Burnley Cricket Club captain Bharat Tripathi believes new professional Chris Holt can shoulder the responsibility of replicating former paid man Adnan Rasool’s prolific wicket-taking streak.
Last season’s Padiham pro has made the step up from the Ribblesdale Cricket League where he culminated last season’s campaign with 89 wickets, including eight five wicket hauls, which saw him tail Clitheroe’s Kashif Saddique and Ribblesdale Wanderers’s Ian Britcliffe.
And he’ll need a similarly potent term to fill the void left by departing Pakistani professional Rasool who struck 76 times during 2013, just three short of the league’s most productive bowler in Accrington’s Ashar Zaidi.
“We’ve made steady progress over the last few seasons and hope to continue the upward trend of our performances,” Tripathi said. “Departing with key players, we’ve been dealt with some big blows, but we’ve signed a very talented cricketer in Chris Holt, who has already bought into the team’s ambitions.
“We are hopeful of more appearances from David Brown as well - with perhaps the odd showing from Jonathan Clare. With those additions, the current crop of players are relishing the opportunity of shouldering more responsibility, with the view to making individual improvements, which will then of course translate in to wins and points.”
As well as Clare, Turf Moor will welcome Nelson’s Jahangir Liaqat, Colne’s Bradley Ramshead and Huddersfield Town midfielder Oliver Norwood, who will play for the seconds when available.
However, Burnley have lost the services of Qasim Ali who, with 791 runs, finished in the top 10 of the division’s amateur batsmen.
Last season the squad pushed to third in the Lancashire League - ending just seven points short of rivals Lowerhouse - as well as winning the Worsley Cup for the first time in 29 years. Tripathi is now hoping for further success, ahead of the club’s opening game of the season against Haslingden at Bentgate on Sunday.
“We want to ensure that we make life difficult for each opponent we come across,” he said. “As far as the Worsley Cup goes, we will certainly be giving everything to retain it.”
Meanwhile, Lowerhouse captain Charlie Cottam insists that the buzz around the Neville Gee Recruitment Ground is the best he’s experienced as the club bids to win back the Lancashire League trophy.
Accrington usurped the West Enders as champions last year while rivals Burnley stole the Worsley Cup, meaning Cottam’s side lost the silverware they’d accrued in their historic double-winning campaign of 2012. However, they thrashed Ramsbottom by 112 runs on home soil to lift the Twenty20 trophy for the first time ever.
South African all-rounder Cobus Pienaar has joined the Liverpool Road ranks as professional ahead of the new term. The one-time Nelson and Bacup paid man represents the Titans Franchise in his home nation and is a left-handed batsman and a right arm medium fast bowler.
Pienaar, captain of the Northerns’ state side, has played 62 First-class games, scoring 3,183 runs while he’s also accumulated 126 scalps with the ball.
Cottam, who has drafted in Burnley’s Steve Whittaker for the new season, though has lost Joe Beneduce, said: “We are fully prepared for the new season and very eager for the first game to start. The buzz around the ground and especially the first team is possibly better than what it has been in recent years.
“We still have a very young team but a number of players seem to be getting better each year.
“We are all really excited to have our new professional, Cobus, who looks like a class act and will undoubtedly strengthen us in a few areas that we have struggled in. He has leadership experience that I will be tapping in to and he is seriously mad keen to get started and win some cricket matches. We want to do better this year. We want our league title back!”
Read skipper Kyle O’Connor believes this could be the year that the Ribblesdale Cricket League championship trophy finally returns to the Whalley Road cabinet.
While the club were dominant after the turn of the Millennium - winning the title three times in succession from 2002 as well as triumphing in the Ramsbottom Cup - they’ve struggled to top the pile since.
While the club has lost the services of Mohammed Jamal - who was the division’s second highest run scorer with 1,173 in 2013 - they’ve added Clitheroe’s Omar Hussain, Accrington’s Mitch Taylor and Baxenden’s Zac Conroy to the ranks while Will Driver is set to return after spending two years as Winton CC’s paid man. South African Brandon Scullard has been acquired as this season’s professional.
“This season we feel this could be our year after strengthening the side in key areas,” he said. “As a club the atmosphere is high and people are talking about winning silverware. I’m very excited with the squad we have at Read. Jamal’s exit will be a huge loss but with Will returning that provides us with a quality replacement.
“We have a great blend of youth and experience with plenty of match winning players this season but we have to make sure we don’t let things slip like we have over the past four or five seasons.”
Meanwhile, Padiham captain Callum Clarke insists his players have a point to prove after a disappointing 2013 campaign.
The Arbories outfit will start out in the B Section of the Ribblesdale Cricket League’s new format after finishing bottom of the Senior Division last term.
Clarke has added Foulridge CC’s Shahbaz Rashid - brother of former Padiham and Sussex county cricketer Shaun - to the squad while Lee Anderson has returned from injury. Meanwhile, South-African all-rounder Darryl Losper has joined as an overseas amateur.
The 22-year-old plays in Cape Town for Easterns CC and has been selected for South Africa Rural XI.
“We’re very much looking forward to the season now,” Clarke said. “We’ve got a tough start to the season with a trip to Settle who are in many people’s eyes the favourites for the title so we will be the under dogs. However, after the disappointments of last season all the players have a point to prove and we look forward to causing a few upsets along the way. If we can keep a consistent squad together on a regular basis then we will have a very good season.”
Read host Salesbury tomorrow at Whalley Road while Padiham kickstart the new campaign against Settle at the Marshfield Ground, with both matches starting at 1-30 p.m.