George Dockrell is determined to win back his international place and is eyeing up the new interprovincial series as the perfect shop window to convince the Irish selectors.
Itís a huge season for the Dubliner, and heís aiming to climb back up the ladder one step at a time.
ďIím personally targeting good performances in the interpros. As well as the bowling Iím planning on taking on a bigger role in the batting, with more responsibility and a bit of a renewed focus for me.
ďWeíve lost a few batters and Iíll be looking to score runs, as well as providing that left-arm spin option. Fielding too has always been an area where I look to improve and add value.
ďHopefully with strong performances I can push back into that Ireland squad. Thereís a T20 World Cup at the end of the season to aim for, so hopefully I can start strongly in the first few games, build it from there, then things will take care of themselves.Ē
The Leinster Lightning skipper is once again at the helm as the Dubliners look to continue their domination of a tournament which has seen 19 trophies lifted since 2013.
That near monopoly on success has persuaded the Irish think-tank to alter the format of the 2021 competition, but Dockrell is embracing the changes.
ďA lot of our success was down to the foundations we put in place back at the start. We tried to be as professional as we could in all areas and it worked, often winning games we had no right to.
ďThese changes are for the best of Irish cricket and although we have lost three international players to Munster, we still have quality throughout our squad.Ē
Tyrone Kane, Gareth Delany and Curtis Campher are the players on the move, but he believes that will give greater opportunities to his squad.
ďAs well as being a great chance for senior players to take on extra responsibilities, itís an opportunity for those guys who maybe havenít figured too much in the interpros to show what they are about, to put their hands in the air and be right in the mix for selection.
ďI think for me itís a really exciting format and one that Iím looking forward to be captaining Lightning in.Ē
Despite the sharing of resources, the defending champions still have an array of talent, with eight senior internationals in their ranks. The Tector brothers, JJ Garth and Rory Anders, are the only four uncapped players at senior level, and the skipper is confident with the squad at his disposal.
ďTim Tector is definitely one to watch. He has an incredible maturity to go along with his natural talent and a good cricket brain. The way he goes about the game, alongside the way and the areas he hits the ball seem to be at a level above his years. It will be exciting to see how he goes over the season.
ďRory Anders is someone who probably hasnít played as much cricket as he would have liked over the years, but will definitely get his chance now. JJ Garth is another exciting young talent who has worked hard, really improving his bowling and batting. There will also be a number of players who will be pushing hard to get into the team and thatís exactly what you want; to have that depth and real competition for places in the Lightning set-up.Ē
Lightning added former Irish youth coach Brian OíRourke as assistant to Head Coach Nigel Jones last year, a move that has met with Dockrell and the squadís approval.
ďItís a great combination and the two really dovetail well together with their different flavours of coaching. The lads really bought into ĎBrianerí coming back, and his enthusiasm, the fielding drills, work ethic has been really fantastic. The pace and intensity has been great.
ďNigel has been superb since he came in. Itís been a really challenging last year with Covid but heís been innovative around training and the online material. Itís incredible the work he puts in behind the scenes to make sure everything goes smoothly. They have been first-class and I canít speak highly enough about the pair of them. If we can put in the hard yards then I hope it will be a great summer for us all.Ē
Itís a time of change for the 28 year-old, who has lost his full-time contract with Ireland. With only a retainer contract, he is now in the third year at DCU studying Data Science, while currently on a work internship with PWC.
He has joined Phoenix from Leinster, and canít wait for the new season to finally get under way.
ďItís a new challenge for me and one that Iím looking forward to,Ē said Dockrell.
ďThey have a number of exciting young players that Iím keen to work and play with. Iím raring to get going with that once the restrictions are eased and hopefully we can win some games.
ďItís been a long winter, and I just canít wait to get back on the park and play.Ē
The long wait for George and Leinster Lightning ends next Saturday May 1st, when the defending champions take on North West Warriors at Sydney Parade (10:45am).