Sunday, 26 October 2008

The joy of signings

Here we are, if not in the bleak midwinter (though yesterday felt like it)then a long way from the resumption of County cricket.

Tomorrow night we have our cricket AGM at the club and it couldn't be less like cricket weather. Then again, after last summer, maybe it is pretty close. Yesterday we had high winds and heavy rain, just like August...

When you're a fan of a team, each winter brings hope that you will make signings to galvanise the side and change fortunes, when the reality is that the following season brings the same old, age old problems to the fore.

I really feel that we are not too far away from a very good Derbyshire side, but it has not always been so. Winters have brought news of Derbyshire signings, potential and otherwise. Some have been met with interest (Garry Park recently), some with astonishment (James Graham-Brown - why?) and a few with unbelievable excitement.

I remember when we were set to sign Dennis Lillee back in the 1970's. The best young quick bowler in the world was coming to Derbyshire and we anticipated him destroying teams as he had done England.

Then he did his back and we ended up with (I think) Venkat...

There have been signings that resulted from a scouring of the Professional Cricketers Rest Home for the Elderly. Phil Sharpe, Ron Headley, Fred Rumsey, Fred Trueman - at one point you could have been forgiven for thinking the club was sponsored by SAGA.

Some were exciting but never materialised. Nathan Astle, Mohammad Yousuf and Mahela Jayawardene were all set to sign and pulled out for varying reasons. Jacques Rudolph was another (why didn't we check if he fancied playing as a Kolpak, instead of letting Yorkshire benefit?)

Geoff Boycott too. In the days of his disputes with Yorkshire, there were strong suggestions that he was set to move across the border to us and discussions were held, yet it never materialised.

There have been plenty of strange signings. Shahid Afridi was signed for April and May when he had built a reputation for being a flat track slogger. The results were predictable. He barely made a run (nor a defensive stroke) and his leggies hardly turned on early season wickets. Mohammad Kaif was signed as an up and coming Indian batsman but found the County grind difficult. Travis Birt was retained in place of the soon-to-be European player Michael Di Venuto and we all know how that turned out.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall at some of these discussions, just as long as I could have landed on the table and told the participants that they were mad. I'll defer to professionals on grounds of knowledge in many cases, but the logic of these decisions baffles me now as it did then.

The same with the signing of Peter Kirsten over Allan Lamb. No problem with the former, one of our finest-ever batsmen, but we could have had them both. No one gets it right every time, but we are looking for decisions that illustrate common sense has been applied.

In both of the winter signings so far, the signs are good in that respect. Garry Park was wanted by Durham, has good averages yet needed regular cricket that they could not offer. We signed him - result. Tim Groenewald is signed as a replacement for Wayne White. Is he a better player? Definitely, so again - result.

Whoever else comes in this winter, all that we as fans can ask for is that an obvious, logical thought process has been applied. As long as they appear an improvement on what we already have, were respected by their former employers and are not yet in a bath chair in the field I'm prepared to give them the benefit.

Yet it's difficult. John Sadler looked a sound signing last year after good seasons with Leicestershire, yet did poorly for us. Dom Telo had a good record in South African cricket (albeit at not quite top level) and also struggled. Nayan Doshi had bowled well in one day cricket for Surrey and did so for us, but rarely looked like bowling out sides who were happy to nudge him around for ones and twos. Then there was Rikki Clarke. Less said the better, I suppose, but most of us were excited by his signing last winter and hoped for a lot better than what later transpired.

So, with a few days of October to go, let's all hope that John Morris has something lined up that will get us through the winter months, anticipating better things when April comes round once more.

On my way home from the AGM tomorrow night I'll probably think of April, looking at a scoreboard that reads Derbyshire 375-2 and global dominance. As always, I'll settle for competitiveness and a few wins here and there.

Enough for a trophy, of course.

Friday, 24 October 2008

New poll

The news that Stuart Law was being released by Lancashire came as a surprise, despite a poorer season last year.

