Leicestershire put faith in old stagers

Ben Raine was one of Leicestershire’s bright spots in 2015 © Getty Images

Director of cricket Andrew McDonald

Captain Mark Cosgrove (Champ); Mark Pettini (T20, 50)

Last season

Specsavers Championship: 9th Div 2; NatWest Blast: 7th North Group; Royal London Cup: 9th Group A

In: Paul Horton (Lancashire), Neil Dexter (Middlesex), Wayne White (Derbyshire), Kevin O’Brien (limited-overs), Mark Pettini (Essex)

Out: Matthew Boyce (retired), Andrea Agathangelou, Dan Redfern, Alex Wyatt, Neil Pinner (all released)

Overseas: Clint McKay, Umar Akmal (T20), Rilee Rossouw (T20)

2015 in a nutshell

It tells you everything you need to know about Leicestershire’s form over recent seasons that 2015, when they finished bottom in the Championship, the Royal London group and won only four times in the NatWest Blast, was seen as a step in the right direction. Energised by the appointment of Wasim Khan as CEO and Andrew McDonald as coach, the club secured a first Championship win since 2012 and might have won a couple more but for inexperience. Their limited-overs form remained grim, however, and a small financial profit was overshadowed by an auditor’s report that expressed “significant doubt about the club’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

2016 prospects

Boosted by the recruitment of several experienced players – all likely to feature in the first team immediately – it seems reasonable to anticipate further progress from Leicestershire. To move into mid-table in the Championship, more will be required from Ned Eckersley – who endured a modest 2015 – and the club will have to find a stronger opening partnership. Ben Raine and Angus Robson are likely to be the most important of the young players. Raine claimed 59 Championship wickets in 2015 and also contributed more than 500 runs. Off the pitch, Leicestershire have installed floodlights – crucial to their long-term survival – agreed a ground sponsorship deal and arranged to host women’s matches. They have also shaken up the coaching staff and agreed a loan from the local council. From a subterranean base, they are improving.

Key player

Clint McKay will earn his money as overseas player. Impressive in 2015, he will again carry a heavy load as strike bowler and workhorse and will also be expected to fulfil the role of senior-pro in the dressing room. The fact that he was leading wicket-taker for Sydney Thunder as they won the BBL bodes well. He is vice-captain of the white ball side.

Bright young thing

Aadil Ali, schooled across the road from the ground and a member of the treble-winning second XI side of 2014, made a good impression as a well-organised, patient batsman in 2015. It would provide a huge morale boost to the club if he can build on that promising start. It’s worth keeping an eye on Atif Sheikh, too. He’s left-arm, fast and has plenty of scope for improvement.

ESPNcricinfo verdict

It was always going to take time to for Wasim Khan to turn things around at Grace Road and we are still in the early stages of the recovery. But, with some well-targeted recruits, Leicestershire’s results should improve.

Bet365 odds: Specsavers Championship, Div 2: 25-1; NatWest Blast n/a; Royal London Cup 50-1

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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