Saif Zaib’s aiming to have a big impact on all fronts for Northamptonshire
Saif Zaib says he is determined to build on what was an excellent 2022 campaign and 'prove all the doubters wrong' this summer.
Still only 24, Zaib has been something of a fixture at the County Ground for 10 years now, but last season was a key one for him in terms of consistent first-team impact.
The left-hander played in half of Northants' LV= Insurance County Championship fixtures, scoring 301 runs, including a superb 124 against champions Surrey at Wantage Road in September.
In the Vitality Blast he played all 14 of the Steelbacks' matches, hitting 311 runs at 34.55 with a strike-rate of more than 150, notching three half-centuries into the bargain.
And in the One Day Cup he cracked a superb 137 on his way to amassing 272 runs at 38.85 in seven innings.
Throw in some crucial wickets with his left-arm spin and some spectacular fielding, and it was a contribution Zaib was pleased with, but one he intends to better in 2023.
"I was happy with how the season went, although I was a bit disappointed with the start," said the High Wycombe-born all-rounder..
"I struggled a little bit, and I was really happy with the way I came back.
"I found form in the T20s and the one-day stuff, and then took it into the championship towards the back end.
"It was interesting, but I guess every season has its ebbs and flows and it was nice to come away with a sense of 'you know what, I can do this, and I do belong here'.
"So I am really looking forward to building on that this year, and I can prove all the doubters wrong."
Zaib will have been disappointed to have been left out of the team for the County's first two matches of the summer against Kent and Middlesex, but with him being an all-format player he knows he is going to get his chances.
And when he does, he intends to take them.
"I want to play every game, and I want to make my mark on every game," said Zaib, who is currently playing for the second team in their clash with Glamorgan IIs at Newport.
"I am going into this year with a very positive mindset and I really want to have an impact on every game, as much as I can.
"I want to be there, helping the lads as much as I can in every match, and to help win games for the County."
The County have enjoyed a mixed start to the season, losing at Kent before bouncing back brilliantly to beat Middlesex at the weekend, and ahead of this week's home date with Hampshire, Zaib believes Northants will be a red ball force this summer.
"Last year we just tailed off a little bit towards the end," he said. "We almost ran out of steam, but we did really, really well to stay up when everybody had us to go down
"Even this year there are people saying that we will go down, and I have read loads of comments on social media saying that, but I believe we can challenge that top three.
"Last year we challenged the top teams a few times, and this year I feel we have a better squad to challenge.
"The first six games are the most important, and hopefully we can make a good start and have a good year.
"If you can build momentum and get a good start then it gives you so much confidence going into the year."