WHAT a warming sight it was this winter to see Gra-eme Hick batting with such power and authority.

Great for him and heartening for English cricket lovers, though Worcestershire supporters would have had their joy tempered knowing that this would lead to a summer at New Road largely spent without his presence.

For this, of course, is the summer of the World Cup. English cricket en-ters this period in reasonable fettle, despite more failures down under.

The images of Hick smashing Gillespie over the distant Perth boundaries; of the perseverance and heart-stopping drama of that win in Melbourne and of Gough's irresistible hat-trick, are strong memories to launch the season.

And it is a crucial one, because the World Cup offers an opportunity to sell the sport to English youth as never before.

The spreading of the venues through the country should bring the colour and dash of the various competing nations to a huge and fresh live audience.

New Road has the ap-petising prospect of a classic underdog battle when Scotland take on Australia.

Worcestershire supporters will probably be able to forgive the Scots their victory over the County last year if they are able to overturn the Aussies.

Zimbabwe against the world champions Sir Lanka follows. Both of these nations were once considered minnows, but their emergence has added much needed credibility to the extended format of the competition.

Worcestershire make an early start this year. Durham next week will test the very best of thermals. The players have been back since the last week in March on a full time basis, begging the question again as to the part-time nature of this supposedly professional sport.

That Worcestershire still has to cast around the area for indoor facilities during this period is nigh on criminal.

It is to be hoped that, as the County aim for top division, first class status this year, the long sought after goal of an indoor centre on the garage site next to the river can be achieved.

Worcestershire cricket needs a focal point, and not just in the summer.

Hick was not the only Worcestershire man abroad this winter.

Followers will have noted with pleasure that the man who scored his maiden first-class century while Graeme was acquiring his hundredth was performing well with the England 'A' team in Africa.

Vikram Solanki's efforts were as mercurial as ever; effortless, classy if, at times, so frustratingly brief.

The 'A' team was hugely successful and has been since its inception.

What happens therefore between then and Test match level?

Will Michael Vaughan go on to be the next England opening bat or Dean Cos-ker the next finger spinner? Or does our county circuit dull their appetite and cutting edge?

Where are Worcestershire's "graduates?"

The team looks much the same this year as last. Another year older, but it is only the younger generation who can really be another year wiser.

Let's hope for an Indian summer for the Worcestershire faithful and a hot one for the World Cup!