Today, Lancashire County Cricket Club announced that Steven Croft had taken over the club captaincy from Tom Smith. It was only one season ago that Tom Smith took the captaincy from Glen Chapple. Then disaster struck.
After the first match of the 2015 season, Tom Smith suffered a back spasm. He captained the side against Glamorgan at New Road, it would be his only match in the role. Although at first, the media reported that he would only be out for a short period, the prognosis worsened, the recovery time extended and eventually Smith was ruled out of the whole of the 2015 season. I, for one, was gutted.
Tom had been by far the best player Lancashire had to offer during the 2014 season. He spearheaded Lancashire to their 2nd place finish in the T20 Blast and was one of only a handful of players to handle the rigour of the first division in the County Championship. When he was voted Player of the Season 2014, it was richly deserved. His figures of ‘54 wickets from 15 County Championship matches with his right-arm fast medium seamers and hit 773 runs‘ (LCCC.CO.UK) only partly explained his fantastic influence on the Lancashire squad. He had the ability to change the tempo of an innings or offer the captain an alternative mode of attack when bowling.
His frustration was evident as he walked from the pitch on my 20th birthday after scoring a fantastic half a century in the T20 Blast against Yorkshire at Old Trafford. At first I wondered why. Now I know. He took it as his responsibility to guide the team to victory. Lancashire went on to lose the match by a very slim margin that night. However, it was evident that Smith cared a lot about his cricket and fulfilling his responsibility to the team.
Determined, responsible and a popular team member he was again rewarded before the 2015 season, this time with the captaincy. Lancashire fans were grateful for a local captain after it was rumoured that the club would bring in an overseas player to fill the role. Smith fit the bill, he heralded from Blackpool and had played for the club for a number of years. He was a popular choice.
The happiness was short lived. To say that I was disappointed to see Tom Smith ruled out of the 2015 season so early on is an understatement. I was gutted. My visits to Old Trafford in 2014 were often punctuated by Smith’s excellent performances both in the T20 and County Championship. Although Ashwell Prince took the mantle in the batting department this season, Smith’s absence still left a huge void for Lancashire to fill. Kyle Jarvis also performed exceptionally well with the ball in the County Championship form of the game, and again, both Jarvis and Prince were rewarded at the end of the season. I can only hope that stepping back from the captaincy today will give Tom the time he needs to fully recover from his injury.
It would be wrong to finish this article without mentioning Steven Croft. He has, today, been given the role of captaining the Lancashire squad going forward, and he deserves it. After all, he guided Lancashire to victory in the T20 Blast and promotion from the second division of the County Championship. His own batting performances in 2015 have been worthy of comment whilst his off-spin bowling has often given Lancashire the edge in the T20 Blast. Whilst Smith has been out injured, Croft has been an able replacement and will be hoping to continue the success he has had in the 2015 season.
Whether Smith does fully recover from his back injury only time will tell but one thing is for certain; you never can take your health for granted. And another thing – happiness is fleeting, enjoy it whilst you can.