By Rob Barnett
Having hit nearly 1,300 runs for a team that came bottom of the LV= County Championship without a win, Ned Eckersley could be forgiven for wanting away.
The 24-year-old batsman’s 1,275 runs made him Leicestershire’s player of the year and the second-highest scorer in Division Two, only behind the prolific Moeen Ali.
Yet Leicestershire could not capitalise on Eckersley’s performances. Their next-best contributor Niall O’Brien, in whose occasional absence Eckersley kept wicket in place of, scored 580 less.
Asked if he sees himself being at the club next season, Eckersley exclusively told ecb.co.uk: “Yeah definitely.
“I’ve got one year left on my contract at the moment. That’s all I’m thinking about really at the minute, keeping my head down.
“I’m going to Adelaide (to train at the Darren Lehmann Academy thanks to the ECB) for five months in the middle of October.
“I definitely see myself here, and I’m just trying to get my head down and concentrate on next year and putting up similar sort of numbers and having a good year again next year.”
Besides his championship average of 53.12, Eckersley also had a decent campaign in the Yorkshire Bank 40 with 282 runs at 31.33 and in the Friends Life t20 with 104 at 26 as the Foxes finished fifth and fourth in their respective groups.
“It’s been a good year personally,” he reflected. “I set some high targets at the start of the year and I probably surpassed them, which is nice.
“It’s just obviously a shame that we couldn’t win a few more games, especially in the four-day stuff.
“In the one-day competitions we were close to getting into some big matches but we just fell a bit short.
“Hopefully I can score the same amount of runs and contribute to a few more winning matches and some success.”
Eckersley says that he owes much of this season's performances to the influence of Leicestershire batting coach Ben Smith, who returned to work at his former county in late 2011.
That year Eckersley had broken into the first team thanks to making over 1,300 Second XI runs and, having spent the winter in Zimbabwe, contributed 739 championship runs in 2012.
“This winter I did a lot of work here with Ben Smith, the batting coach, focusing on the mental side of the game,” Eckersley explained.
“Obviously he had a pretty good career so he’s a good guy to speak to about that sort of thing, and I managed to start the season off really well.
“It was just getting confidence throughout the season and carrying it on and the momentum helped in the middle of the season when batting got a bit easier and the weather was nice and I managed to put a few big scores on.”
Two of Eckersley’s four championship centuries this term came at home to Worcestershire in late August, the latter being his most satisfying knock of 2013.
“I think the second innings here against Worcester when I scored two hundreds in a game was my most pleasing one,” he said.
“Obviously to score two in a game was a good moment for me and I was quite nervous coming towards the hundred on the last morning. It took a while to get over the line. So I’d say that stands out most this year.”
Despite Leicestershire’s disappointing 2013, Eckersley is taking heart from the achievements of local rivals Northamptonshire, who responded to a poor 2012 with championship promotion and Friends Life t20 glory.
“At the start of the year everybody wanted to be part of a winning team and being part of lifting trophies,” he recalled.
“We’ve had to watch other teams do it on TV and Northampton have had a really good year from a similar position that we’re in now.
“So we have to stay positive that if we build together and work hard we can have a similar situation next year, win some trophies and win some more four-day games.”