Steelbacks boss Ripley looking on the bright side despite Nabi quarantine setback
David Ripley is looking at the positives despite the news that the Steelbacks are to be without world-class all-rounder Mohammad Nabi for the opening matches of the Vitality T20 Blast campaign.
The Afghanistan star is currently undergoing a Covid-19 quarantine period in a London hotel following his arrival in the UK last weekend, and won't be available for selection until next week.
That means he definitely misses the Steelbacks' first two North Group encounters, starting with Friday night's County Ground opener against Worcestershire Rapids, and then the following home game against reigning champions Notts Outlaws on Sunday.
He could be in contention for Tuesday's Wantage Road date with Birmingham Bears, but it would seem more realistic to target the trip to Derbyshire next Thursday.
It is not the ideal scenario for the Steelbacks, but it could have been worse, as there were fears at one point that the big-hitting, off-spinning all-rounder wouldn't be able to make it over for any of the competition.
Ripley is delighted that Nabi is in the country, and believes the fact the 36-year-old is set to be available for the bulk of the group games, as well as any possible quarter-final, has to be seen as something of a result.
Several other counties have been hit by players not being able to get to the UK at all, or being called up for international duty elsewhere, and Ripley admits he will suck up the short term pain of being without Nabi for the long-term gain of his later availability.
"We are expecting him to miss some games at this stage," confirmed the Steelbacks boss.
"He won't be starting the competition, which is disappointing, but he is here, and he is available to us.
"You have to look at the other counties and what has been happening with trying to get people here, and it has not been easy.
"The Australians and their selections (for an ODI series against West Indies in July) have caused a bit of chaos at one or two counties as well, so it has been pretty tough for everybody.
"But I think if you had said to me four weeks ago that Nabi would be here and he will miss two or three games, then I would have taken that."
One further thing that could be an issue is Nabi's fitness, with the player having spent 10 days stuck in a hotel room before he is able to rock up at the County Ground.
Once he does leave quarantine the player's condition will be assessed, but Ripley feels that fact that Nabi is used to travelling around the world to play in the Big Bash, the Indian Premier League and other competitions, he is well place to handle the situation.
"It does mean he's not doing a lot for 10 days while he is quarantined, but he is a world-class player who is used to taking his cricket bag around the world," said the Steelbacks head coach.
"It helps that he is an all-rounder as well, I think if he was just a batter then I would be a bit more worried about that, but because he bowls, he fields well, and he bats, it should be pretty quick for him to get back into the routine.
"Overall it is pretty positive news that he is here, and if he ends up playing 11 games and he is available for the quarter-finals as well, then it is a great bit of work."
Northants did consider signing a short-term replacement to cover Nabi's unavailability, with big-hitting South African international batsman Pite van Biljon playing in second team T20 clash with Warwickshire on Monday.
"We did explore the option of bringing him in as a short-term replacement, but there were some problems with his paperwork and it looked a bit tricky so we have decided against it," revealed Ripley
"We have a strong squad, and somebody will be playing who might not have been if Nabi was here to start, and we will have faith in that player doing a good job for us.
"There is a good togetherness about the squad right now, and that's how we'll start.
"It will then be nice to know we have got Nabi for the sharp end of the competition, when the big games, the crunch games for qualification come around and he will be available."
Aside from Nabi's unavailability, the only other member of the Northants squad likely to be missing for Friday's opening match is Luke Procter, who suffered 'a slight niggle' in the LV= Insurance County Championship draw with Kent last weekend.
Other than that, Ripley says he has a fully fit strength to pick from.