2023 season starts this weekend ... maybe

The 2023 cricket season gets under way at Glenpark this Saturday, weather and ground conditions permitting, when the club play host to Glasgow side Hillhead in a friendly encounter. And two further friendlies have been arranged for next weekend against East Renfrewshire and West of Scotland. These early season matches will allow players opportunity to get in some important outdoor match practice ahead of the competitive league programme which begins on the last Saturday of April.

For the 2023 season, the 1st XI make a return to the top table of cricket in the west of Scotland. Relegated from the Premier Division at the end of 2021, the local side bounced back last summer by playing consistently well throughout the 2022 First Division (Championship) season. The team won 13 out of 16 completed league matches to finish in second top spot to winners Stenhousemuir and so gained promotion back to the top league.

The club's aim in 2023 is to finish in the top half of the Western District Cricket Union's Premier Division, newly named the Western Premiership One. And to support the side to achieve its target, the club has recruited a top professional, Rahul Dalal from India.

Dalal, who is 31 years of age, is the first professional the club has hired since Indian pro Saurabh Bandekar in 2019, prior to the pandemic. Bandekar was at Greenock for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons and proved to be a highly popular and successful player. His performances with both bat and ball helped the side to maintain a position in the Premier Division.

Rahul Dalal plays state cricket for Arunachal Pradesh. He was the leading run-scorer in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy, with 1,340 runs in nine matches, and the only batsman to score more than 1,000 runs in that tournament. He is also a right arm off spin bowler.

He was due to reach Greenock in time to play a part in this week's match but his arrival has been delayed, although it is hoped he will be available for next weekend's matches. The club is hoping that he will be joined in a couple of weeks' time by another player from India who will be the club's overseas amateur for the season. Finalising of visa arrangements has held up the his arrival.

The club's preparations for the new season began in February with players using indoor nets on a weekly basis. But it is outdoors where the real action takes place and players are looking forward to making a start on Saturday.

Greg McDougall continues as club captain. He said, "We are looking for some strong performances in the warm-up games and our aim in the season ahead is to achieve a position in the top half of the new Western Premiership One". McDougall will take the opportunity over the weekend to run his eye over a number of players who will undoubtedly feature regularly in the 1st XI during the season.

Some of these will be from a group of the club's young players who gained valuable 1st XI experience last year. Lukas Fischer-Keogh, Cammy Calder, Aryan Sanghera, Ewan Stewart, PJ Bryceland, and Jamie Nowell all played important roles in the promotion winning side. They will now be keen to be included in the side which will be playing each week against some of the top players and sides in Scotland.

But the experience of players such as Gregor Chambers, Harry Briggs, Shailesh Prabhu, Sam Sanghera and Chris and Jonathan Hempsey will also be needed to play a big part in the team's ability to compete against the top league teams. Along with Rahul Dalal, these experienced campaigners will form the backbone of the team and help guide and support the younger players.

Adding some further strength to the 1st XI player pool for the 2023 season will be 22-year-old Aussie Tom Polkinghorne who has transferred across the Clyde from Helensburgh and Nagendra Nagaraju who joined the Club part way through the 2022 season and made a fine impression in the 2nd XI.

Saturday's visitors, Hillhead, were opponents of Greenock in the First Division last season. Both league matches played against them resulted in wins for Greenock.

At the end of June, at Hillhead's home ground, Hughenden, in the west end of Glasgow, the team were comfortable winners. Batting first, Hillhead made just 110 all out, a total which was passed with just one wicket down.

The return match at Glenpark at the end of August, which was the final league match of the season, proved to be a particularly one-sided affair. Greenock scored 235 for the loss of 6 wickets with Aussie amateur Ryan Walker hitting a superb 121, and then bowled out Hillhead for just 39 with Gregor Chambers taking 8 wickets for 22 runs.

Hillhead will be out to provide Greenock with a sterner test on Saturday as both sides seek to get some early outdoor match practice.

Groundsman, Alan Boag, has been working on the ground since early March and has got Glenpark into good shape. However, the wet and wintry weather this week has set back his preparations and it will be touch and go to get a wicket fit for play on Saturday.

All being well, the team for the match against Hillhead on Saturday will be chosen from the following pool of players: GJ McDougall, M Ahmad, PJ Bryceland, CS Calder, GM Chambers, CJK Hempsey, JM Nowell, N Nagaraju, T Polkinghorne, SS Prabhu, A Sanghera, SS Sanghera, EA Stewart. Scorer: R McGregor

The game is scheduled to start at 1pm

The Club is grateful for the continued sponsored from Cleaning Supplies 4U.