To outsiders, it must have seemed like Vikram Solanki had accepted the poisoned chalice when he took on the role of Worcestershire skipper this winter.

The role of being county captain under Tom Moody, the director of cricket, was one that had proved too much for the two previous incumbents Graeme Hick and Ben Smith.

Hick lasted only three years before deciding he had had enough while the end came with even more suddenness for Smith.

A month before the close of his second season at the helm, and astonishingly halfway through a County Championship match, he decided he had had enough.

There was no hidden scandal. Smith's extraordinarily abrupt decision was largely down to off-field pressures and the resulting loss of individual form.

Too stressed to sleep due to an internal war of cricket politics, Smith was too tired to perform at his best. Something had to give. Although his timing could be questioned, the wisdom of his decision ultimately was not.

Now Smith has returned, refreshed and ready for action back in the county's batting ranks. The confident Solanki, ably assisted by the positive, chirpy presence of new vice-captain Gareth Batty, has taken over as Worcestershire's on-field leader.

It effectively means that Solanki will step on to the outfield when the County Championship season opens at Derby tomorrow, leading a team containing Smith and Hick. He will emerge from a Worcestershire dressingroom containing two other former county captains, Moody and newly-appointed assistant coach Steve Rhodes. But Solanki does not feel the slightest bit daunted, preferring to see their continued presence as a help rather than a hindrance.

"I don't see it as a problem," he said. "I'm not intimidated.

"I actually think I'm fortunate to be taking over at a time when there are a number of ex-captains still around. All I'm expecting from them and the coaching staff is a great deal of support. It's a wealth of experience, which will be fantastic to draw on."

Solanki and Batty find themselves in charge of a crop of players who, in the words of one respected national newspaper, "vied with Kent last season for the unhappiest dressing-room award".

Only time will tell whether the winter changes of personnel will have helped in that respect. Andy Bichel, a massively uplifting presence, will be missed, the outspoken Andrew Hall probably less so. But, after initially going down the road of trying to enlist a new overseas signing who would come in the role of captain, Moody is confident that he has made the right choices in England duo Solanki and Batty.

He said: "Both have forged together. It's all gone very smoothly and we're shaping up well. All the guys are looking forward to a big year led by Vikram.

"We were disappointed to be relegated. But we're now back in the top division in the one-dayers and confident that we can compete. Although we missed out at Lord's again in the C&G, we want to get back there again, and this time go all the way, with an appropriate bit of silverware."

There is one worrying side issue in the selection of Solanki and Batty for high office in that both are likely contenders for a month away on England one-day duty in mid- summer. Although Moody, himself distracted by recent talk of a contract with the ECB, says that nothing has been decided, Hick is the obvious short- term replacement.

For the moment, Solanki can't wait to get on with it.

He said: "I captained England at different youth agegroup although that's a little while ago now. But it's not rocket science.

"While I'm sure it's going to be challenging, I'm very much looking forward to the challenge.

"I get on well with all the guys, we have a solid dressing-room and I don't see any reason why being captain should not have a positive effect on my form.

"I've had a hectic winter being away on tours and I wish it was a bit warmer but I'm very much looking forward to the season.

"I'm pretty happy with the make-up of the squad and feel we've got most angles covered. We've got quality players who last year played some very good cricket. But we played some ordinary cricket, too, and we've got to look for more consistency."