TURNING 40 has done little to dilute John Blain’s enthusiasm for cricket as a new domestic season gets underway.

Last year’s stellar campaign included the one-time Northants, Yorkshire and Scotland bowler taking five wickets to help Grange beat Ferguslie in the CSL Grand Trophy Final and, despite passing that milestone birthday in January, the club’s director of cricket is raring to get back into it again as all around the country wickets are prepared, squares mowed and whites dug out from the back of wardrobes. Weather permitting as always, of course.

The highlights of this year’s Scottish cricket calendar will include the ODI matches against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, as well as the introduction of the Euro T20 Slam later in the summer, but at club level it will be about Grange reasserting their dominance on the domestic scene. And Blain is happy to remain at the heart of that.

“I made my debut at Penicuik when I was 13 so this will be my 28th summer playing cricket,” said the former Hibernian and Falkirk prospect who also somehow finds the time to coach two Hutchison Vale football teams among all his other cricket and family commitments.

“You’re a long time retired as people keep telling me so I’m really looking forward to being involved again this season and doing my bit.

“It was a nice feeling to play a part in the final last year, when you get that bit of sweat rolling down the brow, so hopefully we can bring more success to Grange this year.

“The only hard part can be finding time to fit in my own physical preparation as coaching and organising different aspects at the club, like our academy, take up a fair amount of time. But it’s nice to still be part of a good side at a strong club.”

Teams from the east have dominated the end-of-season finale, with Prestwick the only Western Premier side to emerge triumphant in the past seven years.

Blain naturally hopes that trend continues but has sympathy for his colleagues in the west. “The year Prestwick won it I was delighted for them as I know how hard it can be.

“There’s always that argument over whether cricket is better in the east or the west but it’s not really about that.

“The clubs in the west, for me, have to work twice as hard to keep things moving. I admire the likes of West of Scotland, Ferguslie and Poloc who every year turn out good performances and strong teams and it’s not easy when you don’t have the footfall. And that’s the story for a lot of clubs.

“It makes you appreciate how lucky we are here at Grange. We really SHOULD be winning stuff with the footfall and the luxuries we have here. That’s not always been the case so my job over the last few years has been to ask questions of the set-up, the structure, the pathway and the culture.

“Dovetailed with the attraction high-quality players and we’ve now got a strong product.”

Details of the Euro T20 Slam, the newly-created competition featuring six teams from Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands - including one based in Glasgow and another in Edinburgh - will be announced at the end of the month.

Blain hoped it would help raise the profile of the game again. “We hit an all-time high with cricket in Scotland last year with the win over England and that really showed the potential there. There’s been a bit of a lull since then so this event could the shot in the arm we need to help capture the public’s imagination again.”