Ricardo Vasconcelos is looking to make his second year at the County Ground even more memorable than his first.
The 21-year-old had a strong opening year in English cricket, scoring 608 First Class runs and a further 103 in the white ball competitions, performances which saw him head into the winter as the Northamptonshire Young Player of the Year.
But Vasconcelos has not been resting on his laurels over the winter, heading to South Africa to put in plenty of hours of hard work.
“Mostly I was training at the Wanderers with a coach called Bongani Ndaba, who had been my coach at school and through my age groups,” he says. “It was good to work with him again and get a fresh pair of eyes on my game and I felt really good leaving South Africa.
“It’s been tough back in the indoor school because I was outdoors the whole time in South Africa. It’s been a bit of an adjustment coming back indoors – the bounce is different as it’s a hard floor, not grass, and it was a baptism of fire when Blessing is running into you as the first bowler you’ve got to face! There’s definitely some extra bounce then – he doesn’t hold back in the nets!”
Blessing Muzarabani has made an obvious impression on Vasconcelos, who says that the Zimbabwean will add something different to the Northamptonshire bowling attack and ask plenty of questions of opposition batsmen.
“All of our other bowlers are a similar height, so the ball is released from a similar point,” he says. “So someone like Blessing can throw you off because you’ve got to look at a different place where the ball is being released from. He also bowls a different length, which is a different challenge, and with someone like Sando bowling from the other end it’s going to help that kind of partnership. If he gets on song it’s going to help everyone, I think.”
Reflecting on 2018, Vasconcelos says that at the start of the year thoughts of any awards recognition was far from his mind, but now that he has had a taste of first team cricket he wants to build for the future.
“When I first came over I didn’t think I’d be playing first team cricket in my first season,” he says. “Through injuries I got my chance, fortunately I took it and I was in the side for the rest of the season.
“This year as a team we’re looking to push on in all three competitions, especially promotion in the four-day competition, and I want to hit my run targets. I scored 608 last year and so I’m aiming for 700 or more than that this year.
“Having competition is healthy and good for the side. It means we’ve got a strong squad and someone can always come in and do a job. It’s going to push everyone to be even better and it’s a good thing for everyone.”
Season Tickets remain available for 2019, with supporters able to watch all 41 scheduled days of Northamptonshire cricket from just £6.50 per day. For more information head to www.northantscricket.com/season-tickets