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Smith resigns Lancashire captaincy as fitness search continues

Tom Smith removed two of the top three PA Photos

Tom Smith has chosen Lancashire Day to step down from the Lancashire captaincy and hand over the role to Steven Croft. Every bit of inspiration helps as he gives full attention to regaining his match fitness ahead of the 2016 season.

Smith is still recovering from a back operation that at his lowest moments he has feared might not save his career and knows that he might not achieve his ambition of recovering full fitness for the start of the season.

"I am not miles off starting cricketing skills," Smith told the Manchester Evening News. It's been five and a bit months since the operation, so I've got used to not rushing things. The start of the season is a goal, but it might not happen."

Delight at being appointed Lancashire captain gave way to despair last season when he was limited him to only one match in charge - the opening Championship game against Derbyshire in Derby - before he was ruled out for the rest of the campaign.

Croft, who stood in as captain during Smith's absence, will now be Lancashire's captain as they seek to re-establish themselves in Division One of the Championship after promotion last season. Croft, who was presumed by many to have been the captain-in-waiting once Glen Chapple stepped down, also led Lancashire to victory in the NatWest Blast, their first limited-overs trophy for 16 years.

Smith said: "This was a very tough decision for me to make but I feel it is the right one. It was a great honour to be appointed captain last year but I feel that my main focus for now must be to get myself fit for next season.

"Crofty has proved that he is good leader and I wish him all the best in the role. I'm determined to get myself back out onto the field and, as a senior player, will be there for Crofty offering my support at all times."

Cricket Director and Head Coach Ashley Giles said: "This has been an incredibly tough decision for Tom to make but it is important that his focus is on getting fit for the new season. Tom's experience will be crucial to Steven and he will very much remain a key member of our leadership team.

"I'd also like to congratulate Steven on his appointment. He showed great maturity in what was a successful season for Lancashire."

Even now, despite months of rehab, there is no guarantee that Smith will be fit for the start of the 2016 campaign in April. That is quite a blow for a player who had begun to interest England Lions and who was named as Lancashire's player of the year in 2014.

"There were periods when I thought 'if this doesn't go well, what's the alternative?," he said. "It crossed my mind a few times that this could be the end. It doesn't really hit you until you speak to the surgeon and they tell you about recovery rates. But in the end the surgery had to get done. There was no choice."