GARETH CROSS looks forward to a season behind the stumps for Lancashire.
The wicketkeeper arguably has more reason than most to look forward to the start of the 2011 county cricket season, for he has been told by coach Peter Moores that he will be a starter from the off in Lancashire’s first team in all formats of the game.
With Luke Sutton having departed for Derbyshire, the Bury-born gloveman has been elevated to the status of the club’s No.1 wicketkeeper.
“Luke Sutton came in and did a good job for the club, but it is up to me now to push on,” said the 26 year-old. “I have waited six years for this.
“I have been told I am playing every game – and, although there is still pressure on me to perform just like everyone else, it is just a case of keeping my own standards up and trying to improve on last season.
“I have always had in the back of my mind in pre-season that I will be playing one day games and Twenty20 matches, hoping I will get the nod for Championship matches. This year, knowing I am going to play, has put an extra edge on my training. It is making me work harder to be as good as I possibly can.”
Cross’ name has been in the media in recent weeks due to his links with Australia’s new left arm spinner Michael Beer, who he played with at St Kilda during previous winters spent with the Melbourne grade side.
He could have gone away again this winter, possibly even to Zimbabwe with Paul Horton, but he decided to remain close to home to work with coach and ex-wicketkeeper Peter Moores on a day to day basis.
“Mooresy is really good,” he continued. “He has worked with Matt Prior and with Bruce French, who is the England wicketkeeping coach. He has the best experience to teach me when I do things wrong and keep me going with the things I am doing right.”
Cross has only played eleven County Championship matches in his career, including a debut against Leicestershire at Old Trafford at the back end of the 2005 season.
He played seven of those last season, including the final three as a wicketkeeper. He also scored a hundred in his first four day match of the campaign against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl in early August.
Cross continued: “I have batted all over the place, but I see myself in four day cricket as batting at seven. But I believe that I’m capable of batting six if they want to play an extra bowler.
“In one day cricket they use me sometimes as a power hitter at the end of the innings, and sometimes they move me up the order to disrupt the opposition. I have opened in the past too.
“But, with Tom Smith, Stephen Moore and Steven Croft settled at the top, I think I will be in the middle order again.”
Cross is going to be just one of a whole host of home-grown players to get plenty of first team exposure next year.
He added: “There are 17 in our squad - that's including Jimmy - and three of them are left arm spinners. So there is an emphasis on Paul Horton, Croft, Smith, Oliver Newby, Kyle Hogg and me who have all played a bit of cricket now and are not youngsters any more.
“We need to have big seasons to help the club and give them something back for the faith they have shown us. We need to perform to help the club to honours next year.
“We have played Twenty20 and one day cricket. and the attacking intent we have shown demonstrates we can compete with anyone. We are as good as Sussex and Somerset in one day cricket.
“And in four-day cricket, even when Glen Chapple was injured last year, we showed we can compete. Especially playing at out-grounds, we have a really good chance.”
by Graham Hardcastle