There was a buzzword around Lancashire’s media day. Everywhere you went you found someone talking about ‘stability’. By the end of the afternoon it had racked up more mentions than ‘likeability’ on a Louis Walsh-filled episode of the X Factor.
But it’s easy to see why Lancashire are so keen for a bit of stability as they head in to the 2016 season. Since clinching the Division One title against all odds back in 2011, the side have suffered two relegations and twice climbed back to the top tier.
That yo-yo run has to stop and so coaches and players have made Division One safety their number one priority.
They head into the season with a sense of momentum after a successful 2015. Promotion from Division Two was achieved with relative ease and the T20 side, consistently one of the best in the country, finally clinched the Natwest Blast title.
The club are hopeful that success can carry them on to achieve their goals this campaign.
Head coach Ashley Giles has acknowledged how difficult the step up to Division One will be, but is confident his side can survive.
“I think we are all aware that Division One is going to be tough,” Giles said.
“There’s no need to hide that but that doesn’t mean that we don’t go into every game trying to win it. We’ve got to play some really good cricket and maybe have to over perform but it’s possible.
“There are some strong sides, Yorkshire chasing a third title, Notts have a strong squad, Warwickshire have the strongest squad in the country I would say so it’s going to be challenging.
“But it’s important to look at what we are doing well. If we play as well as we possibly can and they do as well then it will be tough.”
Lancashire start the season with a clash against Nottinghamshire at Old Trafford next Sunday. They were keen to place an emphasis on making a strong start to the campaign and James Anderson, who can play the opening three games, believes the first few weeks will be crucial to their season.
“It’s important from my point of view to get some overs in before the Tests start,” Anderson said.
“But also it’s a big season for Lancashire in four-day cricket. We want to get a little bit of stability and stay in Division One. A good start to the season will be crucial to that and I’ll be trying to play my part in that.
“We’ve not quite got it right as a team since 2011, we’ve been too inconsistent in the four-day stuff. It’s frustrating as a supporter because you want success for your team.
“It’s hugely important for us to establish ourselves. If you’re stable in four-day cricket it lets you have a good go at everything else. That focus helps and being in a relegation battle is no good so getting off to a good start is crucial.”
After the opening rounds of Championship cricket, Lancashire will turn to the defence of their T20 Blast crown. No side has ever retained the trophy since the inception of the competition in 2003. They will also want to fare better in the Royal London One-Day Cup, having not reached a Lords final since 2006.
Captain Steven Croft insisted that while Championship success was important, challenging across all three formats was his aim for the season.
“We want to stay in this Division and compete to win it,” Croft said.
“We want to sustain our Division One status really for the foreseeable future.
“But I think all three forms are important really, any game you play for this club is a big game. Championship we want to win the Division, no one has ever gone back-to-back in the T20 so that’s an incentive and we haven’t been to a Lords final in quite a long time.
“Across the board we have quite a large squad and a competitive squad as well so hopefully we can keep people fresh, some may be more suited to white ball cricket and we can have different squads as well.
“The young lads are a year further on as well, they won a trophy in the shorter form but will hopefully be hungry for some more trophies.
“We’re all itching to get going and ready to go.”