Ripley confident Steelbacks can cope with absences
Going to finals day last year, the Steelbacks were struggling with absences of their frontline T20 players.
Sri Lanka all-rounder Seekkuge Prasanna wasn’t available for the trip to Edgbaston and neither was pace ace Richard Gleeson, who had been something of a revelation in the competition.
And with Northants taking on a Nottinghamshire team packed with stars in the semi-final, Steelbacks fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.
But David Ripley’s depleted squad rocked up and shot down the Outlaws, showing immense character, with Rob Keogh and Ben Sanderson, the men drafted in for Prasanna and Gleeson, playing key roles.
And with Northants now in the midst of more problems - Prasanna has been ruled out of the entire T20 campaign and Graeme White is nursing a shoulder injury - the excellence at Edgbaston last August, where the Steelbacks lifted the trophy by beating Durham in the final, has convinced Ripley not to sign a reinforcement this time round.
“That’s one of the reasons we’ve gone with that decision (not to replace Prasanna), because we trust our own,” Ripley said.
“Ben Sanderson didn’t play a lot but he came in and did really well on finals day.
“We’ve got Rob Newton who played very well in the 50-over competition, I saw Saif Zaib play outstandingly in the second XI at Lutterworth last week in two T20 games.
“We’ve got a little bit of depth, but we can’t afford too many injuries.
“Nathan Buck had a good campaign for Lancashire last year in the T20 format so we’ve still got some cards to play, but we can’t afford to lose too many because we are a thin squad.”
The Steelbacks have been able to field South Africa spinner Tabraiz Shamsi their games in this season’s Blast.
But Shamsi will now head off to play for South Africa A and is also set for a stint in the Caribbean Premier League, meaning Prasanna’s injury will leave the Steelbacks short of an overseas recruit.
“It’s disappointing and the timing of it is probably the thing that’s cost us the most because we’ve not been able to find anybody else,” Ripley said.
“We looked round the market to see if we could get anyone in budget, but the names we had because of the Caribbean Premier League, work permit criteria and visas it just meant I didn’t think it was worth going outside of our group.
“We’ve done that before. Last year, when Seekkuge was away we stuck with our group and we did well in that period. It will be down to the lads to do the same again.
“But obviously I didn’t bank on losing Graeme White to a shoulder injury when we made the decision to stay with our own. He’s very important now Shamsi’s gone back.
“With it being T20 cricket, there might be some way we can give him an injection and get him through the T20 period.
“I’d imagine him playing a longer format game is going to be difficult, but we haven’t got one of them for quite a long time.”
The Steelbacks will continue to keep a close eye on Shamsi, who has impressed during his stint in Northampton.
“We’ll keep monitoring what happens with him and the A tour and we’ll stay in touch with Seekkuge because maybe if Sri Lankan Cricket think in a fortnight’s time he’s improved enough to come and play some T20 cricket, you never know, but it’s a long shot,” Ripley said.
“We’ll stay in touch and we’ll keep our eyes open to see if there’s anyone else who can come into the group.
“But it just doesn’t happen overnight because you’ve got to consider whether they’re better than you’ve already got. If not, are you wasting your money or altering
the dynamic of your own group.
“It’s not a straightforward one and it’s got to be the right person.”