For a club that had as successful a season in 2015 as they did, Surrey’s seven signings could certainly be misconstrued as unnecessary additions. For one of those new signings, Mark Footitt, it simply poses a healthy challenge for places.
Moving to South London from Derbyshire over the winter, Footitt comes to the club looking for more competition both in selection and in opposition as he seeks out a place in this summer’s England Test squad.
“There’s a bigger bowling unit and there’s a little bit more of a challenge for you to keep you on your game. One or two bad games, you might not get selected so you want to keep performing as much as you can which is a great thing for me because it’s a new challenge and a bit more pressure for places.”
With nine other bowlers on tap at The Kia Oval, not including all-rounders, there is certainly a range of options. Three of those options are injured, with Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker and Freddie van den Bergh all missing for the start of the season, but Footitt doesn’t believe that there is pressure on him as a result and instead heaps praise on the attack that he joins.
“If you look at the bowlers we have who are fit as well as the ones who are injured, I think it’s such a good bowling unit that at any time you can play four different bowlers and still do well.
“You’ve obviously got Sam [Curran] who is a really good, talented young player which is always nice to see, and the rest of the bowlers are all as good as well.”
“It’s a good bowling unit and a big bowling unit so hopefully we’ll be all chipping in throughout the season.”
Having been Division Two’s leading wicket-taker in 2014 with 82 scalps, and 2015’s joint leading wicket-taker with 76, Footitt comes to Surrey on the back of two fantastic years. He’ll join and open the bowling alongside the man with whom he shared the crown for most wickets last year, Tom Curran.
“I’m really looking forward to starting the season and opening the bowling with him as well with the rest of the bowlers,” he says of Curran.
It wasn’t just the bowling department for whom he was full of praise. Footitt knows that his new teammates pose a real test with the bat and believes that the squad has a lot of potential.
“Whenever we’ve played against them [at Derbyshire] they’ve been one of the toughest oppositions to play against, so coming into the dressing room, joining a squad with massive potential and great talent is brilliant for a bowler like myself. I’m quite happy to sit down and watch them score runs.”
Derbyshire’s brief stint in Division One in 2013 means that the 30-year-old comes to newly-promoted Surrey having played in the premier division of the County Championship, something that could prove particularly useful alongside some of the younger players who have little to no experience in that department.
“I think it was a big experience when Derby were up there and playing in Division One because you see the difference in batting line-ups and bowling line-ups and it’s a massive challenge. But I’m looking forward to it, it’s what you want to do as a cricket player: challenge at the highest level you can.
“I know it is going to be a different challenge being in Division One and playing on probably a little bit flatter pitches but I back my skills to be able to take as many wickets as I can for Surrey.”
Footitt’s success at Derbyshire led to him being named in the England squad for the fourth Ashes Test last summer, while he was also included in the group of players to tour South Africa this winter, though he is yet to make his debut. Going into the season, Footitt has ambitions to break into the national side for this year’s Test matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but knows that it will be a tough ask.
“If I’m taking wickets, hopefully they’ll take notice and select me for the Test matches in the summer, so all I’ve got to do is hopefully start well in the first four or five games.
“There’s a great pool of fast bowlers in English cricket at the moment so it’s probably one of the hardest times to be doing well, but you’ve just got to back your own ability and hope they take notice if you’re taking wickets every week.”
Footitt also describes signing for Surrey as “a no-brainer,” citing his excellent record at The Kia Oval, having taken 26 wickets in five first-class appearances at the ground. “Obviously [I] wanted to come and sign at a place where you take loads of wickets.”
“I’m just looking forward to getting started.”