Saturday, 18 November 2017

Captain sets sights on title in second year in charge

Captain sets sights on title in second year in charge

THE captain of Henley Cricket Club says he is confident the team can challenge for the Home Counties Premier League Division 1 title if they cut out the “poor hours” that derailed last season’s challenge.

Michael Roberts says that failure to perform for spells of games last campaign cost Henley, who finished second behind champions Finchampstead.

Roberts succeeded former captain Bjorn Mordt, who won four titles in 10 years as skipper, in 2015.

He says the club is capable of winning the division, as well at the Twenty20 competition, this year and is raring to get the season underway against Great and Little Tew tomorrow (Saturday).

Roberts, a batsman, said: “As a club we are looking really positive this season. Having the second team promoted was hugely important as we now have two teams at the top end of the club who are playing a good standard of cricket and making the club stronger.

“It’s galvanised the club, brought us closer together and we are developing more and more off the field.

“Pre-season has been good, we played Ealing and saw some of the young guys perform. We also had an intra-club game which was really competitive and showed we can field two different combinations to support the first team.

“We aren’t just there to compete and come in the top four, we want to win the league at the Twenty20.

“At the same time, cricket is a very volatile sport, goals don’t always come to fruition so we will concentrate on each game as it comes.

“We will focus on our attitude and if we look after that we will be in a good position.”

Roberts says there were several games last campaign which Henley should have won but instead drew after losing focus. He said: “Where we fell short was probably more to do with poor hours in games.

“We had a poor hour in three or four games last season. We didn’t go on to lose those games but we
didn’t win so that’s what we are focusing on.

“We are looking at our attention and attitude in games.

“The first team has done some clever recruitment, filled spaces where some of the older guys might be moving on and complemented the guys already there.”

The club has brought in several players, including bowler Waqas Hussain from Slough, who is returning to competitive cricket after suffering a broken hand.

Roberts said: “Waqas is a really good signing and we’ve also looked at Harry Jordan, a bowler who is trialling with Gloucestershire and things are looking really good for him. Me and coach Stewart Davison spoke to him and he’s really keen to join.

“Another person we’ve looked in to is Keegan Russell, who is an 18-year-old on his gap year working at Crosfields School, where our batsman Matt Rowe teaches.

“He’s a bowler from New Zealand and he will be helping the first or second team in some way. We were probably just missing a really good first change seamer last season. We’ve recruited well and got in Waqas so we haven’t gone far afield.

“We’ve got guys on board from local clubs who are predominately bowlers.”

Roberts says the club is not looking to sign an overseas player despite the success achieved by Finchampstead with bowler Jandre Coetzee last campaign.

Coetzee, from South Africa, took 58 wickets to lead his side to the league title but Roberts is instead focusing on developing local players.

Henley have previously had overseas talent including former Ashes star Ashton Agar in 2013.

Roberts said: “One of the club’s policies is not looking at overseas players but letting it happen organically. If there’s an overseas player in the area then great but we won’t be going out of our way. We used to get Australians from the academy at the Ageas Bowl where we had a link but that stopped when the academy ended. Since then we have never really relied on overseas players. There are benefits and Finchampstead did have a really good overseas player who took a lot of wickets but at the same time they are a very good club.

“They have five teams out on a Saturday and it wasn’t just the overseas player that won them the league.

“We are trying to promote local talent and get guys to come through the system at Henley.”

Henley travel to Great and Little Tew looking to make up for a poor display last season which contributed to their failure to claim the title and Roberts says the players are itching to set the record straight.

He said: “It will be a little bit of revenge because we performed quite poorly over there in the fixture last year. We really want to turn that around, as a team we need to show attitude and character and let the result take care of itself.

“We’ve prepared well so it’s about going in to that game, expressing ourselves and having fun.”

Roberts is entering his second full season as Henley captain and says he is relishing the role, although he is looking forward to getting his pads back on.

He said: “I’m really enjoying it. Like anything worth doing it’s challenging and there are aspects which are hard work.

“I’m looking forward to playing some cricket, getting out there and having a bit of fun. I don’t play Minor Counties any more so Henley is my only source of competitive cricket.

“A lot of a captain’s work goes in during the off season, now the guys are ready and I want to let them go. It’s over to them now, I might be captain but we are all leaders.”

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