Last year, and 2012 for that matter, was very very poor. And that’s being kind. Stone-dead last in the the LVCC Division 2 without winning a game, a more respectable 4 wins from 10 in the Friends Life T20 North Group, and a very average 5 wins from 12 in the Yorkshire Bank 40.
The high point? The emergence of talented wicket-keeper batsman Ned Eckersley. He was the 2nd top scorer in the whole of the LVCC Division 2 with 1275 runs and was the only Leicestershire player to average above 50. Eckersley looked imperious last year, and it only seems like a matter of time before he is scoring runs for Nottinghamshire.
Ins and Outs:
Leicestershire have done some pretty shrewd business over the Winter, with the addition of 6ft 7 veteran seamer Charlie Shreck and ex-Derbyshire man Dan Redfern. Shreck spent last year at Kent and after not impressing in the south has moved to the Midlands to try his hand at Leicestershire. Redfern has already impressed at Grace Road after scoring a hundred from 108 balls in a friendly match against Northamptonshire. Hopefully both will be able to add to the youthful set up at the Foxes this year.
The ‘oldies’ Matthew Hoggard and Claude Henderson have both retired from cricket (a huge loss for the game) and they are the only casualties in the Leicestershire line-up. It goes without saying that both have had an unbelievable career and the two have just shy of 1700 first-class wickets between them! Great servants of the game.
I’ve already talked about Ned Eckersley, but he is crucially important to Leicestershire’s season if they are going to lift themselves off the foot of the table in first-class cricket.
Ronnie Sarwan is back for the whole campaign this year, which is great news. The West Indies great has 5000 Test runs to his name and being club captain this year, he has an important role to play at the top of the order and off the field as well.
I’ve been billing Josh Cobb as the future of Leicestershire cricket, and in one-day formats that is a brilliant thing. In first-class cricket, not so much. I asked him last year when I interviewed him whether or not he liked being labelled as a one-day specialist, and his reply was that he wanted to score runs in the longest format. However, Cobb’s three back-to-back hundreds in the YB40 competition last year were very impressive, especially his 87-ball 130 to help the Foxes chase down 323 against a Somerset team that topped the table in Group B.
Leicestershire does have a good youth set-up (they missed me out in my U13 days) and there are some good young guns coming into the fold down at Grace Road. Ben Raine might be from Durham, but the 22 year old is quickly becoming a useful player for the Foxes. He took 9 wickets in 5 games last year, and chipped in with handy runs down the order too.
I still class Josh Cobb as one of the youngsters, despite being handed the one-day captaincy last season and having a major role in the team, he is still only 23. The Leicester-born player has already played 2 seasons in Bangladesh for the Dhaka Gladiators and while his stats aren’t too pleasing on the eye, his aggressive technique with the bat is normally pretty effective.
Shiv Thakor was nominated last year for Deep Extra Cover’s Young Player of the Season, but unfortunately didn’t win. The 20 year-old has England international written all over him in my eyes (I might be biased seeing as I played with him for 6/7 years). His batting is superb, his fielding fantastic and his bowling is very useful. Shiv is set to miss the first few months of the season after undergoing a second operation on his troublesome broken finger which he played with throughout the 2013 season.
Rob Sayer played for the England side in the U19 World Cup in Dubai earlier this year. He covered himself in glory in that tournament taking 2-39 (10), 1-27 (10), 2-21 (7) and 2-33 (10). On paper, he was easily England’s best bowler and Leicestershire will be hoping that he can deliver his promised talent.
I like to think of myself as a realist, and realistically, I can see Leicestershire finishing last in the LV County Championship Division 2 again, although I sincerely hope they don’t. The Foxes should fare better in the one-day competitions, but depending on which overseas players they get (hopefully Shakib again) their inexperienced side may getting blasted out of the water in the first season of the Natwest T20 Blast!