It is the dawning of a new era at Emirates Old Trafford in 2015 under Ashley Giles’ watch and one which recently-appointed Lancashire captain Tom Smith cannot wait to tackle.
Kevin Howells (BBC radio)
In good hands with Ashley Giles. Strong winter signings including Peter Siddle who will take some of the strain off Glen Chapple early season and a good start will take them close to promotion – but it’s not certain. Loved their T20 cricket last year and predict the same again.
David Fulton (Sky Sports News)
I’d take them to come straight back up like they did a couple of years ago. They’ve got too much quality not to.
Winters can seem like a particularly long time for a cricketer, not least when you are a rookie skipper itching to get to work in your new post.
It was back in early February when all-rounder Tom Smith discovered he was the one chosen to lead Lancashire on the field this summer by new head coach and cricket director Ashley Giles.
The importance of such a title was certainly not lost on the boyhood Red Rose fan, even if some of the various responsibilities which come with such an all-encompassing role were unfamiliar to him.
That explains why Smith spent the first few days in the position sending text messages to Giles to see if there was anything he ought to be doing.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, Smith explained: “I’m a little bit new to the process and didn’t quite know what to do!
“I felt like a bit of a spare part a little bit of the time! But Ash has been really good with me so far and I can’t wait to get out there now and play some cricket.”
Given the array of experienced heads in that dressing room, Smith should not be overawed when he begins his tenure at Derbyshire’s 3aaa County Ground in their LV= County Championship Division Two opener on April 19.
He knows he can heed advice from his predecessor Glen Chapple, veteran international Test players such as Peter Siddle, fellow new recruit Alviro Petersen and the returning Ashwell Prince, along with the likes of Paul Horton and vice-captain Steven Croft, both of whom have skippered Lancs before.
It is a strong support group which their new captain intends to make full use of.
— Peter Siddle (@petersiddle403) March 5, 2015
“It’s a massive help,” Smith noted. “The support I’ve had from people around the club and various people on social media has been amazing.
“I’m very lucky at Lancs, I’ve got a lot of senior players – not just Chappie and Ashley – I’ve got Ashwell Prince and Peter Siddle, and they’ve all played a lot of Test-match cricket.
“But not only that I’ve got Horts, Crofty, Kegsy (Simon Kerrigan); there’s a lot of players that I can turn to for a bit of support along the way.”
Nobody knows more than about what is required in that job than Chapple – Mr Lancashire himself having been captain for the past five years.
Following a season in which the evergreen 41-year-old coached, captained, bowled and notably performed heroics with the bat in the must-win clash with Middlesex which almost prevented the club’s relegation, Chapple will take a step back from on-field leadership duties to fulfil a player-coach role.
“Chappie’s been great for us and they are big shoes to fill,” added Smith.
“He’s won the championship, come close in a lot of one-day tournaments, won Division Two, and he’s been a very successful captain for us.
“I’ve been chatting to him about the role, he’s been very supportive of me being selected and he just said make sure you enjoy it for one thing.
“People can see it as being a bit of a burden with the stresses that come with being a captain but he said make sure you love it. He absolutely loved doing the job.”
The landmark of 1,000 first-class wickets is looming for Chapple, who is just 25 dismissals away from that magic four-figure total, and the county will hope that feat is one of many the Red Rose enjoy this term.
A title win, rather than just promotion, remains the ultimate collective goal, while Smith has also set his sights on going one better in the Natwest T20 Blast following last year’s agonising defeat to Birmingham Bears in the final.
That was a loss which Giles could have been forgiven for celebrating at the time given his ties to Edgbaston, but the former England Limited-Overs Coach’s allegiances are now firmly at Emirates Old Trafford.
Upon arrival Giles spoke of attaining success “over a long period” and that will be music to the ears of Lancashire, who had been looking to replace Peter Moores after he took the England Head Coach position at the beginning of the county season last April.
“Ash has settled in and got a bit of a routine now,” said Smith. “There’s that stability – everything’s in order, everything’s in place.
“We want to build a successful team; we’ve got some great players at the club and we know we can do that. For us, we want to win Division Two.
“Obviously we want promotion but we want to win the league and then go one step further in the T20 and have a really good push at the 50-over competition.
“We’ve got a strong one-day squad and we feel we can compete in all three formats this year and that’s what we’ll be looking to do.”
Acquiring Siddle and Petersen, bringing Prince into the fold once more and signing Leicestershire seamer Nathan Buck has certainly strengthened Lancs’ title credentials as well as assuring their new skipper he does not need to be so daunted.
“It’s massively exciting, I’m very lucky to have players of that calibre in the team,” said Smith. “Hopefully it will make captaincy a bit easier!”
— Lancashire CCC (@LancsCCC) March 17, 2015
Captain: Tom Smith
Head coach and cricket director: Ashley Giles
In: Nathan Buck (Leicestershire), Haseeb Hameed (youth), Matthew Parkinson , (youth), Saqib Mahmood (youth), George Edwards (Surrey), Alviro Petersen (South Africa), Peter Siddle (Australia)
Out: Kyle Hogg (retired), Oliver Newby (released), Andrea Agathangelou (released), Kabir Ali (released), Wayne White (Derbyshire)
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