When you reach a landmark it should be of something or someone a little special and I feel that it is quite apt that the subject for the 200th post of this blog is Steve Stubbings, currently having his benefit year.
He's just turned 30 and has been with the county since 1997. In itself that is worthy of note as cricketers change county as often as many change socks these days. Stubbo has seen captains and overseas players come and go and has overcome being written off as a county cricketer by his then captain Dominic Cork.
Over those eleven years he has rarely been the star of the show, but has been the engine room of the side, quietly building his innings and playing straight through the V between mid on and mid off. Like most left handers he is strong off his pads and in 20 years time, if I'm still around to think of such things, my abiding memory of Steve Stubbings will be his chassis down the track in one day matches, ending in his whipping the ball over or through the area between mid on and mid wicket.
The term "journeyman pro" may well have been invented for Steve Stubbings. An average of 32 through his career doesn't leave him among the all time greats but think on. It leaves him ahead on that average of club legends such as Denis Smith, Les Townsend and Stan Worthington. Donald Carr, who many would say was one of our best ever bats, finished with an average of 29.
Of course, it is impossible to compare eras and those named above played in times when wickets were uncovered once the game had begun. Nonetheless, Stubbo has usually played in a Derbyshire side of questionable batting ability and has more often than not been the one man you could rely on to sell his wicket dearly. Over the past few years I have often switched on teletext to see that Derbyshire were 45-3 or somesuch.
The first thought that went through my head was usually "I wonder if Diva/Katich/Birt/ Moss is still in".
The second, on seeing the scorecard was often "oh no, they're out".
The third, after a quick double check, has regularly been "thank goodness - Stubbo is still there"
That is the measure of the man, reliability. Over that period, openers have come and gone and with each has come a challenge to the 6'4" left hander. Without exception, they have all been seen off, rarely spectacularly, but always with a great professionalism and a good measure of common sense.
I remember a game against Scotland up here 2-3 years ago. A typical, moving Grange wicket and batsmen all day struggled to middle it. No one looked comfortable, apart from Steve Stubbings, who ground out a match winning unbeaten 70-odd that saw us to a win. Many players will make hay when the sun shines, the track is flat and the TV cameras are following their every move. Those that are really worth their salt are the ones who will score runs when conditions favour the bowlers and the crowd is sparse.
Above all, I will remember Steve Stubbings as perhaps one of the most genial of Derbyshire players. Only Pop Welch has surpassed him in my book and he'd have a ready smile for anyone in Derbyshire colours and a word for those who wanted one.
I've just realised that the last few paragraphs sound like an appreciation of one who has retired or been released. I sincerely hope that this is not the case, although this hasn't been a vintage summer for him. A shoulder injury was expected to clear up over the winter and didn't, so needed a Spring operation. This affected his fielding as he couldn't throw, but had to affect his batting too. The distractions of the benefit must also have taken their toll and many before him have had similar problems during a benefit or testimonial year. Nonetheless, Steve Stubbings has kept the smile on his face and irrespective of form or fitness has always given 100%.
I'd have to say that if every Derbyshire player in the last ten years had done that, we may well have had more to show for them. For what its worth, I think Stubbings and Rogers would be a good opening pair next season and the greater need is for more stability in the middle order.
Good luck with the benefit Steve. If events are held near you, go along and support them if you can and acknowledge one of the gutsiest professionals the county has had in its history.