Continuing our series of county previews, here is an assessment of Leicestershire's chances in 2008.
2007 in a Nutshell:
Awful! Leicestershire finished second bottom in the County Championship, third bottom in the Pro40 and failed to make it out of the group stages of the two cup competitions. We've been a team in decline for the past decade, but few of us expected such a uncompetitive season, which has to go down as among the worst in our history.
A lot of the blame must be put onto the coach and recruitment committee. The overseas player appointments were both bizarre and badly thought out. RP Singh is a talented bowler, but was never going to be available to us for long because of the Indian tour of England. I don't understand why we set out to sign a bowler who was available to us for only a month! Mansoor Amjad on the other hand was just not ready for the demands of county cricket and should never have been offered a contact while he still had so much to learn.
The mid-season axing of Darren Robinson, the decision to appoint Snape as a specialist one day captain and the panic signings of Arno Jacobs and Garnett Kruger also contributed to a very disjointed team. These decisions coupled with a few injuries and a worrying lack of depth meant we never built up any momentum and struggled from week to week. In all honesty we gave up after the Twenty20 cup was washed out and were lucky not to finish bottom.
New, Boyce, Ackerman, Dippenaar, Allenby, Nixon+*, DuPreez, Henderson, Malik, Lawson, Kruger.
One Day Games
New, Ackerman, Dippenaar, Allenby, Nixon+*, Boyce, Snape, Henderson, DuPreez, Lawson, Kruger
It looks like we'll go in with quite an inexperienced opening pair this season, which could be a cause for concern. Tom New is a sure starter having had a very solid 2007 season, but he needs to convert his starts into big scores if he's going to progress as a cricketer. Matthew Boyce looks likely to partner him, but his first team outings and indeed his second XI games, haven't shown much in the way of performances and he could face pressure from 18 year old James Taylor.
HD Ackerman, Boeta Dippenaar and Jim Allenby will fill the middle order slots and much will be expected of them this season. A lot rests on the two South Africans because they are the only two players with a pedigree of scoring hundreds. If we are to score big totals then realistically one of them will have to get in and make a big knock. Allenby had a solid first full season, but its thought that he can do better with the talent at his disposal.
There are no doubts about Paul Nixon after he enjoyed a fantastic 2007 season. He has the added burden of captaincy this season but that's unlikely to effect his performance because he has always risen to the big occasion and coped well under pressure. Tom New and young Joel Pope can also keep wicket, so it's quite a strong area for the foxes.
The quick bowling department looks potentially menacing and should cause problems for many. Lawson and Kruger both have international honours and DuPreez is the leading wicket taker in SA domestic cricket this season. The fourth seamer's position is up for grabs with Nadeem Malik, Ryan Cummins and Daniel Rowe all challenging each other. It's hoped that this competition will lead players to spur each other on.
There are some good one day spinners at the club with Claude Henderson and Jeremy Snape impressing in limited overs games in recent years. The concern is that they lack the penetration and tools to take wickets in the first class arena. Young Jigar Naik may be given a chance if Henderson proves to be as ineffective as in last season's County Championship.
HD Ackerman will be the key man for us this season. He looks like the only batsman capable of exploiting the fielding restrictions in one day games and will be instrumental if we are to have another good Twenty20 cup. He badly underperformed last season and the results show. If he can get back to his 2006 form then we'll be a hard to beat side.
James Taylor has rejoined the county from Worcestershire and has bags of talent. He was among the top runs scorers in the recent U19 world cup and with a decent strike rate too. He may have to wait for his chance but could make an impression.
Captain and Coach:
Tim Boon and Paul Nixon have both signed on until 2010 which on the face of it looks like a good move as it ensures some stability. I have no qualms about Paul Nixon being captain as for most of last season it was like he was playing on his own anyway. His enthusiasm on the field and his little quirks and theories about the game could pay off. I'm not so sure about Tim Boon though who seems to have put his hat in for every top job going. He hasn't impressed so far and will need a good season.
It's difficult to say. We've signed some genuine match winners in Dippenaar, DuPreez, Kruger and Lawson. We have better individuals than last year and if they blend together then we could cause a surprise or two. We probably lack the depth for what will be a tough County Championship season, but may fancy our chances in limited overs cricket.
We are still looking for Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Lancashire previews to complete a full set (the other 15 counties are already on the site). If you fancy giving them a go, do email firstname.lastname@example.org :it would be much appreciated!