With Northamptonshire’s limited overs captain Alex Wakely ruled out for the season, the county face a tough ask to search within their ranks for a replacement.
Wakely captained the Steelbacks to glory in last year’s Friends Life T20 final against Surrey, the batsman helping his side along with 59 off just 30 balls.
This season will be one of the biggest challenges yet for the club, and they must now do it without their influential captain, who ruptured an Achilles tendon just one game into a pre-season tour of Barbados.
Northants must not only contend with life in a highly competitive Division One, but also the raised expectations that go with it after last season saw them win both promotion and a trophy to boot.
Wakely, who was made captain at just 24-years-old, and is vice-captain behind Stephen Peters for County Championship games, was rewarded with a new two-year contract just three months ago.
Yet, though Wakely led his side to their first trophy in 21 years, Northants spinner Graeme White insists that the squad can cope with the captain’s absence.
White - who returned to Northants in October after spending four years playing for Nottinghamshire - admits that the one-day side will be affected most after it was confirmed in March that Wakely will need surgery to treat the injury, which means he will almost certainly miss the entire season.
In brighter news for Steelbacks fans, the club have been actively seeking to strengthen the squad in order to cope with Wakely’s time off.
South African international Rory Kleinveldt is set to sign a contract in the coming days, so long as his visa application is successful.
The all-rounder’s arrival will provide some much-needed good news after the overseas signing of Australian Jackson Bird fell through; Bird initially put pen to paper and agreed to play for Northants’ first six games of the County Championship, but he has now been ordered to rest from cricket for four months due to his recurring back injury.
Last season’s star David Willey will also miss the start of the season in a further indication that life in Division One will not be plain sailing for Northants.
Coach David Ripley revealed that Willey endured the tail-end of last season with a sore back, but having opted to play through the pain, is now unlikely to play a part in the early part of the season.
Wakely, meanwhile, hopes to be involved at some level this season, even though it will sadly have to be off the field.
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