PLYMOUTH skipper Sam Stein will be happy getting through the season uninjured and with Premier status assured.
Stein was made captain in 2015 and missed six games due to a hamstring injury.
Last summer the season had just ticked over into the second half when Stein sustained a spiral fracture in his right hand, karate chopping the ball into the ground trying to stop it in the field.
Plymouth lived dangerously last summer – the could have been in trouble had the final round of fixtures been played – and were glad to be rained off at Heathcoat on the final day five points clear of the drop spots.
Stein isn’t expecting a title push this season, but doesn’t want another relegation brush either.
“I want to play a full season without getting injured in a side that isn’t worried about relegation,” said Stein.
Gone from last season is overseas Anthony Atkinson – 361 runs in the mid-20s – and Scotland international Hamish Gardiner, who has moved to Melbourne.
Gardiner averaged well over 50 in 16 games played and captained the side in Stein’s absence. He will be missed.
New for 2017 is Pakistani batters Faizan Riaz, a 28-year-old former Under-19 international who is current player with Islamabad. He has five First Class tons and a double hundred to his name.
Leg-spinner John Kerridge is playing again after knee trouble and John Varcoe is back.
Rumour has it veteran paceman Dave Burke is reinventing himself as a spin bowler in the 2nd XI. It would be a surprise if he didn’t add t his collection of 1st XI appearances, which started way back in 1997.
Burke’s Devon League record stands comparison with the very best in the competition’s 45-year history.
He made his debut in an A Division game against Plymouth Civil Service and took the first two of his 540 wickets so far for the team.
Burke has played in 271 matches , taken five or more wickets 23 times and has a career best of nine for 27 against Shobrooke Park in 2007.
There is a hat-trick against North Devon in 2008 among all those wickets, And Burke has been known to wield the willow to good effect – just ask Braunton who were on the receiving end of 125 not out back in 2003.