Monday, 25 January 2021
Sunday, 10 January 2021
Thursday, 24 December 2020
Friday, 18 December 2020
Thursday, 17 December 2020
Thursday, 10 December 2020
Saturday, 28 November 2020
Friday, 20 November 2020
Friday, 13 November 2020
Saturday, 7 November 2020
Saturday, 24 October 2020
Saturday, 17 October 2020
Saturday, 10 October 2020
Saturday, 26 September 2020
Friday, 25 September 2020
It will be a very different Derbyshire next season, with no Tony Palladino running in from the Media Centre end after ten years of service. With Ravi Rampaul also unlikely to return, unless as an overseas player, there will be little experience in the seam attack.
At 37, Tony was unlikely to be the bowler that he has been and any deal was only likely to be for one year anyway. From the club's perspective, he will be one of the bigger earners but generally only plays one format, so I do appreciate the rationale.
It is also hard to be overly critical of the decision without knowing the plans that Dave Houghton has and who is (presumably) going to come in. The one sure thing in sport is that however good or loyal you have been, the end comes for everyone and it is rarely on their terms.
That there is an abundance of talent in the young seamers who played this year is undeniable. Ben Aitchison, Michael Cohen, Sam Conners and perhaps Dustin Melton will be the ones for next summer, with support from the all rounders and, one assumes, an overseas player. That the county, like others around the country, has to balance the books post-Covid 19 is also undeniable. I don't know the true picture, but without a lot of off-field income the playing budget must have taken a hit and the only way to try and sort that is in players at the end of contracts. From the club's perspective again, the savings from Tony and Ravi may enable recruitment in key areas and/or allow us to stay within view of a break even, or at least minimise the loss.
But it hurts. It will be hurting Tony right now and anyone who has been in similar positions will empathise. He has been an outstanding cricketer for the club, since his arrival from Essex. You always knew that he would test techniques, take wickets and at the very least keep things quiet on the shirt fronts. He ran in as hard at the end of the day as he did at the start and over the course of those ten seasons was a reliable bowler, the club's highest wicket-taker of the 21st century.
He could bat too. There was that memorable century against Australia A, plenty of key contributions when others had failed and some uncomplicated hitting that enlivened many an innings. I always got the impression of a good team man, another reason why, in ideal circumstances, he would have been useful for one more year to advise the young bowlers, take a spell when the going got tough.
But it is not to be. I feel for supporters too, as many would have loved the opportunity to say goodbye and wish him well in person. I have got to know Tony over the past decade and always enjoyed the experience. We had a long chat in the bar in the aftermath of the title win in 2012, plenty of others when I was able to visit the County Ground at other times. He was no different to me than to plenty of others, friendly, courteous and thoroughly professional, always with a regular smile.
At the end of the day 'professional' is the most apposite word for Tony. I have recorded his career with us in interview last winter, which you can find if new to the blog. I wish him the very best for his future and suspect that someone will end up with a very good coach when he gets the opportunity. They will get a top bloke, for sure.
It has been my pleasure to watch him and to get to know him. The club will continue, of course and although he will be hurting right now, I am sure that his next role is just around the corner.
For all the young bowlers at the club, Tony Palladino has set the benchmark for you. If you can reach his standards on the field and be as well-regarded off it, you will do all right.
Go well, TP. You will be sorely missed and thank you for the memories.
Thursday, 24 September 2020
There had been a number of blunt-speaking players in our legendary team of the 1930s, of course, but Arthur Richardson had overcome any personal shortcomings as a player to lead the side with considerable skill to top three positions in 1934 and 1935 before taking the title in 1936. Something similar looked feasible in 1995, but a dressing room that was all too easily fragmented needed a strong leader.
Enter Dean Jones for the 1996 season, as close to the stereotypical Australian as you could wish for. Hard as nails, blunt and with a never-say-die attitude that was just what the doctor ordered. With the benefit of hindsight it was never going to last, but it was, without doubt, magnificent while it did.
Jones was a fixture in a fine Australian side and came with the reputation as being perhaps the best one-day batsman in the world, a title for which only Michael Bevan could challenge him. By the end of the 1996 season, 'Deano' had confirmed himself as an outstanding player, but proven it across all formats. He had also, despite a brusque, often confrontational persona, managed to turn a side of talented individuals into a team that came tantalisingly close to championship success.
Having addressed Derbyshire's perennial weaker suit, an attack featuring Devon Malcolm, Dominic Cork and Phil de Freitas was always likely to win games. Jones set bold fields, encouraged and cajoled his charges and finished the season with a side that managed second place behind Leicestershire. With his friend and coach from Victoria, Les Stillman, Jones became an instant hero. Younger players loved him, older ones, for a season at least, tolerated and responded to his way of working.
As a batsman he had all the shots, strong on anything short, unforgiving on the overpitched ball. His footwork was quick and precise, with perhaps his strongest area between mid-wicket and mid-on. A strong bottom hand, like MS Dhoni today, often saw any bowling shortcomings treated savagely in that area.
Yet it was his running between the wickets that seemed an even stronger suit and so impressed me. When he was batting, ones became twos, twos became threes... Derbyshire looked professional, challenging....good. We took quick singles, where previously batsmen might have held the pose of a correct defensive stroke. It was magnificent to watch.
Like Peter Kirsten before him, Jones played himself in and worked the ball around before unveiling a wide array of shots. He was not a stylist, like Mohammad Azharuddin, but generally looked to be balanced, composed and in control at the crease. In over forty years of cricket watching, he remains the best pacer of a run chase I have seen, never seeming to panic if the run rate mounted. He worked the ball around, timed his shots so there were two to a boundary fielder, chipped over the infield and clubbed it to and over the boundary . He would have made a fortune in the IPL, so it is ironic that his death, from a heart attack, came while employed as a commentator on that competition.