Would you want him as a close season signing for Derbyshire, or is he past it?

Alternatively, should we go the Kolpak route and sign Lance Klusener?

Those who read this blog regularly will know that a couple of weeks ago I suggested that we might go for Deon Kruis of Yorkshire, who has now agreed to return to the club on a new deal. I'd have to say that the Yorkies don't handle these contractual negotiations too well and never have. Still, at least they have their man for next year while we have signed Tim Groenewald who could be an interesting signing.

I'll be interested to see how this one goes.
Around half of you felt that Garry Park may well turn out to be a very astute signing, while 40% thought they would wait and see.

I'm in the first camp. He appears a good signing and I'm looking forward to seeing him in our colours.

Back in business

In the words of that old classic by Willie Nelson - well hello there, my it's been a long, long time.

Having lost internet connection for a couple of weeks when my laptop went away to hospital, I'm now back online and in possession of a much healthier and repaired machine.

So what's been happening? The answer to that is - not a lot.
After the signings of Messrs Park and Groenewald, we're all champing at the bit for more.

Of course, we don't know for sure that there will be much more, but it's a widely held assumption if one does the Maths of the departed. Given that Clarke was on a lot of money, Doshi would have been on a fair salary and Kevin Dean was an experienced professional, there must have been a fair amount on wages for that little lot. Throw in Wayne White's money and it's a fair chunk of the playing budget available.

Of course, Chris Rogers as overseas player would earn less than Rogers the overseas star and skipper, while Graham Wagg has deservedly got an improved deal. My guess, however, would be that we may have 70-80K left for team improvements.

Like most fans, I'd like to see this go on another batsman, ideally one of experience and reputation. A Law, Klusener or Blackwell if you will, though they may all be out of our league and compass. If we sign one of these, I still feel that there is a great need for someone to be our lynchpin in the 20/20 next year. Perhaps Chris Rogers is going to play the full season next year and that would give us an improved batting line-up, but we must have more from the top-order batting next year. Rogers apart, the early order was brittle and it is in need of an old and experienced head. Maybe Law is too old at 40, but his erstwhile team mates and supporters reckoned him the best batsman at the club. Given Hick had some good years post-40, Law might have something to offer the young talent coming through.

As for the new players, I think that Park could be a real gem. In recent seasons for the Durham seconds he has averaged between 50 and 70, while doing pretty well on the occasional first team appearance. His fielding should be worth a few runs before he goes out, so well worth a watch, that one.

Groenewald doesn't appear to have been a huge favourite with Bears fans, but interestingly his bowling average has come down every season. His batting is explosive and he definitely offers more than White, the man he replaced. Whether he is a regular in the four day side, only time will tell, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in there.

I fancy us to do well next year in the Championship, though I'm wary of using the "P" word. With this side in April, I think we'd be a match for most sides:

Chris Rogers
Steve Stubbings
Wavell Hinds
Stuart Law
Dan Redfern
Garry Park
Greg Smith
James Pipe
Graham Wagg
Jonathan Clare
Charl Langeveldt

We'll need to fit Jake Needham in somewhere when it turns, and there's also Mark Lawson. Throw in Tom Lungley and Ian Hunter as reserve seamers with Groenewald and we've good competition.
Batting competition too.

Pipe at 8, Clare at 10. Good line-up eh?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Tim Groenewald signs from Warwickshire

Breaking news today is that South African born but English-qualified all-rounder Tim Groenewald has left Warwickshire with a year to go on his contract to join Derbyshire.

Like Garry Park, he was a player that the county wished to retain but he has opted for the greater opportunities at Derby than there would be at Edgbaston, where the legend that is Rikki Clarke stands ahead of him...

He has a tough act to follow, as the previous all-rounders we signed from the Bears, Graeme Welch and Graham Wagg became huge favourites at Derby. A fast medium bowler and big hitting batsman, he has hit more sixes in limited over matches than he has fours, which suggests that life will not be dull when he goes in next season.

