It would, says Mark Cosgrove with a smile, be fair to describe his first season as captain of Leicestershire in the county championship as “interesting”.
“I learned a heck of a lot about captaincy, but also about managing people,” said the South Australian, after the Foxes completed their pre-season preparation against Loughborough MCCU this week.
On the face of it, a second consecutive wooden spoon might indicate little obvious hope of better things to come this time around, but Cosgrove is having none of it. Two wins was a minimal return given the number of times his young squad worked itself into a strong position in a game, and the skipper is convinced the signings of Paul Horton, Neil Dexter and Mark Pettini will make a huge difference when it comes to converting opportunities into wins.
“The bowlers, with Clint McKay, Charlie Shreck and Ben Raine each getting close to 60 wickets, were fantastic, but no question our batting at times let us down. The guys who’ve come in know how to make runs when it matters, and how to build innings. We look a really solid team now and the plan is to push really hard to get out of the division.”
Cosgrove himself, after a difficult period in mid-season, scored three centuries and a 94 in the last five matches, to finish with almost 1,200 first class runs.
“If I can start the way I finished, I’ll be happy with that. Look, it was tough at times, but it was exciting at times as well. I’ve never been in a team as young, we lacked a couple of senior players and experience, but we’ve rectified that.”
Arriving back from a successful Australian summer – South Australia reached the Sheffield Shield final, only to be beaten by Leicestershire team-mate McKay’s Victoria – Cosgrove is feeling much more settled and ready for action. His family, including young son Oliver who was born in Leicester last season, is already with him, and at 90kg, Cosgrove weighs less than he did when playing for Australia in 2006.
“I feel it’s a good time for me, on and off the field. My team back in Australia made some real big steps but couldn’t quite get over the line, and I feel last season we made some pretty big steps here at Leicestershire – and that this time around we’ve got what it takes to get the wins and be right up there.”
And that includes starting by beating former team Glamorgan, in Cardiff.
“It will be hard because Glamorgan play good cricket, they had a good season last time around and they’ll be anxious to start well too.
“But while it’s always nice to go back and see some familiar faces, make no mistake, I’m heading there on business.”
Leicestershire director of elite performance Andrew McDonald has a full squad to choose from for the trip to Wales, with the exception of batsman Ned Eckersley, recovering from a broken finger sustained on the pre-season trip to Dubai, and seam bowler Ollie Freckingham, working his way back to fitness after suffering a broken arm over the winter.
Possible squad: Cosgrove, Horton, Robson, Dexter, Pettini, Ali, O’Brien, White, Raine, McKay, Shreck, Chappell,.