgrounds from these countries.

I’m sure that they will both perform well, but much less than sure that they will attract the hoped-for new audience. Although India and Pakistan are big cricket-playing countries, it is rare to see people from these ethnic groups at Grace Road. Even the presence in previous years of the much respected Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, and the crowd-pleaser Shahid Afridi, not to mention Virender Sehwag, who went home before the season ended, failed to attract any significant numbers.

Since the end of last season, Leics have dispensed with the services of opening bowlers Charlie Dagnall, who is hoping to pursue a career in broadcasting, and David Brignull. Former England all-rounder Phil De Freitas has retired; opening bowler Ottis Gibson left to join Durham; and Charl Willoughby, South African left arm opening bowler who was yet another Kolpak signing, joined Somerset as overseas player.

In addition, the Australian batsman Chris Rogers, who scored a brilliant double century against the Australian touring team, joined Northamptonshire.

But with the new appointments of Boon and Snape, and youngsters like Broad and New coming through, the future looks a lot brighter.