Dexter ready to retake the lead
Neil Dexter and Chris Rogers agree that sharing the Middlesex captaincy is working well, but Dexter admits he wants to be first-class skipper again.
Club captain Dexter relinquished the LV= County Championship reins a year ago in an effort to re-discover his batting form. Australian Rogers took over and guided the newly-promoted club to a third-place finish in Division One.
At the time of the change, Middlesex managing director of cricket Angus Fraser said Rogers “knows that the job is Neil’s once he and the club feel the time is right”.
Although Dexter scored a respectable 648 runs at an average of 34 in last year’s rain-ruined championship summer, Middlesex announced in October that Rogers would continue to lead the championship side this season.
Speaking exclusively to ecb.co.uk, Dexter - the leader of the List A and Twenty20 teams, the latter format one in which Rogers no longer plays for the Panthers - seemed content with the status quo but, regarding resuming the first-class captaincy, he revealed: “I said I’m ready now.
“It definitely worked well last year. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to do the four-day stuff too. It’s a temporary thing at the moment. Buck (Rogers) did a great job last year. This season I’m sure he’ll do just as good a job.”
Rogers’ 2013 reign certainly began well, in last week’s opening round of championship games, with unexpected help from Dexter during a 10-wicket demolition of Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
Shorn of star winter signing James Harris’ bowling in the second innings, Rogers - who hit two fifties - used Dexter as a fourth seamer and the part-time medium-pacer returned a career-best 5-27.
While no doubt delighted to contribute to victory, Dexter will be determined to improve on his knock of seven when Derbyshire are the visitors to Lord’s from tomorrow.
“For me at the moment I’m going to focus on my four-day stuff,” he said before reflecting on last year’s strong second-place finish in Clydesdale Bank 40 Group A but disappointing fifth in the Friends Life t20 South Group.
“In the one-day, Twenty20, us as a team we need to start pulling our fingers out a bit. In the one-day we were not far off getting through last year. We just missed out on run-rate I think it was. In the Twenty20 we didn’t play much great cricket.
“We’ve got a lot to prove there but at the moment I’m very happy with the way things are, with Chris doing the four-day stuff as it allows me to focus on my cricket there.”
Such sentiments to the first-class captaincy suit Rogers, who admitted: “I would have been very disappointed if they’d taken it off me.
“I really enjoy it. I think I have a good feel for the four-day game and can really lead from the front with my experience. So I’m hoping that I can do well and show the guys we’ve a really good chance to win this thing.
The 35-year-old led Derbyshire from 2008 - the year of his solitary Test appearance - to 2010, although he had limited captaincy experience beforehand.
Rogers, who joined Middlesex for the 2011 campaign, said: “The extra responsibility as you get older is probably a good thing. It forces you to focus on other things, not just yourself, and I enjoyed that.
“To be honest I think it works well among the squad. It gives a different voice every now and then, rather than just having the same monotonous voice every time. It gives a bit of diversity.
“I think it worked well for us. We seemed to be inspired in the one-dayers and the four-dayers, and I think that came down to a bit of freshness.”
If and when Dexter takes over again - perhaps if Rogers gets a call for this summer’s Ashes - the Australian has every confidence in the former Kent man’s leadership.
“I think his captaincy is good. Tactically I think he understands the game well,” Rogers said.
“But captaincy can be a bit of a hindrance to your own game at times and Dexy was probably at a point in his career where he needed to be a bit more consistent in his own game and have a little bit more freedom.
“He’s definitely going in the right direction with his cricket and when the time is right he’ll no doubt get it back and the club will be in very good hands.”
Given its success at Middlesex, the duo certainly see split captaincy being used increasingly around the world.
Dexter said: “There’s a lot of cricket being played. You can’t underestimate how much cricket is being played.
“The way cricket is scheduled, it’s quite hard to get your head round playing a Twenty20 game and a four-day game after that. To try and get your head round that as a captain is quite tough.
“It’s a lot of cricket, changing teams, changing mindsets, as a player it’s hard enough but being captain it’s even harder. I think at the moment a lot of teams will go that way.”
Rogers added: “If you have an outstanding candidate who can do all of it, then brilliant. But otherwise I think it can be a positive thing.”