FIRST-team coach Paul Grayson and captain Mark Pettini are both hopeful that overseas star Danish Kaneria will be available for the start of Essex Cricket Club’s season.

Kaneria is due to arrive back at the Ford County Ground very shortly and both Grayson and Pettini hope he will be in the country for the season’s opener in the LV County Championship against Derbyshire on April 15.

The Pakistani leg-spinner has proved a huge hit with fans, players and coaches alike since first playing for the club in 2004.

A broken finger curtailed his involvement at the end of last season, but he is fully recovered now. Grayson said: “We hope Danish is going to be here for the first game of the season.

“We are in negotiations with the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) and hopefully he will be here for the first match.

“He has been here for four or five seasons now and he knows this place really well.

“He is very popular with the players and a match-winner.”

There have been some fears that Kaneria’s Essex involvement may be shortened due to international commitments, but Grayson said the county is hoping that won’t be the case.

“We hope he will be available more than not,” he said. “There is a tournament arranged mid-season between Pakistan and Sri Lanka with a three-Test series, so we may lose him for that.

“However, we aren’t sure if that series will go on or not, you never know what is going to happen.

“If he goes off we will look to get in a replacement, but we hope he is going to be here most of the season.”

And that is a sentiment that Pettini was keen to echo.

“Hopefully Danish will be back here for the start or very close to the start,” he added.

“He is a key player for us and he loves it here, which is great to have an overseas player who loves to play for you.

“We will look forward to seeing him as soon as possible and to have him for most of the year as well.”