Derbyshire have moved swiftly to make Wayne Madsen their new captain following the shock retirement of Luke Sutton.
The 27-year-old batsman, who has led teams in his native South Africa and captained Derbyshire in one-day matches towards the end of last season, was a logical selection after emerging as a natural leader and a model professional since joining the club in 2009.
And, though his chance has come in unforeseen circumstances, he says he is ready. “I definitely didn’t see anything like this coming,” he said. “The chance has come sooner than I expected because Luke was due to play for at least another year and it’s not sunk in properly yet.
“The way it has come about is a sad situation and a bit of a shock. Everyone will wish Luke well but the club has to move on.
“As a team, we made a lot of progess last season with a lot of good young players coming through and that makes it a very exciting time for me to be taking over. There is not a lot of experience in the side but that can work in our favour too because we will have a lot of youthful enthusiasm.
“I have captained teams in South Africa and I had the experience of doing some of the one-day games last year. I know this is going to be a much bigger role for me to take on with a lot more responsibility but I do believe I am ready.
“It’s good that it’s happened now, in a way, and not in the middle of the season because it gives me the chance to plan ahead. It was a pleasant surprise and I’m honoured to be given the job.”
Madsen made an immediate impact for Derbyshire midway through the 2009 season, with his unbeaten 170 at Cheltenham a new record by a player making his first-class debut for the county.
He has since played 39 first-class matches for Derbyshire, scoring nine centuries, and has developed into a key one-day player too.
Madsen had played first-class cricket for KwaZulu Natal and Dolphins before he came to England five years ago to play club cricket, but at the time he was given his chance with Derbyshire he had played more games of international hockey for South Africa than he had first-class cricket matches.
The fact that he was offered the captaincy on his third wedding anniversary also gave Madsen a perspective on how quickly his career has moved on.
“Three years ago, when I got married, I wasn’t even playing county cricket and now I’m captain of Derbyshire,” he added. “It’s all happened so quickly for me here.”
This winter has given Madsen the chance to add to his leadership experience by coaching Belper Ladies hockey team and he says that has helped him prepare for the demands of his new role.
“I have learned a lot from the hockey, from the coaching aspect and the selection issues. I’ve probably been a bit of an emotional thinker in the past but I’ve learned that you’ve got to make the big calls by what is best for the team. It has definitely helped from that point of view,” he said.
“Next year was going to be a big one for me individually anyway and now it’s got even bigger but I don’t think it will have a negative effect on my own form because when I have captained teams in the past my batting has thrived. It can help you take your mind off your batting and relax you.
“I know there are going to be ups and downs and I’ve got to be prepared for that. I will work closely with Karl Krikken, I’ve got other senior guys around me and I know I will get the support of the whole team. It is going to take some time to adjust to being captain instead of one of the squad but I’m confident I can do that.”
Madsen signed a new three-year contract with Derbyshire in September and becomes England-qualified in 2013.