REPLACING a talented and popular cricket pro can be a daunting task for a first-season professional in the Lancashire League.

And many have floundered if performances - in often difficult early-season conditions - do not immediately gain the amateurs' respect.
Few left a bigger hole to fill than Kartik Murali at

Ramsbottom Cricket Club after the club won the Worsley Cup and narrowly missed out on the league championship in 2005.
But in Sunil Joshi, the Acre Bottom club found an ideal replacement, who similarly bewildered batsmen with his left-arm spin and won over supporters with an easy charm and humble approach to life.

Losing a series of vital tosses in rain-affected games late in the season and some poor batting, eventually condemned Ramsbottom to third place in 2006.

But Joshi's consistent performances with ball and bat made the offer of a new contract for 2007 a formality.

And there was immense pleasure and satisfaction at Acre Bottom when he agreed to return for a second year.

The Indian all-rounder explained: 'Before I came to Ramsbottom there were about five or six clubs interested and it came down to Todmorden, Ramsbottom and Morecambe. I knew Kartik had played here last year so I spoke to him about Rammy. He said that it was fantastic with the set-up and the people.

'Kartik said I would enjoy Rammy. I knew the Lancashire League was the best league in the country and I was very happy to join Ramsbottom and it paid off for me and hopefully the club as well.

'Although it was my first season, it never felt like my first season. I was comfortable from the first time I went to the club.'
The feeling was mutual.

And the club quickly learned they had found a polished diamond as soon as Joshi went to work with the ball.
He explained: 'There are three things. Planning, preparation and execution.'

Joshi set high standards for himself but expects others to work at their game.

And he left behind a personal target for each Ramsbottom player.

He explained: 'I set up schedules for each player and expect quite a bit from them in terms of fitness, diet and skills. I have handed them a training programme for the winter and each individual has been given a target based on their talent. When I come back I want to see a change in them.

'If they are at Stage Two then we can go on to Stage Three. I can only request that they follow the schedule. Not many amateurs will try to work hard over the winter so that they can do well when the season starts. That is why I have done it for them and they are keen to do well.'