UNBURDENED by the winter worries of a county captain, Alex Gidman is already looking ahead to the 2013 cricket season with relish.
Former Wycliffe College student Gidman stepped down as Gloucestershire skipper at the end of last summer, having seen his side finish bottom of LV= County Championship Division Two.
The 31-year-old is optimistic of both personal and collective success in the coming year, with Michael Klinger now leading the side.
He said: "One of the beauties of not being captain anymore is that, while I obviously want the team to do well, I am just aiming to score as many runs as I can and not thinking so much about our targets as a club.
"The aim will obviously be promotion, and we have a lot of talented young players who will be a year older and wiser, so there is every reason for optimism.
"Although it is only December I can't wait to get started."
Gidman has been casting an eye over Gloucestershire's fixture list for the new campaign, which begins with a repeat of last year's opening-day trip to Essex.
"We lost heavily, but then were well on top at Cheltenham in the return match when it rained hard for two and a half days," he said.
"We have had some good games against Essex in recent seasons, but with both teams fresh at the start of a new campaign past form won't count for much.
"In the opening game last year their experience showed through and they bowled better than us.
"Their batsmen were in a no-fear frame of mind, whereas perhaps we went into our shells a bit.
"They outplayed us and we put in something of a rusty performance, but it had a good impact on us because we bounced back straight away to beat Hampshire.
"We know what their bowling plan will be this time around and what to expect from the pitch, which will definitely be an advantage.
"It's important that we go into the game better prepared and if that is the case we will have every chance of a winning start."
A former Hatherley and Reddings player, Gidman's strong ties with the north of the county mean he has huge affection for the Cheltenham Cricket Festival.
And he is excited by the prospect of Twenty20 coming to the town for the first time in 2013, as well as four-day encounters against Kent and Worcestershire.
He said: "We beat Kent comprehensively at the Festival a couple of years ago so it's a place they might not be over-keen to visit.
"We have especially enjoyed playing at Cheltenham in the last two seasons and produced some good cricket there, with the lads really coming to understand the conditions.
"Worcestershire is a local derby and, while they have been in the first division, if you analyse the two sides man for man we should feel confident about beating them.
"They are a skilful and competitive unit, but I believe that we have better players and would fancy facing their bowling attack on the type of wicket we get at Cheltenham."