County previews April 2, 2013

Results not on the production line

Leicestershire still bring through talented players but their prospects for success on the field look limited

Last year: 7th, CC Div 2; Group stage, FLt20; 6th in Group A, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell: One of the also-rans. Leicestershire never threatened to challenge for promotion or in limited-overs cricket. After winning their first Championship game, they failed to do so again until late August and only by winning their final game did they ensure they would not finish bottom. They never got going in the CB40, failing to win any of their first five matches, and were similarly irrelevant in the FLt20, where they lost their first four matches, despite being the holders. There were a few areas of encouragement: only the two promoted teams lost fewer games in the lower division of the Championship and Shiv Thakor emerged as a player of rich promise. Ramnaresh Sarwan settled in well, too, and was rewarded with the captaincy.

2013 prospects: There can be few expectations of silverware. Wayne White, easily their leading wicket-taker in the Championship last year, has left for a fresh start at Lancashire and Sarwan's form has put him back on the radar of the West Indies' selectors. Matthew Hoggard, who did not take a five-wicket haul last year, is not the bowler he once was and ongoing financial pressures limit the club's competiveness in the transfer market. Still, Australian Joe Burns has been signed as cover for Sarwan, Niall O'Brien's arrival from Northants should strengthen the batting and Anthony Ireland, Robbie Williams and Ollie Freckingham will add competition for bowling places. A decent run in T20 cricket remains possible but a promotion challenge looks unlikely. Off the pitch, the club hope they can progress the ground development plans which would enable them to spend more on their cricket budget.

Key player: Nathan Buck, the 21-year-old seamer, endured a tough 2012, averaging 47.75 with the ball in the Championship. He is better than that, though, and if used - and rested - sensibly could develop into a match-winner.

Bright young thing: Thakor, a 19-year-old batting allrounder, is the latest to emerge from Leicestershire's remarkable production line. He topped the county's Championship batting averages last year and is tipped to have an outstanding future. How long Leicestershire can keep hold of him remains to be seen but, for now, he should enjoy and benefit from first-team cricket in all formats.

Captain/coach: Sarwan is the Championship captain, with Josh Cobb taking over for limited-overs cricket. Phil Whitticase remains the head coach.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: While promotion or a trophy are unlikely, Leicestershire do at least continue to produce players. If Cobb, Thakor, Buck, Matthew Boyce and co. can find form, they could surprise a few.

Read our supporters' network preview on Leicestershire. ESPNcricinfo will be publishing a fan blog for each of the 18 counties as we build up to the 2013 season

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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