Relinquishing County captaincy has given Wakely his feel-good factor back

Alex Wakely has a smile on his face at Northants again
Alex Wakely has a smile on his face at Northants again

Alex Wakely stands on the County Ground outfield with a smile on his face and his own name ringing in his ears.

As the adoring youngsters who have attended the Steelbacks’ clash with Durham shower him with songs, Wakely looks like a man who has been given the freedom of Northampton.

Not because he has - though his myriad achievements with Northants probably merit it - but because he has had the stresses and successes of skippering the County lifted from his shoulders in recent months.

And now he is just free to go and do what he loves: score runs.

He had done just that just prior to this interview, with Wakely producing a man of the match display to help defeat Durham last week.

His gritty 47 not out proved key for the County, who defended a below-par score of 145 for six to win by a comfortable 21 runs.

And Wakely seemed to savour every second of an encounter in which Josh Cobb, Wakely’s successor as the Steelbacks’ T20 skipper, made some astute bowling calls.

“It’s brilliant because I’m fielding out in front of the scoreboard, which I haven’t done for five years, and I’ve got a little fan club out there,” Wakely said.

“I’m really enjoying it. Cobby’s doing a brilliant job and it’s nice for me to just watch it from afar and take in the atmosphere.

“It’s a relief and I’m back to enjoying my cricket again.

“During the past couple of years I probably hadn’t enjoyed it the way I wanted to and it started to take its toll on me a little bit.

“Now I’m just taking it all in, getting involved with the crowd, having a laugh, having a smile and soaking up the atmosphere.

“We play cricket because it’s entertainment and we love it - and I’m back to loving it again.”

Wakely was appointed captain of the one-day and T20 sides in 2013 before taking on the County Championship role for the 2015 season.

He steered the County to two T20 titles and promotion to division one in the Championship.

So how much has Wakely’s day-to-day life changed since he decided to relinquish the County captaincy back in early June?

“It’s harder physically in a game situation because I have to do a lot of running,” he said. “As captain you can stand in the ring and not have to run as much.

“But it is nice that I don’t have to do all of the things a captain has to do on a matchday. I can just turn up, have a hit and worry about me. It’s something I haven’t been able to do over the last few years.

“There’s a different dynamic for me and I’m just really enjoying it again.

“I haven’t had a smile on my face for a long time, and now I have again.

“My wife’s enjoying it a lot more because I’m a happier person and it’s nice to be playing cricket again.”

Having been so used to barking out orders to his team-mates, it could be difficult for Wakely to bite his tongue on the field when he sees situations that need sorting out.

But the 30-year-old’s experience has taught him not to be a back-seat driver.

“One of my pet hates when I was captain was people throwing as many ideas as they wanted and there was no responsibility towards them so I’m conscious not to say anything,” said Wakely, who led Northants in 198 matches in all formats.

“I just said if Cobby needs me he can come to me, but he’s doing a great job at the moment.

“I’m there to support him, but I’m just standing there and enjoying myself.”

While Cobb has taken over Wakely’s one-day duties, Adam Rossington has assumed the responsibility in the Championship.

And things have gone well so far, with Rossington able to oversee a charge up the table, with Northants sitting fourth ahead of this week’s home fixture against Worcestershire, which starts on Sunday.

“It’s been a stop-start season for us,” Wakely said.

“The kind of side we are, we play some entertaining cricket but we also play some appalling cricket as well, so it’s nice to go into this one-off game in the middle of the (T20 competition) and know that if we win it, we will be in a really good position to get promoted.

“We’re really setting our target out and we believe we can get promoted with three sides going up.

“The table is probably as tight as it’s been for a long time and it’s going to be a massive game.”

Northants go into the game, sitting 13 points behind third-placed Gloucestershire and second-placed Glamorgan, with Lancashire 28 points clear at the top.

Worcestershire currently sit second bottom, 24 points behind Northants.

But Wakely said: “Worcestershire are a good team. Their seam attack is top drawer and they might even have one of their overseas batsmen playing in this game.

“They’re going to be tough to beat but we’re going to have to maybe prepare a pitch that suits us.”