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Despite suffering a serious injury for the second season running, Jigar Naik enjoyed success in all formats in 2013 and is looking for that to be the case in 2014.
While it was a terrific personal effort in the Championship, Naik knows that the team needs to improve and wants to play a key role in this. For as a senior player who was born and brought up in Leicestershire, Naik has seen the Club develop over the years and wants to enjoy success at Grace Road.
In his time at Grace Road, Naik has taken 127 wickets at a shade over 31 with a superb best of 7-96 against Surrey at The Oval. He has also contributed 1,247 runs, including a memorable century against Derbyshire, our first opponents in the LV=CC in 2014.
Naik has collected 26 List A wickets and has so far picked up 12 wickets in his T20 career at Leicestershire. That included a career-best 3-3 against Yorkshire in the title winning year of 2011, and Naik appeared in the final against Somerset.
The 29-year-old has been patient in breaking into the t20 side given Claude Henderson held down the role of senior spinner for so long. As the Foxes’ leading wicket-taker in the history of T20, including playing vital roles in our three wins of 2004, 2006 and 2011, Henderson was always one of the first names on the teamsheet and it is can be difficult to squeeze two specialist spinners into the side.
But even with Shakib Al Hasan in the side last summer, Naik forced his way into the reckoning and it was such a shame he picked up the injury in a tournament he had worked so hard to be involved in.
Having had another taste of T20 last summer, Naik is ready to take on that particular challenge again. But he knows that the priority must be placed on improving in the Championship, and said that everybody is working hard to achieve that.
He said: “As a team, we weren’t far away from qualifying for the knockout stages of the one-day competitions and it will be a case of fine tuning in those. For the Championship, we all need to put our hands up and take responsibility.
“We need to do a lot better and we accept that. It’s up to all of the individual players to pull our socks up and do a lot better than we did last year. We are determined to have success as a team and everybody is already working hard to achieve it. The lads have either been playing abroad or been back at Grace Road from early November.
“Looking back to last season in one-day cricket, Shakib Al Hasan was brilliant to work with and bowl alongside. I had just got selected for T20 at Old Trafford two or three games previously and we formed a good partnership. We kept the runs down and took wickets and there wasn’t much more I could have done – other than not dive for that ball!
“I was gutted to miss out on the rest of the T20 tournament. Spin bowling usually does well in T20 and has played a massive part in Leicestershire’s success over the years, so it was a shame to get injured just after breaking into the side. I was also enjoying one-day cricket but unfortunately things happen. It was a playing injury and there was very little I could do to prevent it.”
On a personal level, Naik’s immediate objective is to get back to how he was at the start of the 2013 season. To keep those wheels in motion, Naik wants to go abroad to play, as he usually does in the winter.
Naik has been out to India and Sri Lanka in recent winters and still wants to travel overseas if everything goes to plan. Nothing has been left to chance as Club Physio Rob Leather has overseen everything with his usual precision.
Naik said: “It’s been perfect for me individually and we have it all planned out. I have been working very closely with Rob and we know what we are doing month by month. I am very confident that I’ll get back to where I was, and if I can get back to that point where I was bowling really well and having the right frame of mind with the bat, I’ll be delighted.
“I started bowling on Tuesday, November 19 and there were plenty of revs on it. It’s just a case of working speed back into it, and that will come in time. Initially we set out as December as a target to start bowling again and January as a target to play abroad.”
“We’ll have to see where the shoulder is at before I make the final decision but I am still looking to go away at the end of January/early February time to get a few overs in and see how the shoulder is. Bowling outside is different to bowling inside so I need to test it in outdoor conditions at some point. Hopefully it will all go well.
“The injury was tough to take but I have come back before. I started this season strongly after suffering the ankle injury in 2012. I’m more experienced now. I know where I am, and I know what I need to do to get to where I want to be. I know what I need to do to be fitter and stronger for next season.”
You can feel the passion and determination as Naik talks and he is absolutely determined to have more success at Grace Road. In life, you can only control those things within your control, and Naik’s efforts to get back onto the field could not have been any greater. Everyone associated with Leicestershire CCC will hope he finally gets a good chunk of fortune to go alongside his considerable talent.