All-rounder Steven Croft is ready to bring silverware back to Emirates Old Trafford.
The Lancashire star, fresh from a successful spell with New Zealand state side Northern Knights in the Twenty20 HRV Cup earlier this year, is desperate to see success on the field follow success off it on the back of the capture of a ten-year naming rights deal for the county’s headquarters with Fly Emirates airline.
It is no secret that there have been a number of hurdles to jump in the process of the ground’s redevelopment ahead of this summer’s Ashes Test match in August, but the future of the club is now looking extremely bright.
Those hurdles off the field were mirrored on the field last summer. After County Championship title success in 2011, it will be Division Two cricket in 2013. But that has not dented Croft’s confidence that more trophies are on the horizon in the next few years.
“The deal gives everyone a lift,” said Blackpool-born Croft, 28-years-old. “It means we can only get better as a club both on and off the field. The players were all aware of the financial problems the club has had over the last few years, it was difficult to ignore really.
“But a lot of people have put in a lot of work behind the scenes to get the ground looking like it is and to arrange deals like the one with Emirates. Now, I hope we can repay that by doing the business on the field and win trophies.
“It will be great to be back at Old Trafford, and it will be a massive boost for everyone. Just standing out in the middle, I can imagine what it will be like playing here with it full of people. There will be no better place to play our cricket.
“But it will also be good to have our own base again rather than travelling around the outgrounds, although we were made to feel very welcome when we played there.
“Last year everyone wanted to beat us because we were the defending champions. And it will be the same this season in Division Two. There are some good sides in there, and they will all be out to get the scalp of Lancashire.
“It was such a weird year for us last year. We all put in the same amount of effort as we did when we won the title in 2011, but then crunch moments and crucial games seemed to go our way. They didn’t last year.
We dwelt on the relegation a bit after the season ended, but we have put it to bed now. We now have to get off to a good start to this new campaign. We didn’t last season, got impatient at times, and that cost us.”
Croft was in New Zealand through November, December and January, playing ten 20-over matches as the Knights’ overseas player. He scored a club-high total of 326 at 40.75, including two half-centuries. It was the sixth best haul in the competition overall.
His success would have been no surprise to all connected with Lancashire, for whom he has starred in that format for a number of years now. But his displays seem to have turned heads abroad, where he is keen to further his career during the winter months.
Croft added: “I am hoping to play as much as I can during the winters. I almost got a deal to play in the Bangladesh Premier League this year, but it fell through. It all helps with the development of my game. Also, I was the overseas player at Northern District, and that put extra responsibility on me, which I enjoyed.
“Last year, I don’t think I was as consistent in four-day cricket for Lancashire as I have been, but felt I was going in the right direction in the one-day formats. I want to make sure I transfer those high standards over to Championship cricket this season.”
Photo (c) Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport