Leicestershire’s autopsy is well under way after completing a second successive season without a win in the County Championship.
32 games have now passed since their last four-day victory against Gloucestershire in 2012, and they were gifted the wooden spoon long ago having been rooted to the bottom of Division Two for almost the entirety.
Hoards are seemingly heading for the exit, including talented youngsters Josh Cobb, Shiv Thakor, and Nathan Buck. Cobb, who captained the one-day side but slammed the county’s lack of ambition, has signed a two-year deal at Northants, but they will be joining Leicestershire in the second division. Shiv Thakor, meanwhile, has agreed a deal with Derbyshire.
In a statement, the county confirmed that several players had rejected new, improved contract offers, which unsurprisingly makes the task of attracting new talent more difficult.
Another winless season is completely unacceptable, though the board insist they are working “tirelessly” to prevent another year like the one they have endured.
Change is already underway, with Chief Executive Mike Siddall set to leave this week. However, whether that is part of a more systematic plan remains unclear, especially as they have not yet found a long-term replacement. Andrew Boyce will take on the role on a temporary basis.
Former chairman Neil Davidson is being linked with a return to the helm, but in truth, it will take more than the work of one man to bring Leicestershire back up to scratch. This, in a side that lifted silverware in the form of the Friends Life T20 Cup just three years ago.
Yet, the reality is that the heart of that side has been ripped out for financial purposes, which could not really be avoided. Stalwart wicket-keeper Paul Nixon can no longer be found behind the stumps, while that team’s young stars, such as James Taylor and Harry Gurney have left seeking Division One cricket.
The task then, from this close-season, is to confront the club’s lack of resources, which is at the very root of their problems on the pitch. Leicestershire is one of the smallest clubs by a long way, and is simultaneously forced to compete with other, more major sporting outfits, including Premier League side Leicester City, as well as the Leicester Tigers in rugby.
However difficult it may be for the club to stay afloat – something which should be guaranteed by the ECB, but at present, is not – a greater priority must be placed on their playing budget.
The county has already lost much of its appeal, and their latest troubles could well resulted in reduced membership figures for next season at Grace Road.
Trying to bring in a top, top-class bowler may be overoptimistic, but in their present state, Leicestershire will lose nothing by being ambitious. It would also be worth looking at their second XI – which won the treble - and perhaps giving some of their younger squad players a chance.
Regardless of what players stay, it is essentially up to the board to sort their county out. There is no quick fix, but what is beyond doubt is that Leicestershire cannot afford one more season continuing at their present rate.
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