Premier League new boys Wardens have shock value
Kenilworth Wardens’ preparations for the Birmingham Premier League season are already well advanced and the club is optimistic it will spring a few surprises on its return to Midlands’ cricket’s top flight, writes Paul Smith.
Wardens’ second stint in the Premier Division follows three years in Division One, during which the club has undergone a transformation both on and off the field.
Although familiar faces remain, including long-standing professional Sitanshu Kotak and both current skipper Martin Donald and his predecessor Scott Stenning, Glasshouse Park’s 2014 vintage is an exciting young side with plenty of depth.
Wardens tore up Division One last term to such an extent that the title was clinched three matches before the end of the season.
They lost only once - on the season’s opening day - and recorded the highest points tally in any of the Birmingham League’s eight 1st and 2nd XI divisions.
They also claimed the Carrick Travel Floodlit T20 Cup title for the first time and finished runners up in the Coventry Knockout.
Donald is therefore understandably positive about his team’s prospects for the coming season which starts on April 26 and believes the combination of a few fresh faces and the league’s new format will see Wardens perform well in the top flight.
He said: “The five or six new players who joined us last year fitted in really well and gave us a much more balanced side, with plenty of bowling options and batting depth.
“There is no doubt the Premier League is a big step up, not least because the standard in Division One was perhaps a little lower than previously last year.
“There are some really decent sides in the Prem who have been there a long time so it will be a good challenge for us.
“With half the matches in a win/lose format, we now have a very aggressive batting line-up, plus seven guys who could bowl a full ten-over allocation, if required.
“We are also a young side who field well, which is important in tight matches.
“We have retained all last year’s players, and have boosted the squad further with the addition of some good young players, including all-rounders Raj Chohan and Arjun Bath, plus seamers Rajan Bhatti and Charlie Tustain.”
Anthony Wilkinson has moved back from London, while Wardens have been allocated paceman Richard Jones by Warwickshire, but Donald believes their chances of success could lie with an old-stager.
“Kotak retired from first-class cricket in India during the autumn so we are hoping he will return with a few less niggles than usual,” he said.
“With us having been away from the Premier League for a few years, quite a few of the younger batsmen won’t have come across him before so it will be interesting to see how they cope.
“If we can get off to a flyer in the win/lose format, maybe winning seven or eight of the first ten games, I can see us having a very good season.”