WORKSOP Cricket Club begin life in the Notts Premier League on Saturday with one goal – staying put.
The men from Central Avenue made it back to back promotions with their Bassetlaw Championship last summer, but captain Luke Ambrose expects a much tougher season in the top flight.
Missing from Saturday’s line-up will be three of the stars of last season – Indians Vipinlal Manikoth and Akil Mirza, who have both left the UK after their visas expired, and professional Chad Keegan who has taken a job at a public school.
But Ambrose hopes the three new faces in the squad will be more than adequate replacements.
Coming in are local players and top order batsmen Mark Smallwood and Gareth Purshouse, who join from Mansfield Hosiery Mills and Rotherham Town respectively, and West Indian fast bowler Kelbert Walters.
The 21-year-old overseas professional is also a middle order batsman.
Ambrose told the Guardian consolidation in the Notts Premier was his target, as his men begin a season in a similar frame of mind to this time last year.
“This time last year we were in exactly the same position, in that we were a little unsure about how tough the season ahead would be, given that we’d been newly promoted,” he said.
“However, we’re expecting the jump from the Bassetlaw Championship to the Notts Premier League to be a much more difficult challenge.”
“History has shown that it’s been very difficult for newly promoted sides to remain in the Notts Premier League so therein lies our first challenge.”
“Our main focus for this year will be to avoid relegation.”
He lamented the loss of last season’s trio of talented batsmen, but put a positive spin on the winter player movement. “This will present opportunities for other squad members to shine and we have recruited two very talented local players and an overseas professional,” he said.
“Kelbert has been clocked at over 90mph and has represented West Indies Under 19s, Anguilla and the Leeward Islands.”
The professional was due to arrive in the country this week, having scored a century in his last local tournament in the West Indies.
A visit to Caythorpe is Worksop’s first outing in the league, this Saturday, and Ambrose is hoping for a bright start in the opening run of fixtures.
“There are some very strong sides in the league, which feature four or five players with first-class experience in some cases, but our focus must be to beat the weaker sides and pick up as many bonus points as we can against the stronger sides.”
“Our early season fixtures look okay.”
“I would hope that we can pick up at least two wins from the first five games.”
And while he admits they’ll take on the tag of underdogs in the Notts Premier League, he has called on his men to show unity in their battle to avoid the drop.
“We have a small squad, so we need to make sure that we’re extra careful not to pick up any injuries.”
“But if we can stick together as a team and carry through our tenacious approach from last season we stand a good chance of staying up.”