Has there ever been a better pre-season than this one?
The tour to Dubai was a great success, while yesterday's 45-over practice match at Leicestershire also suggested that the team is well-prepared and ready to go when the action proper starts in just over a fortnight's time.
With the workload shared around, Leicestershire's batting looked a little thin as all of the bowler's got a valuable workout. Wayne Madsen will doubtless look forward to days in the field when his specialist bowlers can be supported by all-rounders of the quality of Shiv Thakor, together with Alex and Chesney Hughes. Variety of pace and angle of bowling will serve us well in all forms of the game and will be invaluable on wickets where batting is more straightforward.
There is a real battle for the role of opener alongside Martin Guptill and both Ben Slater and Billy Godleman played an unbeaten hand yesterday to reinforce their claims. Both have left-handedness in their favour, but my own thoughts are that Slater, especially, would be hard to omit after a very strong pre-season. Considering he ended last year with twin hundreds in the match against Leicestershire, he could scarcely do more to state his case.
It is such things that suggest how much stronger our squad has become. Billy Godleman has done little wrong either, while Chesney Hughes hit a sparkling century on the tour to re-state his claims, either at the top or in the middle order.
Such things make it difficult to pick, or even attempt to second guess Graeme Welch's first choice sides this year. For the first time in a long while, I quite honestly feel that you could include any one of around eighteen players without detriment to the side. I would suggest that the overseas player, Wayne Madsen and Mark Footitt would be certainties in the championship side, but pretty much every other place is up for grabs.
Exciting stuff, for sure!