New Carlton cricket captain Ali Evans has urged the young players at the club to grab their opportunities in the first team this summer as they look to defend the CSL Eastern Premiership title.
The league campaign begins on Saturday with Carlton, who also defeated Clydesdale to be crowned national club champions in 2016, away to Glenrothes.
Scotland cap Evans, 28, has been named skipper in place of Steve Gilmour. And with experienced players like the latter, Fraser Watts and Hugo Southwell unlikely to be involved as much due to other commitments this time around, and Gordon Drummond having retired, it presents some of Carlton’s up-and-coming talent with chances in the coming weeks.
Evans, who grew up playing at the club, said: “I am honoured to be asked to captain this club and it is something I am very much looking forward to.
“Obviously as defending champions there is a bit of pressure on us while a few of the older guys will not be around, but that opens up great opportunities for young players who have been knocking on the door of the first team for a while to stake their claim for a regular spot in the side.
“Our youth system has brought through lots of players in the last decade or so and I am excited to work with the current crop and help them develop.”
Australian all-rounder Michael Herdman has also returned to Carlton for a second spell in place of Mario Olivier.
Watsonians finished as runners-up in 2016 and they have bolstered their batting line-up with the arrival of Scotland man George Munsey.
The 24-year-old left hander came through the ranks at Mazars Grange and helped them win the title in 2015.
Last summer he played down south for Oxford, and Watsonians will be hoping his runs make a big difference at the top of the order.
Andy McKay, the Kiwi who took a number of wickets last year, will once again lead the Sonians bowling attack.
“We feel in a pretty good place and it has been pleasing to get George on board to add to the players we already have here,” Watsonians captain Ewan Chalmers said.
“Like every other team in the division we just want to get off to a solid start in the opening weeks.”
On Saturday they are away new boys SMRH at Inverleith.
Following promotion, SMRH skipper Greg Ruthven knows it could be a tough summer especially with their main bowler, his brother Elliot, still away in Australia for the next month or so.
However, South African duo Shaylen Pillay and Cariston Diedericks have arrived and will have a big part to play in their campaign.
Ruthven said: “We know it is a big step up from the Championship, but we are excited to be in this division and will give it our all.”
Mazars Grange finished fourth last time out and ex-Scotland skipper Preston Mommsen now leads the side.
Opening bowler James Tapper has arrived from New Zealand while Scotland hopefuls Dylan Budge and Harris Carnegie add to an already competitive squad.
Heriot’s, fifth in 2016, head to Stockbridge to play them this Saturday with a fairly settled team and Keith Morton still as skipper.
All-rounder Sean Hinmers, 18, has arrived at Goldenacre and he has previously played for Zimbabwe under-17s while the bowling of Adrian Neill will once again be key for them.
Arbroath take on Falkland, and Aberdeenshire are at Tayside Group Forfarshire to complete the opening fixtures.
The Baillie Gifford ESCA Championship and the other East leagues also start this weekend.
GUIDE TO THE CAPITAL’S TOP-FLIGHT CLUBS
Captain: Ali Evans
Main arrival: Michael Herdman
Opening match: Glenrothes away
Home ground: Grange Loan
Captain: Keith Morton
Main arrival: Sean Hinmers
Opening match: Grange away
Home ground: Goldenacre
Captain: Preston Mommsen
Main arrival: James Tapper
Opening match: Heriot’s home
Home ground: Portgower Place
Captain: Greg Ruthven
Main arrival: Shaylen Pillay
Opening match: Watsonians home
Home ground: Inverleith
Captain: Ewan Chalmers
Main arrival: George Munsey
Opening match: SMRH home
Home ground: Myreside