Northants coach John Sadler explains 'big call' to make David Willey the Steelbacks skipper

John Sadler has admitted that making David Willey the new Steelbacks captain ahead of the upcoming Vitality Blast tournament was 'a big call' - but he is convinced it will be the right one.
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The club announced on Wednesday that Willey, who has returned to Northants after seven years at Yorkshire, will replace Josh Cobb as skipper of the T20 team.

Cobb had led the Steelbacks since 2019, and was expecting to do so again this summer.

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Sadler accepts the timing of the announcement is 'not ideal' with the first match against Worcestershire Royals just a fortnight away.

Northants head coach John SadlerNorthants head coach John Sadler
Northants head coach John Sadler

But he felt the unexpected opportunity to have an England white-ball regular and 'global superstar' leading the team was one he couldn't be missed.

The catalyst for the decision, and the timing, was Willey's unexpected and early departure due to injury from his stint in the Indian Premier League with Royal Challengers Bangalore.

That meant that rather than missing the opening few matches, he was going to be at the County Ground for the whole tournament, and was the reason for Sadler's decision.

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"It wasn't really in the equation (for Willey to be captain)," said the head coach.

New Northants Steelbacks skipper David WilleyNew Northants Steelbacks skipper David Willey
New Northants Steelbacks skipper David Willey

"He always came back to the club as a potential captain and that was something he expressed a strong interest in when we were discussing with him about his return (from Yorkshire).

"There were no guarantees of course, but with him being away with the IPL it was never really in the equation, and Josh has done a good job.

"But with David's return, and the fact he is now here for the build-up, he is here for the discussions, the plans, the tactics.

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"He is here for the full campaign, and I felt it was the right call to give him that opportunity."

Josh Cobb has been replaced as Steelbacks skipper after four years in the jobJosh Cobb has been replaced as Steelbacks skipper after four years in the job
Josh Cobb has been replaced as Steelbacks skipper after four years in the job

Willey also has captaincy experience, having led Yorkshire's T20 team for the past two seasons, and Sadler added: "He is a global superstar.

"He plays in all of the highest profile tournaments around the world, and is in demand.

"He is in the top category in The Hundred, he is a World Cup winner, he is an England player and has been with England for however long.

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"So I think with all that combined, he was just somebody, with all that nous, knowledge, experience and expertise from all these different parts, I just felt we needed to maximise all that as best we can.

"Ideally the decision might have been made a little bit earlier, because with us being two or three weeks out from a T20 campaign it is not ideal timing.

"But it is what it is and the focus will very soon be on the cricket.

"It is a big call, Josh has done absolutely nothing wrong, he has done a great job, and he is now a massive part of our T20 plans and we want to get the best out of him, and support him the best we can."

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Cobb quickly took to social media to admit he had been 'blindsided' by the news, and expressed his 'shock and disappointment' at losing the captaincy, and Sadler can understand that.

But he also paid tribute to the way Cobb has handled the news and decision, and is now backing him to shine as a frontline batter for the Steelbacks.

"Josh has been great, and full respect to him," said Sadler.

"He was obviously disappointed but he understood the decision and he has pledged his full commitment.

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"He has been training, he has been in the gym, going through his rehab with his calf injury, and if we get Josh Cobb playing anywhere near his best then that's a good thing for us."

Willey enjoyed his first net session back at Northants on Wednesday afternoon, batting alongside Cobb at the County Ground - with both men peppering the boundary boards and seats beyond as they got into white ball batting mode.

The injury that led to Willey cutting short his IPL stint has almost cleared up, and the player has stated he will be fit for the start of the campaign.

Sadler also revealed Willey will be turning out in a few second team T20 matches to really get up to speed.

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"David was around a little bit in the winter for the odd training session here and there, but since his return from the IPL that was his first day back," said Sadler,

"He'll be with us for the rest of the week and he'll be around next week.

"He is going to play some second team cricket in the build up to the Blast, and then we will see him in full flow."