Northamptonshire’s preparations ahead of the new season are under way and skipper Alex Wakely is already feeling excited about the summer.
The County will head into the new campaign as the reigning NatWest T20 Blast champions after the incredible success at finals day at Edgbaston back in August.
The new season starts with home clash against Glamorgan in Division Two of the County Championship on April 7.
And the build-up to that has already started with the focus at the moment falling firmly on fitness.
“Things are going pretty well, we have been back together as a full squad since the start of January,” Northants skipper Wakely said.
“Before that we had players all over the place in America, Australia and South Africa so it’s good to be back together and everyone is looking in good shape.
“We are putting the focus predominantly on fitness at the moment.
“We are aware that we have some big players but we have to make sure we are cricket fit and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to look like an Olympic athlete but you have to be fit for purpose.
“We have a new strength and conditioning coach (Chris Lorkin) who has come in from Aston Villa Football Club and he is stretching us a bit.
“But this time of year is about fitness and then the cricket will pick up in the next couple of weeks and then there is a six-week block before we go away to Barbados for pre-season where the game intensity picks up.
“The season starts earlier this year but I am feeling excited about it. We want to build on last year.
“I am very conscious that when we won in 2013, the following year was a disaster so I am determined to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“One of the hardest things in sport is when you are at the top, trying to stay there and we will be doing all we can to do that.”
Wakely, meanwhile, has tipped Ben Duckett for a “long England career”.
The captain revealed Duckett is set to link up with the squad when they head to Barbados for pre-season.
The youngster made his Test debut at the end of last year following a stunning campaign for Northants.
And, while he didn’t feature after the first two Tests in India, Wakely expects plenty more opportunities to come Duckett’s way.
“We haven’t seen too much of Ben yet and I know he is off to the Pakistan T20 League in a couple of weeks,” he added.
“He will be joining us in Barbados for pre-season but he deserves everything he is getting.
“He’s had a bit of a baptism of fire at international level but he is one of the best players I have seen for a long time and I am sure he will have a long England career ahead of him.”