Cricket clubs lay out the welcome mat
St Annes and Blackpool Cricket Clubs will have new overseas professionals for the 2017 Northern Premier League season.
Indian all-rounder Saurabh Bandekar is coming to Vernon Road, while the new face at Stanley Park is Anurag Verma, who is based in New Zealand.
Bandekar is particularly excited about his move to St Annes as his hero is none other than Andrew Flintoff, who learned his cricket there as a youngster prior to going on to England glory.
St Annes Cricket Club chairman Dave Hopkinson said: “Saurabh has modelled his game on Andrew Flintoff, so he was particularly pleased to get the chance to play at the same place as his hero.”
Bandekar hails from Mumbai and plays his state cricket with Goa; he has also been in the Bangalore Chargers’ Indian Premier League squad.
Now 29, he has played first class cricket in Indian for eight years and as a youngster played for India under-19s.
He is classed as an all-rounder, bowling medium quick.
Bandekar has had experience of playing league cricket before and had a successful season with Whalley in the Ribblesdale League in 2013 when he scored 800 runs and claimed 45 wickets.
St Annes are hoping he will arrive in time for Easter weekend friendlies away to Norden and Prestwich.
Hopkinson said he hoped the British weather at the time of his arrival would not be too much of a culture shock, adding: “There will be a bit of a difference from playing in India where the temperatures are 40 degrees Fahrenheit!”
Meantime, St Annes have signed batsman Mustafa Durrani and Matt Derham, from Preston and Morecambe respectively.
Barring any last-minute hitches, Blackpool are hoping that Verma will arrive towards the end of the month, though he will miss Blackpool’s first NPL fixture of the campaign on April 22.
Verma is a right-handed batsman and fast medium bowler.
He has been recommended to the Stanley Park club by Daryl Mitchell, a fellow Kiwi, who was professional at Blackpool in 2016 but decided not to return this year.
Blackpool chairman Dave Cresswell said: “He has been well recommended to us and should be a useful acquisition.
“He has not played in England before, but he is delighted to be coming and is looking forward to it.”
Blackpool’s new professional has played for New Zealand Under-19s, as well as Northern District and Wellington.