Spencer cricket club skipper Neil Baker almost stepped down at the end of last season, but now he is raring to get going again.
When Baker leads his team out against Sutton on Saturday for the curtain raiser of the Surrey Championship Premier Division, it will be his ninth season in charge.
Under his leadership, Spencer have endured highs and lows, and after promotion to the top flight in 2012, they finished fifth last season – a placing he believes can be improved on this time round.
However, he is going to have to lead the side out minus two players with almost 20 years service between them, and a new overseas name.
He said: “I was considering stepping down at the end of last season, but no one else showed any interest in becoming captain, so I hope it is not just by default that I am here again.
“Towards the end of every season you can feel run down by the job because it is a big ask, especially when you have your own job outside of cricket.
“But over the winter you get refreshed and now I’m keen to get started again.”
He added: “But we have had some changes, we’re losing a couple of senior players in Pierre Jason [nine years with the club] and Patrick Turk [10 years], which is a shame.
“We’ve also lost Danny O’Shea, our overseas player of the past three years.
“But we’ve been able to cover those losses with a couple of new guys from the area, and we’ve got Anish Param, a Singapore national player, as our overseas man.
“He’s a top order batsman and left-arm spin bowler who did well in a Midland league last season.”
Param in fact played for Glapwell Colliery in the Bassetlaw & District League, hitting 1,252 runs in 22 games, with an average of 83.47 – and with the ball he is just as deadly taking 62 wickets for 582 runs, with a best of 7-10.
Baker said: “Yes, he looks good although the quality of that league is probably Divison One or Two here.”
He added: “We have kept hold of Alex Tudor and Jonathan Batty, so we have plenty of strength in depth.
“It is wrong to say fifth flattered us last year, but there were a few teams very close between fourth and seven spot, so fifth was fair.
“If we can push higher that would be great, but we’re looking to continually making improvements.”
Out of three pre-season friendlies, Spencer have been triumphant in two, including last weekend’s 72-run win over Perivale Phoenicians.
Having been put into bat, Spencer’s Paul Esterhuizen (75*) and Chris Baumann (50) led the way to 216-5 off 40 overs.
With the ball, Steven Lewis and Peter Walters each took four wickets to help skittle the visitors for 144.