The 'season of Deano' was magnificent yet, like all good things, it could not last. He returned for 1997 but went home in June, the dressing room once again split into factions. Senior members of the side found his abrasive style of leadership hard to deal with and a player with a track record of fall-outs back home decided he simply didn't need the hassle. His departure set off a chain of events that arguably took fifteen years from which to recover, ensuing winters seeing the gradual departure of key members of a very good side.
Whatever his personal foibles - and we all have them - cricket history will see Dean Jones as an outstanding player. His many fine Test innings, including the legendary one at Madras where he ended up on a saline drip after eight hours in the intense heat, confirm he was much more than a one-day scamperer. While he was batting, irrespective of the match situation, you always felt there was a chance of salvaging something. That is a rare and special gift for any player.
Tuesday, 22 September 2020
Writing a review of the T20 season this summer is quite different from last year, and indeed from writing the Bob Willis Trophy review a few short weeks ago.
We never got going this year in the short format and frankly didn't look an especially good team.
There were mitigating circumstances, of course. We played all our matches elsewhere, there were no overseas players and we badly missed Ravi Rampaul, not just for the wickets he took or the tight spells he bowled, but also for the effect on the opposition. They had to take greater risks against the others when Ravi was at one end and in much the same way that others profited when Jackson and Gladwin were bowling in their usual parsimony, wickets often fell as a consequence. Fynn Hudson-Prentice was also missed, a thigh injury wrecking his season and robbing us of not just a fine bowler but a dangerous batsman. Nor was Ben Aitchison available, likely the most accurate of the youngsters who debuted in the summer.
Yet selection was odd. At one point Alex Hughes was omitted, which seemed strange for a player who would be first on many team sheets for this format. He responded as most would expect, but the decision to drop him was puzzling. Even more so the omission, until the last game, of Tom Wood.
His game is naturally aggressive and you can look around the counties and see the successful sides all have a top order dasher. There was no real surprise in that he scored a 31-ball half century against a decent home attack, more so in that Dominic Cork opted not to include him until then, when the top four was misfiring like an old car. The non-utilisation of a lad who has been the most prolific home-grown batsman in at least a decade at lower levels remains a mystery. If there is any justice, an opportunity to break into the top five next year should be forthcoming, because in common with many of you I don't think he got that this year. For the life of me, I can't rationalise that one.
Last year the success of the side was in a top four who chased down any target or set one beyond the compass of most opponents. It was clear, when we lost however, that it was to sides who generally opened the bowling with slow bowlers. Both Luis Reece and Billy Godleman are fine players, but more destructive against seam than spin. We rarely got a start and were quickly two down, too quickly, too often for comfort. The change should have been made earlier, proactive rather than reactive, because we had been 'sussed'.
For all his success last year, I am not sure Billy is a right 'fit' for T20 and until we score at more than six an over in the powerplay, we won't win many matches. Maybe next year a T20 specialist skipper is needed, letting Billy concentrate on the formats where he is undoubtedly excellent and letting him have the breather which all players need. He averaged 'only' a run a ball in the competition, which really isn't enough.
While perhaps not the force of his younger years, Wayne Madsen remained the key wicket and, as the best player of spin in the club, would be an obvious choice at the top of the order another year. He and Du Plooy scored the only other fifties in the ten matches, which was the crux of the problem. Any of the top four were likely to be sought after for the Hundred after last year's exploits, but Madsen's top average of 24 told a story. Luis Reece played only one innings of note and looked jaded after a lot of work in the four-day game, while Du Plooy for the first time slipped from a lofty pedestal. Both will surely return to erstwhile glories next year, when normality hopefully resumes
Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes played some handy cameos and largely reproduced their 2019 form with the ball, but there were insufficient runs to play with and neither was able to play a game-changing innings when required. This was mainly because they had to press the accelerator from the start - such cameos would have been fine in a better performing batting side.
Of the seamers, Dustin Melton looked the best, perhaps that latter-day incarnation of Ole Mortensen in his intensity, though with some way still to go in the sustained accuracy to match the aggression. Michael Cohen troubled with his pace and, with a better radar could be a serious talent, as could be said for Sam Conners in this format.
Mattie McKiernan finished top in the economy averages, and is a solid, if not spectacular player. The same could be said of Anuj Dal, whose bowling might have been better utilised and whose fleet-footed running was an asset in the field, as well as the closing overs if he got in. Meanwhile the two wicket-keepers shared duties, although Brooke Guest looked better suited to the style of batting required than Harvey Hosein. They are equally good behind the stumps and it will be interesting to see if either forces their way ahead in 2021. However, in a limited staff there is likely to be discussion on whether another keeper is the right way forward for next year, when Ben McDermott is pencilled in to play. Mind you, McDermott and Wood might be an opening pair to savour...
As for the coach, it may be that we go a different way in 2021. Dominic Cork is shrewd and intelligent, so will know a coach is only as good as his team statistics in the season just finished. Despite last year's success and the mitigating circumstances, one win in ten games and the worst record in the country confirms a disappointing campaign. Most noticeable was a drop in fielding standards, which reached its nadir on that awful night at The Riverside.
With four coaches already on the staff, perhaps the additional cost could go to the playing budget next year, with Mal Loye a likely candidate for the T20 role.
As always, I welcome your thoughts on any or all of the above, just as I appreciate your support through the last few hectic months.