It also means that with Wagg, Smith, Clare, Park, Needham and now Groenewald we have plenty of all-rounders to call on next year. It's a good job the ex-captain did leave, as he would have slipped back to seventh best all-rounder at the club!

While Groenewald's first class record isn't spectacular, he has done enough to suggest that there is something there and I'm quite prepared to trust the coach's judgement on this one. I've not seen enough of him to comment, but players take a while to settle in the County game and I'd suggest that there is potential, just as long as we don't expect the new Ian Botham.

So we "give" them Botha, Rankin and Clarke and have had Welch, Wagg and Groenewald in return (OK and Tim Munton, who was unlucky with injuries)

Think we've done better in those exchanges, don't you?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

FP Trophy Draw

So, next year in a de-regionalised draw, we have Glamorgan, Essex, Northants and Lancashire.
I think we could do OK. Lancashire are nothing to be scared of these days, likewise Northants. Glamorgan don't look world-beaters either, which leaves the holders Essex.
While much rests on recruitment over the winter, at this stage I'd say we could give it a go.
Mind you, it is a one day competition... maybe I should revise that one!
On a different tack, Stuart Law is now available and there are suggestions he could do a job for us.
I'm not keen. He has been a fine player for nearly 20 years, but the signs last year were not good. He averaged 37 in the Championship, about the same as Stubbings and Birch. Meanwhile, in the one days he averaged 22 and 11. Not great is it?
Having rejected a suggestion that we sign David Hemp from Glamorgan on grounds of age, I can't see merit in signing an older player.
It would be going back to the days of signing Phil Sharpe, Ron Headley, Fred Rumsey et al. They all did things of note and none pulled up the trees at Derby. While accepting Law has been a class act, he would logically take the place of either Redfern or Smith next year, players who need matches to improve. For me it would be a retrograde step. Added to the above would be that his ICL links would bar us from the big money if we were to win the 20/20.
Sorry...I forgot. Excuse my cynicism but I've little grounds for one day optimism at present. Loved the comment from a pal the other day who suggested that our one day strategy was for Greg Smith to get a hundred every match! Until our batsmen learn to push it around to keep the score moving, to run fast between the wickets having placed the ball well and not to panic when the run rate goes to 6.4 an over, we'll always be poor at this game.
My old man summed it up nicely last week.
"Batting in one day matches is easy" he said.
"One good thwock and three or four sensible taps an over and you can't lose".
Over-simplified perhaps, but something to consider over the dark nights ahead.

Derbyshire's season

I've posted, as requested, a review of Derbyshire's season on the Third Umpire blog.

You can read it at

Hope it was good for you!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Last season's poll

A few people were pleased with last year, while most were split between being pleased with a little progress or disappointed we didn't do better.
I thought we might have done better, but was pleased with the progress of individuals and form in the Championship. We are still poor at one day cricket and gave away too many promising positions for my liking.
This week's poll is on Garry Park's signing. How was it for you?

Deon Kruis

Has anyone else wondered whether Kruis might be headed to Derbyshire?
The word from Headingley is that they expect him to sign a contract 'with a rival' having rejected terms for another deal. At 34 he's a solid fast-medium bowler and there's few out there and available. Last season I watched him bowl a couple of beautiful spells, including one at Paul Borrington in a 2nds game where he beat the bat every other ball.
He is the finished article and would have at least a couple of good years. Given we have lost two seamers in White and Dean with Clarke's bowling also away (yes, I know) and the ranks need supplemented. Tom Lungley hasn't the greatest injury record, Ian Hunter is perhaps lucky to get another contract and I'm not sure that it is realistic to expect Wagg, Clare and Langeveldt to play as many matches as they did last year every season.
Seam bowling is hard work and I'd be happy to see the Kruis missile bowling at Derby next season. Interestingly, that game I saw at Denby was watched by Messrs Morris, Hendrick and Krikken, so...
Anyway, that's enough for now. Apologies for the lesser frequency of the blog but my laptop is awaiting repair and this has been done on the family Wii console. More to follow, when it has been repaired.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Derbyshire sign Garry Park

