• County 3 min read

    New skip Leach relishing opportunity to lead Worcestershire

    New Worcestershire captain Joe Leach is relishing the opportunity to get back out and play after long winter

    Worcestershire will have a new captain at the helm for the 2017 campaign with all-rounder Joe Leach having succeeded Daryl Mitchell after six seasons in charge at New Road.

    The 26-year-old is itching to get to grips with the new season after Worcestershire return on Monday (March 20) from their 11-day training camp in Abu Dhabi.

    Leach has been Worcestershire's stand-out player for the past two seasons with 124 Championship wickets and crucial-down-the-order contributions with the bat, and he was chosen as the club's Players' Player Of The Year for 2015 and 2016.

    Now Leach is looking to help Worcestershire fulfil their promise with a side still young in terms of age but now containing players with plenty of first-class experience.

    England Lions batsman Joe Clarke and wicket-keeper Ben Cox - who signed a new four-year deal last summer - and Leach were leading performers in a season of mixed fortunes which the latter is keen to improve upon.

    But the likes of Brett D'Oliveira, Tom Fell, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Ed Barnard have also shown their potential and will be looking to kick on.

    Leach said: "I can't wait now. It's been a long winter, albeit one that has gone very quickly, but when you get announced (as captain) three days after the end of the season, it's a long time thinking and planning and running through your head 'what you are going to say.'

    "I'm really excited just to be cracking on with it now and getting down to business. I just want to get out on the pitch and start playing cricket and winning games. It's not rocket science at the end of the day. We are here to win cricket matches and that's the only message I'm going to give really.

    "It will be embellished a lot more than that and there is stuff I want to do and the direction I want to take the lads in but, at the end of the day, we are here to win cricket matches.

    "We can talk as much as we want but it doesn't make much difference. The only time it matters is April 14 when we start playing Glamorgan and we have to start winning games from then."

    One of Worcestershire's main problem areas last summer was their struggle to take 20 wickets in a game on a regular basis although they still won as many games as Division Two champions Essex after some superb run chases and eventually finished third.

    Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes, who will be starting his 12th season at the helm, moved swiftly to secure the services of John Hastings to help solve that problem and the Australian is due to link up at New Road this week.

    Hastings underwent patella tendon surgery in December but has made rapid progress in recovering and Rhodes is confident he will be fit for the start of the campaign. He has shown already his capabilities in county cricket during previous spells with Durham.

    Worcestershire are one of only two counties not to have appeared at Finals Day in the NatWest T20 Blast, but have reached the quarter-finals three times in the past five seasons.

    The re-signing of New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santner should help them towards that goal after he broke a finger in his first appearance in the competition last summer and was ruled out of the rest of the tournament.

    Worcestershire will hope Ross Whiteley can recapture his white ball form of 2015 too, when he was the joint-leading six hitter in the T20 Blast and on his day is capable of taking any attack apart.

    The Rapids will also be looking to build on last season's improved form in the Royal London One-Day Cup when they reached the quarter-finals for the first time since the competition was rebranded.

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