VARIOUS leagues may be paying their respects to Prince Philip on Saturday, but Oliver Musgrave sums up what many people must be feeling ahead of the new local campaign of leather on willow.

The new Bolton Villas skipper has admitted: “I cannot recall being quite so excited for the cricket season.

“After 15 years in the Aire-Wharfe League, I can say that this is one of the most talented sides I have been involved with.”

Villas finished third in Division Three in the shortened 2020 campaign, and Musgrave says: “We are delighted with the signing of Bilal Ahmed.

“An opening bat, Billy played with Kirkheaton in the Huddersfield League, as well as having had Bradford League experience at Scholes.

“The departure of Amir Hussain will be felt but we wish him well at Cleckheaton.

“However, the family remains a huge part of the club, with father Mahboob taking on the reins of vice-captain, while brother Siraj will continue as a top-order batsman, as well as stepping into Amir’s shoes as lead spinner.

“’Booby’ will also offer knowledge and nous in the spin department after a much-respected career in the Bradford League.

“Joe Lawrence is living and working in the home counties at present, but we hope to see him back in a Villas shirt soon but Shiv Bhatoa is one of the most exciting prospects in the league, completing the top order as well as offering headaches for the seam-bowling changes.

“Sam Lawrence will again open the bowling and will be looking to add to his impressive wickets record as a one-club man.

“Further seam options will come from Louis Brown, the ageless Michael Oldfield and Adam Shabbir.”

Musgrave added: “Promotion is a clear expectation and we have a squad of 14 or 15 who are committed to make it happen after a few years of third-place finishes.”

Amir Hussain and Joe Lawrence are not the only notable departures, however, as long-standing scorer Harry ‘H’ Rycroft – he goes back to the club’s Bradford Central League days – has hung up his HB pencil.

Off the field, Villas have received a substantial grant from Sport England’s Lottery Fund, which has enabled them to invest in major renovations to their showers and toilet area and the umpires’ changing room.

Although a lot of this work will be done before the autumn, some may understandably have to be deferred to September.

Saltaire, sixth in their debut season in Division One last year, have recruited the experienced Mustahsan Shah from Bilton and fellow all-rounder Zahir Abbas from Guiseley.

The men from Roberts Park realise that they showed their naivety at times in 2020, and reckon that things will be even harder this campaign, with Beckwithshaw having been promoted.

Among those not in the Saltaire ranks for 2021 are the trio of Waqas Rasheed, Junaid Jamshed and Aftab Khan but Humare Amjad is back at Roberts Park after a spell at Tong Park Esholt.

Calverley, relegated from Division Two last season, are hoping for a swift return, buoyed by signing Nick Goldsmith from Tong Park Esholt and Curtis Sugden from Old Leodiensians, as well as welcoming back a number of players after either ill health, family or work commitments.

Thackley, in the same division as Calverley and also hoping to challenge for promotion, have a new man at the helm in Andrew Roberts, who replaces Kevin Dewhirst.

They have also spent money on improving the drainage and have invested in a new electronic scorebox.

Harden, promoted at the first time of asking from Division Four, have signed five players to boost their prospects and have reintroduced their third team to the league in the Sunday section.