James Vince: "We Could Be The Surprise This Year."

The Hampshire captain is looking for his side to challenge in all three competitions

“We could be the surprise this year.”

That’s the verdict of Hampshire captain James Vince, who after a winter of reflection and working hard on his game, is looking forward to the opportunities the upcoming 2017 campaign could present.

Following the conclusion of last season, the Hampshire skipper has had time to look back on both his own game as well as the team’s endeavours in 2016 and heading into the new season, Vince is excited about what 2017 could hold both individually, and for his side.

“Last year it felt like we had a decent squad but the injuries that came hampered us and we probably didn’t have the strength and depth to put out a side that was really able to compete with the top sides.” 

“I’m really excited heading into this year and the group of lads we’ve got here I know are really excited too. Since I’ve been involved it’s probably our strongest squad in terms of strength and depth of both batting and bowling and some of the younger guys that have moved up have become even better players so fingers crossed guys stay fit and we’ve got a really good chance of challenging in all three competitions.”

The addition of new signings George Bailey, Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw has seen the playing squad bolstered, and Vince has already seen the positive impact their impending arrivals have had on the squad’s preparations for the year ahead.

“I think looking at the squad we’ve got and the way we’ve added to it, the belief of everyone around is that we really can compete with anyone in the division. Obviously a handful of other counties have been strong for a good few years, Yorkshire, Middlesex and teams like that, but I think we could be the surprise this year.

“This year we’ve got quite a few of the guys around, obviously a few of the guys are away playing overseas, but we’ve got a good group here and they’re all looking forward to getting going.”

Vince has spent more time working on his game here in the UK this winter than ever before, however, the right-hander did enjoy a short stint in Australia as part of the latest KFC Big Bash competition. 

The top-order batsman made a stylish 44 on debut for Sydney Sixers, helping secure two victories from the three matches he was involved in, and he’s been impressed by the nation’s take on T20 cricket.

“The Big Bash experience was awesome,” he said. “Having watched it the last few years and seeing the interest out there, it was great to be out there and involved. It was great fun and I really enjoyed it – hopefully I can play there again next year.

“It was up a couple of notches up from here, I think with most games selling out and the hype around having two teams based in Sydney was on par with International cricket – I know they’ve had bigger attendances out there for some Big Bash games compared to Australia games so they’ve done a great job.

“I guess going there knowing I’m only going to be playing a handful of games, I wanted to try and put some numbers on the board and show what I can do. It was good to get out there and get off to a reasonable start – hopefully I get the chance to go out there again next year.”

Vince’s involvement in the Big Bash was not the only new experience this off-season, as him and his partner welcomed the arrival of a daughter.

The winter has not only seen him developing his game but also his paternal skills as he became a father for the first time.

 “I’ve got a new baby girl so it’s been nice to spend some time at home and have a decent break which I think has done me a lot of good - it’s great, tiring, but I love it and she’s all well.

“I’ve been working on technical stuff throughout the off-season here with the coaches and it’s been the first winter where I haven’t been away playing for the full period so it’s been a nice break to put the bat down for a bit and enjoy time at home.”

As the new campaign nears ever closer, Vince’s preparations ramp us as he is set to travel to the UAE next month to lead the South team in the inaugural North v South one-day series.

The fixtures are designed to provide players with a platform to make an impression and press their International claims with England coaches and selectors due to be present throughout.

 “I’ve got a short trip to Dubai for the North v South game,” Vince said. “It’s a good opportunity for guys who have been on the fringes or up and coming youngsters going out there to impress and show the coaches and selectors that are going to be there, first-hand what they can do.

“There’s a lot of one-day cricket in England next summer so a few good performances there heading into the new season could move you up the ladder further down the line.

“Obviously I want to get back into the side and if I can rewind eight months I would, but that’s been and gone now. The work I’ve been doing here has hopefully moved my game forward. All I can do really is perform well in four-day cricket here for Hampshire and try and score as many runs and win as many games and see where I end up at the end of the year - it should be an exciting 2017.”

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