Dexter aims to use experience at Middlesex to help transform Leicestershire’s fortunes
During seven years at Lord’s, Neil Dexter has played his part in transforming Middlesex from Division Two also-rans to serious contenders for the County Championship title.
Now the former Middlesex captain – who led the team to promotion in 2011 – is aiming to draw on those experiences to help generate a similar change in fortunes for new club Leicestershire.
On the face of it, that looks a daunting assignment for the 31-year-old all-rounder, with the East Midlands county certain to finish at the foot of the Division Two table for the third year running.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Dexter. “It’s a bit like when I came to Middlesex – the club weren’t at the very bottom, but they weren’t doing as well as expected.
“I think the club have come a very long way with Angus Fraser in charge. What he did straight away was try to get a group of guys that he wanted in the right mould and then others who wanted to be part of it.
“Hopefully I can take a lot of that with me to Leicester. When I met up with [elite performance director] Andrew McDonald I got a really good feeling about the club and what they were looking to do and it made my decision a lot easier.
“It was a cricketing decision – I want to be playing all formats and batting up the order, which I haven’t been doing here as much as I would have liked. I had a good chat with Angus a few months back and he was brilliant with the whole thing.
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“He gave me permission to speak to other counties, with the view that Middlesex might still offer me another contract. I’ve had a great time here and made some really good friends and worked with top people.
“I don’t want to be just part of the furniture somewhere, I feel I’ve still got a lot to offer and my best years are ahead of me. Leicestershire are definitely moving forward – they’re trying to get the right people in place and they’re improving already as a side.”
Dexter, who moved to Lord’s from Kent at the end of the 2008 campaign, took over the captaincy from Shaun Udal 18 months later and oversaw Middlesex’s Division Two title-winning campaign in 2011.
He stood down as four-day skipper in favour of Chris Rogers after a loss of form with the bat early in the following season, although he continued to lead Middlesex in limited-overs cricket until 2013.
Since then, Dexter has also played a more significant role as a medium-pace bowler – and he feels his evolution towards the status of an all-rounder might increase his prospects of having another crack at captaincy in the future.
“I’d never say no,” admitted Dexter, who has signed a three-year deal at Grace Road. “I’m not saying I’m going to take over the captaincy but I would like to play a leading role as a senior player.
“I did enjoy the Middlesex captaincy, but at the time I was going through a tough period in my career and I found it quite tough to get other guys up for it when I wasn’t doing it myself. You’ve got to be at the top of your game, I believe, to be making the big decisions.
“But it’s something I’ve learned from and it’s part of the experience of getting to know your own game. I know I’m a lot better than that patch I went through – and the bowling has helped me a lot too.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off your batting, it’s a bonus and I think it has improved over the years. I still look at myself as a batsman who bowls a bit, but I might be moving into more than a little bit of an all-rounder category.
“The older you get, the wiser you get, and I think I’ve found a way to bowl in English conditions. You realise that you can’t bowl quicker than what you’ve actually got and learn to just bowl six balls in the right area.”
Dexter has certainly contributed with both bat and ball of late – he went into Middlesex’s final game of the season at Worcestershire with 18 first-class wickets to his name and a batting average of just under 30, aided by his recent knock of 112 in the victory at Durham.
Yet, when asked to reflect on the highlights of his Lord’s career, Dexter prefers to cite the achievements of his team-mates rather than personal glory.
“There have been some exceptional innings I’ve witnessed, like Dawid Malan’s in that one-day game against Glamorgan this year, and I can’t forget that superb innings by Chris Rogers in the run chase against Yorkshire [in 2014],” he added.
“That’s got to be at the top. I was part of it at the other end, getting 70-odd not out, and it was something special. Enjoying each other’s success is something they do very well at Yorkshire and I think we’ve done that at Middlesex too.
“Watching someone like Toby Roland-Jones getting his first hundred recently can be a better feeling than getting one yourself. But it’d be nice for me to turn up at Lord’s and do well in the future.
“As much as guys joke about it, of course you want to score some runs and smash a few of your good friends around! That’s the part I’d look forward to and hopefully for Middlesex’s sake it won’t be in the near future – but hopefully for Leicestershire’s it is.”