Dane Vilas: Lancashire’s new captain wants immediate return to Division One

Dane Vilas (Photo: The Cricket Paper)

Lancashire announced Dane Vilas as their captain back in November, following Liam Livingstone’s decision to step down from the role.

The 33-year-old scored topped the run scoring chart for the red rose in their County Championship relegation season last year and captained the side four times in Livingstone’s absence.

Having already had a taste of the role, the South African didn’t hide his excitement in leading the side this summer.

He said: “I knew about it around December/January time and now that I’m here it all feels real and obviously I’m really excited to get going with the season.

“It’s nice to be able to lead a team like this, I did a little bit of it last year and I really enjoyed it so hopefully we can have a good campaign.

“I’ve loved every minute being here and the relationships I’ve built, but I could never have dreamt of becoming captain.

 “To come to a place like Manchester and Old Trafford to play cricket was a dream come true.

“Ashwell Prince, my coach at South Africa, always had great things to say about Lancashire and I’ve always followed the leagues here.”

It was a pleasing 2018 season for Vilas individually, but he knows that Lancashire will have to produce much better as a collective if they are to bounce back to Division One immediately.

“What I would like to get across is more a team spirit,” he insists. “Last year we had some great individual performances with bat and ball, but we want to merge those performances into a collective, team performance.

“Of course, I want to perform well as a player, but I have to make sure everyone is doing well and hopefully with our experience we can do that this year.

“Pre-season was good for everyone – we’re all happy with how it went and hopefully from a personal point of view I can continue from where I left off last season.”

The Old Trafford outfit strengthened their already strong squad over the winter, with the signings of Australia stars Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell the marquee additions.

On top of those two, the club has secured the services of bowler Richard Gleeson, as well as tying down four youth players to professional contracts.

But Vilas was quick to highlight the importance of Maxwell’s signature, with the all-rounder having proven himself on the international stage.

“Obviously it’s a fantastic signing,” he said. “When you sign an overseas player, you’re looking for them to add value to your squad.

“On the field and off the field he’ll be great.

“He can help the younger guys, the older guys and me with the captaincy too, as he’s captained over in the Big Bash League.

“I’m really looking forward to having him around, he can assist the batters and fielders in every single way and obviously the way he’s playing he will add a huge amount to our batting line-up.

“To have the calibre of players available like we do, it’s always exciting.”

Last season’s captain Liam Livingstone will miss the first few games with his county, away on duty in the Indian Premier League with the Rajasthan Royals.

His successor, Vilas, insists he wasn’t expecting the opportunity to captain the side this year.

“I was surprised,” said the 33-year-old. “I think Livi did a good job last year, he was really good in the changing rooms and bringing us together.

“But I think it was tough for him being a young guy, a young captain, having to deal with both the off-field stuff as well as the on-field stuff.

“For him I think he wants to get playing for England and not have to worry about all the nitty-gritty things that come with captaining.

“It’ll be good for him to get that baggage off his shoulders, get back to playing his best cricket and only worrying about scoring runs for us.

“Hopefully he will do that.”

One player Vilas will be hoping to inspire back to his best form is young batsman Haseeb Hameed.

The Lancs skipper claimed: “’Hass’ last season maybe focused on the wrong things and looked too far ahead,” he claimed.

“He just needs to get back to playing the best he can for us and not worrying about all the peripheral stuff.

“I know he’s had a good pre-season in Dubai and has been working really hard, he’s very excited to get going and he’s a big player for us.

“If he does well, we do well as a team so we need him.”

Following a comprehensive win over Loughborough University in a warm-up game, Vilas will lead Lancashire out for the first time at Lord’s in the season opener, away to Middlesex.

With Lancs favourites for the title in Division Two, he will be targeting a perfect start.

He assured: “Our aim is, of course, to get back to Division One.

“We are all very disappointed with last year when we went down, and the manner in which we went down more than anything.

“All of us know it is going to be tough, with the pressure on us to get back up there but it’s something we want to do.

“We aren’t going to shy away from it, we really want to do that and push ourselves as much as possible.

“That’s the challenge, it’s county cricket and there’s nothing like it in the world across all formats.