Last September, Neil Dexter was a title-winning captain. Now he’s having to fight for his place in the side.
The batsman led Middlesex to the Division Two title last year, although he averaged just 26 with the bat and only made one century.
A poor start to this season, with just 145 runs to his name in nine innings, prompted Dexter into a selfless decision – to temporarily hand over the four-day captaincy in April to overseas star Chris Rogers.
Removing the burden of leadership was designed to allow Dexter to focus on his batting, but a poor run of scores led to him being left out of the Championship match with Sussex in May – just eight months after the title success.
“I understood the decision because I hadn’t been scoring. You can’t always expect to be playing when you haven’t scored the runs,” Dexter told West London Sport.
“[Giving up the captaincy] was a tough decision to make but it was right. [Director of cricket] Angus Fraser backed me 100 per cent.
“Chris Rogers is a good team man and someone who got into a good run of form, scored a century against Lancashire at Liverpool and hasn’t looked back from there.
“I’ve enjoyed my Championship cricket this year and it’s now up to me to get myself back into the team.”
Dexter remains captain for the limited-overs matches and will eventually be in charge of the four-day team again when he feels happier with his batting.
He said: “Angus and Chris know the situation. Once I’m back in the side and playing well again then I will return.”
Rogers supported Dexter’s decision. He said: “As a captain sometimes you can get thinking about everyone else and not yourself.
“He’s only 27 and he’s still working on his game and his technique.”
Dexter is in his fourth season at Lord’s, after his 2008 switch from Kent, and in spite of his own personal difficulties with the bat, is backing the team to challenge at the top of Division One this year.
“I didn’t want to see us go up and just be happy to stay up. As a club you are judged by the kind of four-day cricket you play,” he said.
“We’ve been quite smart in the cricket we’ve played in the four-day game. Our bowling attack has done an exceptional job on wickets that have been a bit fresher because of the weather.”
Having been born and brought up in Johannesburg, you could forgive Dexter for split loyalties ahead of the Test series this summer between his adopted nation and his birthplace. But there is no doubt who he will be supporting.
He said: “I’ve been here nine years and I call England my home. My grandfather was born here although my mum and dad are still out in South Africa.
“I moved here when I was 18 years old and I hold a British passport, so I’m very much English. I’m just looking forward to a good series with some good cricket played.”