While not the biggest surprise in the world, Rikki Clarke's departure with only a year of his contract gone is quite sad.
He arrived in a blaze of publicity amid promises to turn Derbyshire into a major county and to resurrect his England ambitions as captain. There was a promising pre-season tour and one or two early season innings, but the "England cricketer" within was very well hidden for the most part. Derbyshire fans would have found it easy to accept his failures if he had appeared to try harder, but the nature of his game is that he plays in a languid style that makes the game look easy. This is fine when he's in form, but when he's not, like this season, it makes him a fairly easy target.
There were signs of a useful captain in there but also some strange decisions in the field which one assumes were his. Team selections I could rarely argue with but whether they were his decision or the coach's is debatable. His bowling was what it has always been, variable and annoying. He is capable of bowling an absolute belter that can defeat the best batsman, then follow it with two long hops and a full pitch and he rarely bowled an economical spell, especially as the season progressed.
One assumes that there were "issues" with John Morris and if so that is nothing new for Derbyshire. Where Kim Barnett and Dominic Cork were on a strong footing in such squabbles because of their performances, Clarke was in no position of strength. Geoff Boycott famously polarised Yorkshire fans, but kept a lot on his side with the sheer force of both his personality and his average. Cork and Barnett did likewise, but when you reach September with a batting average of 21 and a bowling one of 38....
Like most fans I wish him well in his move to Little Derbyshire.... sorry, Warwickshire, where he has signed a three-year deal. He now joins Ant Botha and Boyd Rankin at Edgbaston but will have to improve on his last two years if he is to make any impact. He may end up as a talent unfulfilled but if he can't bat on the wickets at Edgbaston he should and probably will call it a day.
So what does it mean for Derbyshire, which is, after all, what I and many of you care about. It means we have a lot more money in the player budget for next year as Clarke was on a large salary and enables us to compete in the market for names rumoured to be available. To Michael Vaughan, supposedly considering a break from Yorkshire, can be added the names of Ed Joyce and Ed Smith, both considering their future at Middlesex. They'll both be targets for Warwickshire of course...
Perhaps John Morris will use the captaincy as a carrot to entice a "big name", hopefully with greater success than last year. I'm not blaming the coach for this as he must have expected a return from Clarke, like we all did. He may equally decide to give the job to Chris Rogers, who has emerged from an OK start to a very fine season.
Whatever else, it should make the winter months exciting and we'll be keeping our eyes on the County Ground. Hopefully, you'll keep yours on this blog, where any news will be aired as soon as possible.