Belgian international and a man who played against England feature among the new faces in Tucker Gardner League Division Two
- Credit: Archant
Here we check out the prospects of three local teams in Tucker Gardner League Division Two . . .
A Belgian international is certainly one of the more interesting arrivals in Tucker League cricket for 2016.
That man is opening bowler Faisal Khaliq and he will be spearheading St Ives’ bid to challenge for promotion in Division Two.
Khaliq, who has previously played in Kent and the West Country, and had trials at Northants, will form part of a new-look attack.
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Nikhil Kumpukkal, who has joined from local rivals Huntingdon, and rising talent Michael Speed, who steps up from Houghton & Wyton, are other arrivals.
Captain Ryan Withers said: “We struggled to bowl teams out last year. Shaun Asplin took plenty of wickets, but we didn’t really have the seam back-up.
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“We’ve seen some video clips of Faisal and he can certainly hit the stumps out of the ground.
“Nikhil has taken a lot of wickets in his time at Huntingdon and Michael is highly-rated as well. Being 16, he’ll also bring a lot to our fielding.
“With bowlers limited to 10 overs apiece, it is even more important to have good options this season.
“We’ll aim to finish in the top four and see where it takes us.”
There is also a new president in post at St Ives with leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, Councillor Jason Ablewhite, taking on the role for 2016.
There’s a new captain at Kimbolton as Mark Roberts takes over from James Biddle.
But the most notable development of the winter is the recruitment of an overseas player of some repute. Off-spinner Ruben Claasen played for a South African Invitation XI against England during a tour match in December.
And while he drew a blank against an England team containing Joe Root and Ben Stokes, he is expected to be a star in the considerable calmer waters of Division Two.
Roberts said: “We did very well last season to compete at the top end of the division following promotion and without an overseas player.
“Hopefully Ruben, who has played to a very good level back home, coming on board can help us to achieve something similar in what looks to be a stronger league.”
Captain Matt Duncan believes Warboys have the class to compete strongly at Tucker Gardner League Division Two level following relegation – but he admits they might not have the depth.
Seamer Sam Latchford has made the short switch to Ramsey with Matt Lavender, who skippered the seconds to a Hunts League title last term, likely to fill that void.
Batsman Daniel Malem has made a rather more long-distance move as he spends a season playing rugby in New Zealand, but Warboys have enticed a player to move in the opposite direction with opener Adam Fahey setting up home in the Fens for the summer.
Duncan said: “We want to be in the top section of the table, but it looks like a tough league.
“We were one of three teams to come down and it looks like there have been a couple of good sides promoted as well.
“Relegation was a disappointment, but we’ve kept virtually everyone together and we hope we can make this season a lot better.
“We have some good players but it is a slim squad. We only really have 13 or 14 to select from so injuries and unavailability could hurt us.”
The skipper’s brother, Ben, is one such casualty after suffering a broken ankle playing for the town’s football team. That will rule him out until the end of May.