NEW: Exclusive Steven Croft column
It's a great honour for me to receive a testimonial year with Lancashire.
You wonder where time has gone. I’ve been involved with Lancashire cricket for 20 years now and been a professional for 14 seasons.
It’s like a second home to me and a second family.
Looking back over the winter and getting stuff together for it was a bit of an eye-opener about where you are at.
You reflect on your career and it’s something I’ve found beneficial to see how much I’ve achieved and how long I’ve played for.
But it also spurred me on to make sure this isn’t my last year.
I feel like I’ve got a lot of years left in me cricket-wise. Going into my last year of contract as well, it has made me really hungry this pre-season and probably got the best out of me as a player.
I want to continue to play here for the foreseeable future and be a first-team player and not take anything for granted.
We’ve had injuries in the past to Kyle Hogg and Tom Smith. It can end at any time so you do have to cherish every game you play for this club.
Last year was a mixed one for me.
On a personal note I felt like I should have got more runs but to finish second in the County Championship captaining was still a plus for me.
I finished the season with a hundred against Surrey at Old Trafford and averaged 30, which is probably an average year. Hopefully this year, without the burden of captaincy, I should hopefully get back into the swing of things with a lot more runs.
I cared about the team that much that I probably took an eye off my own game.
I still wanted to continue to captain but I’ve definitely felt the benefits this winter and pre-season of just concentrating on my own game and just getting myself in the best form possible.
It was probably a good call by the club, especially with it being my testimonial year as well.
Liam Livingstone has taken over from me and I think he’s going to be a great leader.
He’ll lead from the front. He’s an aggressive personality and player and that will come across on the field.
He got international honours last year and will be hoping to push on. I think he was unlucky not to play out in New Zealand with England but he’s definitely pushing for a spot internationally and that’s a great place for us to be as a county, having another Test player.
If he’s pushing really hard then that will benefit us as a team as well.
We want to go one step further than last year in the County Championship after finishing as runners-up.,
We’re looking up rather than down in Division One
White-ball cricket in the last couple of years has not been as successful as we would have liked.
We’ve got the squad to complete on all three fronts though and there are some amazing players in that changing room.
During pre-season we had quite a small group stay back in Manchester and I was one of them.
We had a great trip to Dubai, a couple of trips to Desert Springs in Spain as well so I feel really well prepared.
We’ve had two games back in the UK to get some good practice in here as well so it’s been a really good pre-season.
The main thing is I feel in really good nick. There’s been a couple of hundreds, a 90, an 80 and a fifty.
I’m going into the season very confident and I think that’s what I needed from last year. I lost my place in the four-day side and with a couple of signings as well I wanted to put my name in the hat to hopefully get in that first side against Nottinghamshire and stay there.
There will be quite a few disappointed people for the first game though.
It’s a great squad and it definitely keeps you on your toes having that competition around.
Whether it be older, experienced players or even younger players, that competition is really helpful. Teams will chop and change but as a side and a team you have to pull together.
I think in the last few seasons pretty much everyone’s got some experience at first team level.
I think there’s only one player that didn’t play first team last year. The opportunity is usually there for everybody to take.
Steven Croft is celebrating his testimonial year and was talking to Adam Lord