Lancashire have turned to experience in a bid to plug the ever-growing batting hole at Old Trafford, with the signing of two Kolpak players ahead of the 2017 season.
And they don’t come much more experienced than 42-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The West Indian legend has 164 Test matches under his belt, and a mammoth total of 355 First Class matches. New Head Coach Glen Chapple will be hoping that there’s life in the old dog yet, as Chanderpaul returns for his second spell at Lancashire on a one-year deal.
On the day his arrival at Old Trafford was announced, Chanderpaul scored a century for Guyana Jaguars in a List A game, underlining the fact that he’s still got the ability he always had. Lancashire know that they have signed one of the all-time greats of the game. With 30 Test centuries and a Test average of 51.37, there aren’t many with a better record than Chanderpaul.
South Africa wicketkeeper-batsman Dane Vilas has also joined the Red Rose, following the trend of South African cricketers signing Kolpak deals to join an English county. 30-year-old Vilas, who has six Test matches to his name, has signed a two-year deal at Old Trafford and will likely play as an out-and-out batsman while providing cover with the gloves when Jos Buttler is unavailable.
Vilas is an aggressive batsman, with a First Class average of 39.65 and a T20 strike rate of 122.68. Lancashire will hope he can play a pivotal role across all formats.
Scoring runs was a weakness of Lancashire last season, with the bulk of their totals last season due to the performances of Haseeb Hameed and Alviro Petersen. Hameed is likely to miss most of the coming season because of to England commitments, while Petersen has left the club after being banned for covering up match fixing by other players in South African cricket.
Add to that the sad retirement last week of all-rounder Tom Smith, and Lancashire are desperate for reinforcements ahead of the new campaign.
There will be those Lancashire supporters who will suggest signing a 42-year-old is not a particularly progressive signing. Those supporters would have been hoping for a signal of intent, perhaps signing one of the bright stars of Division Two cricket, a Daniel Bell-Drummond or Keaton Jennings. It’s a fair point to make.
These aren’t progressive signings, particularly Chanderpaul. It’s a sticking plaster to cover the ever-widening hole in the batting ranks. Nevertheless, they are absolute necessary signings and will provide both runs and the experience that the squad needed.
Lancashire aren’t lacking in young talent. Aside from the exceptional Hameed, there were also breakthrough seasons last year for Liam Livingstone and Rob Jones, whose maiden century against Middlesex at the end of last year underlined his quality. Those players can only be helped by the arrival of an experienced player such as Chanderpaul.
So these signings are good news for Lancashire. If Vilas can live up to his First Class record, he will provide a big boost to the middle order and contribute across all formats. And if Chanderpaul can prove he’s still got it, at 42, we know the quality that he possesses.
But this has to just be the start. Smith’s retirement means Lancashire could badly use a genuine all-rounder, who can play in all three forms of the game, while a Championship bowler is much-needed to give Chapple’s men a real chance of taking 20 wickets consistently.
With a change of coach and so much upheaval in the playing staff, it’s been a hectic winter at Old Trafford, but there’s sure to be more to come as Lancashire bid to establish themselves again at the County Championship’s top table.