Improvement high on Foxes agenda

The 2015 County Championship had been all about the realities of battling the odds, and Leicestershire elite performance director Andrew McDonald is not one to change the mindset just yet.

The Foxes may have finished bottom of Division Two in red-ball cricket, but McDonald was happy to see his side make significant progress across the board.

More is expected this season as Leicestershire’s new signings prepare to inject their experience.

Elite performance director Andrew McDonald, a former Australia international, is hoping for further improvement from Leicestershire in the 2016 campaign after seeing encouraging signs last term

Progress comes in many different ways, one of which was Leicestershire ending a 992-day wait for a Championship win, which came last June away at Essex.

Leicestershire may only have won six of their 38 competitive fixtures in 2015, but “improvement” is still the mantra for McDonald when asked what the minimum target for this term is.

The Australian told “Last year we showed some great improvement. You mentioned it was a tough season but we felt as though we improved dramatically on where we had been.

“We feel as though the people that have come in and the guys in here, the younger players. It’s going to take us forward.

“We want to improve. As for the ladder position, we want to finish as high as we can. And that’s the reality.

“With the shorter formats, the T20 and the one-day formats, it’s all about getting to the quarter-finals and once you get to the quarter-finals anything can happen. Anyone can win it.”

Mark Pettini has been named captain in the white-ball formats, while Mark Cosgrove will take charge of the Championship side.

The split leadership is designed to ease workload and improve efficiency, and the job is made easier, according to McDonald, by the presence of many other natural leaders in the squad.

“(Pettini) he’s a really good leader, not just from his education of players but also from a tactical point of view,” McDonald said.

“I think he’s a strong tactician and we feel in the shorter formats – obviously to lighten the load we decided to split the captaincy – we felt Mark Pettini was the best option, albeit in a competitive field in terms of the players we had to lead the side.

The O'Brien brothers, centre, will represent Ireland at next month's ICC Twenty20 in Ireland

“Mark Pettini is the man to do the job, with Clint McKay as his vice-captain in white-ball format.”

The world will soon be tuning in to plenty of white-ball cricket, as three Leicestershire players prepare to travel to India for next month’s ICC World Twenty20.

Kevin O’Brien and Niall O’Brien are set for Ireland duties, while Rob Taylor will also be hoping Scotland can make it past the qualifiers and on to a potential group-stage date with England no less.

Regardless of the final result, and from a Leicestershire point of view, McDonald will continue to use the international flavour to boost his squad.

“I think they bring back experiences don’t they?” he said. “Any time you bring back experiences you can add that to your own group. The conversations start when they come back.

Pakistan international Umar Akmal made a huge impression for Leicestershire during the 2015 campaign

“They can help the younger players in terms of expectations, playing on the big stage, dealing with pressure. We are hoping those guys can come back and share that experience with the group.

“By sharing that experience it will help our guys improve naturally. We’re really excited for these players and hope they go far in the tournament.”

And on the international front, McDonald is also excited at the prospect of Umar Akmal’s return as an overseas player, having impressed in 2015 at both county and international level.

“He can have a tremendous impact,” McDonald said. “We’ve seen he’s hungry for runs, trying to get back into international cricket.

“We had an Umar Akmal that was on the fringes of international cricket last year, that performed well. He’s performing well, he’s playing international cricket again and we’ll probably get a better product again this year.

“We’ve seen what he can do in T20 formats and we’re really excited about Umar on board.”

Source: ECB

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