Ripley: Northants using pre-season predictions as motivation
This weekend, Northants will once again adopt the underdogs tag as they head to Chelmsford.
They will face an Essex side containing the likes of England captain Alastair Cook, all-rounder Ravi Bopara and New Zealand star Jesse Ryder.
And, just as they were in the season opener against Sussex a couple of weeks ago, they will be expected to walk away with little more than a defeat.
But that is just how the Northants players seem to like it.
Ben Duckett, who delivered a stunning 282 not out in the draw with Sussex, last week admitted that he and his team-mates relish the challenge of proving people wrong.
And that is a view echoed head coach David Ripley, who even went as far as pinpointing exactly who has given his small, but tight-knit squad such motivation.
“It didn’t escape our notice that some people have got us down to finish ninth,” Ripley said.
“Some pundits in the Wisden had us down to finish bottom of the league, so that’s quite motivational to the group to show we’ve got more about us than that.
“We do need luck with injuries because we’ve got a small squad.
“We’ve got guys out at the moment, but there’s no real harm done - we’ve only played one game so far - and those guys are slowly getting back in the mix.
“Given the ability in the squad, I think we can have a good go at all of the competitions.”
The chasm between the resources of Essex and Northants can be shown in just one position, with this weekend’s hosts boasting Cook, while the visitors are forced to call on a young loanee from Nottinghamshire, Jake Libby, to open their batting.
And Ripley knows just how potent the squad Essex possess is.
“It will be a long time since Essex have had Alastair Cook, Ryan ten Doeschate and Ravi Bopara all available at the start of the season,” he said. “They usually have IPL commitments or England commitments.
“They’ve invested in a Kolpak/Aussie seam bowler (Matt Dixon) and their overseas guy (Ryder) is here and he’s a guy they know well because it’s his third season.
“They will be in the shake-up for promotion, given the depth of their squad.
“It’s a good fixture for us to get stuck into early in the season.”