2018 Season starts this weekend .. or does it?


The 2018 cricket season will hopefully get under way this weekend when Greenock play two 'friendly' matches at Glenpark. On Saturday, West of Scotland provide the opposition and on Sunday, Renfrew are the visitors. These matches will allow players an opportunity to get in some important outdoor match practice ahead of the competitive league programme which begins next week on the last Saturday of April.

Early season preparations were thwarted last weekend when the scheduled opening fixture against Hillhead had to be cancelled due to the poor weather and unplayable ground conditions. But with some improvement in the local weather in the last week there is hope that the two games this weekend will be possible.

These two matches are likely to provide a good test for the local side. West of Scotland were Division One champions last summer and will be keen to have a successful season in the top league. Renfrew, a Division One side, were for a number of seasons a Premier Division side and will undoubtedly be aiming to make a return to the top level at the end of the summer.

Greenock's preparations for the new season have been going well with players using indoors nets on a weekly basis since early February. But it is outdoors where the real action takes place and players are keen to make a start on Saturday

Neil Flack, one of Greenock's most talented cricketers and also former Scotland Under-19 captain, takes over the captaincy of the 1st XI at Glenpark this season. Into his side for the, 2018 season will come two new overseas players. These are Saurabh Bandekar a 30 year old professional from India and 18 year old amateur Laurens Smit from South Africa.

However, neither player is available to play this weekend as they are not scheduled to arrive in Greenock until the middle of next week.

Bandekar represented India Under-19s, alongside current national stars Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. He is a right arm pace bowler who is also an accomplished batsman and his talents are likely to be a key feature for the local side this season.

He has played at the top level of state cricket in India for Goa and has also featured in the very high profile Indian Premier League for Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Since his first class debut in 2015, Bandekar has played more than 140 domestic matches, across the three formats and has scored 3,000 plus runs and taken 250 plus wickets, including 3 hundreds and 8 five wicket hauls.

Smit is a top order batsman for his side in Boland Province in South Africa and also a useful spin bowler. He is relishing the opportunity to come to Scotland to gain experience playing in Scottish Premier League cricket. He will be very heavily involved in coaching the young and up and coming players at Glenpark, and it is hoped he will also be able to make a valuable contribution to Greenock's 1st XI during the summer.

Captaining the Greenock side for the first time this season, Flack knows that the team will need to play consistently well throughout the season to maintain its place in the Premier Division. Fixtures against top sides come week after week and there can be no room for any drop in standard of play from the local team.

This Saturday's friendly match against West of Scotland will provide an early opportunity to get some important match practice with both bat and ball. Players such as 18 year old Harry Briggs who gained good experience at 1st XI level last summer and who became a regular in the side, will undoubtedly feature prominently for the Glenpark side this season.

Others likely to gain a place in the Glenpark club's first team will include last season's captain Jonathan Hempsey, Shailesh Prabhu, Chirag Pandher, Chris Hempsey, Greg McDougall, Sehmat Pander and Sam Sanghera. All have first team experience, but with competition for places likely to be very keen this season, there can be no guarantee of a regular place for any of these players and there will be others from the 2nd XI pushing for a place also.

Out of the Greenock side from the last few seasons is Scotland Under-17 player Louis Ware. He moved to start a university course in Stirling last autumn and now living there, has chosen to play for Stirling County this season.

A new addition to the Glenpark facilities will be on show on Saturday with the first use of the Club's new electronic scoreboard.

A final selection for the two matches has yet to be made but a 16-strong pool of players is under consideration for a starting place. The match on Saturday at Glenpark will start at 1pm and it will be a similar start time on Sunday for the match with Renfrew.

Greenock Cricket Club is sponsored this season by Cleaning Supplies 4U.