• Captain: Max Burton
  • Overseas professional: Abhishek Raut
  • Players in: Jared Wilson, Varun Chopra, Francis Collins.
  • Player out: None
  • Young players to watch: Varun Chopra.

It was a tough baptism for Cliftonville Academy in the top flight in 2022, but they will be hopeful of better fortunes this campaign.

Max Burton is the new captain, and is looking forward to the challenge of taking the reins.

"I'm very excited and honoured to take on the role of captain," he told CricketEurope.

"Kelso did a great job and left the club in a better place.

"You look across the league and there are a number of very young captains, probably the youngest on record. As well as myself, you have John Matchett, and CJ van der Walt, so it will be really exciting to see how that works out." 

The club has a replacement professional in Indian leg-spinner and middle-order batsman Abhishek Raut, who skippers his province in first-class cricket, and also featured in the IPL previously for Rajasthan Royals.

"I'm incredibly happy to have an older head with his quality and experience to call upon," said skipper Burton about the addition of Raut.

"We haven't lost any players from 2022, but have strengthened considerably over the close season. We have Varun Chopra joining from Coleraine, and everyone across Ireland knows what he is capable of. We are all hoping that this new challenge will see the best of him.

"Jared Wilson from Newbuildings is another massive addition, not only as a player but also as a coach. We are really happy to have him on board, and he is doing great work with the structures and the youth sections and that will be so important for the progression of the club.

"Francis Collins has moved back to Northern Ireland from a spell in Newcastle. He has already experienced Premier League cricket at Carrick, and has enjoyed an excellent few seasons in Newcastle so he will certainly add to the batting as well.

"In terms of our young player to watch, then it's the aforementioned Varun. He is a quality leg-spinner and batsman, but maybe in the last few years hasn't performed as well with the ball. However, he s looking really well in training, so we are excited to see what he can do.

"We are extremely excited about the year ahead. Last season was obviously the first year the club had played Premier League and we were very inexperienced. Eight of our starting XI hadn't played at that level so it was a massive learning curve  for us. The season didn't go the way we wanted but the fact that we managed to stay up was key and we will learn and grow from that.

"The four players we have brought in will add quality and depth to the squad of last year, and the club is optimistic about our prospects for 2023.

"We start our season this Saturday (April 22nd) with a home match against Waringstown. Not the easiest of fixtures, but we are really excited to get into it."