Derbyshire have announced the signing of 25 year old Durham all-rounder Garry Park, who has rejected an offer at Durham in favour of greater opportunities at Derby on a two-year contract.
While not an established player, Park averages in the mid-30's with the bat and has a first class century to his name. He also bowls medium pace, is a brilliant fielder and can keep wicket. If we are stricken with injuries, it suggests that between the South African born but English qualified Park and 'Sobers' Wagg we cover most of the bases...
Another all-rounder, according to the club site, although with two first class wickets at 160 each, I'd suggest he is a batsman who can bowl, rather than a genuine one. Perhaps a swap - and one assumes less expensive - for Rikki Clarke, means that the balance of the squad is maintained. Park is a very competent wicket keeper, so I suspect we may not see Tom New signed this winter, despite an impressive spell at the end of the season. With Mark Lawson presumably a swap for Nayan Doshi, we are now needing another Kevin Dean. There appears few genuine options out there. Rumours persist that Liam Plunkett is unsettled at the Riverside, but he apparently signed a new contract recently which suggests bridges are not yet burnt. There'd be massive competition for his services anyway and Ashley Giles is probably camped outside his house as I write...
This is a solid signing and while we all hope for a top batsman, I don't see many options out there. Perhaps the rationale may be for Sadler or Telo to step up next year and the spare money could go on a top player for the 20/20?
In other news, I'm heartened by the inclusion of Dan Redfern, Tom Poynton and Atif Sheikh in the England U19 squad of 15 to tour South Africa this winter. We all know what a talent Redfern is, but Poynton will be the long term replacement for James Pipe and is a fine keeper and a batsman of talent too. Meanwhile, Sheikh must be a real find to be in the squad at just 17. The left arm quickie might be the'new Kevin Dean', although one assumes he has a long way to go. It is more evidence of the excellent work going on in the Academy under Karl Krikken, and there must be a few counties looking at our set up with a degree of envy.
More news and views as things happen - see you all soon!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Mark Lawson

83% of you wanted to see Mark Lawson earn a Derbyshire contract and John Morris has listened!

The Yorkshire youngster has got a week by week contract at the start of next season. I hope he makes a good fist of it.

Good luck Mark!

Random thoughts...

So Corky has gone down to the south coast and joined Hampshire. I suppose it was only to be expected, that he'd want to join another first division outfit, but I'd have liked to see him at Derby. Where we go now for a seamer I'm not sure. It may be that there's a good bowler out there waiting on offers, but I don't know who that may be.

It would be good if Tom Lungley was fit for next year and if he was, we'd have the extra seamer anyway as he was rarely available this season. A useful option may be Mark Hardinges, who I rate as a useful county all-rounder. He is especially good in one day cricket and I think someone may snap him up before too long. Gloucestershire may well come to regret letting him go as he has his best years ahead of him.

A comment on here the other night suggested Ali Brown of Surrey as a potential signing. Its not the worst idea in the world as he is, on his day, one of the most destructive batsmen in the country. My concerns would be that he is an eye player and recent performances suggest that its not as sharp as it once was. Allied to the fact that he has spent his career and made his reputation "dahn sarf" and there would be a few reservations.

The Ian Blackwell story still lingers and he is apparently unhappy at Somerset but he is another who may well want to stay in division one unless the pull of his home county is too strong - aka we make him an offer he can't refuse.

Lance Klusener would be another fine signing, but he's another one that will not be lacking suitors and whether we would want another Kolpak is debatable. Some player though, and I'd love to see him in Derbyshire colours.

I hope Morris doesn't top up the squad instead of signing genuine talent. We've some good players but they need experience and ideally more alongside them with that crucial ingredient. A post on 606 suggested David Hemp, who has been released by Glamorgan, but I don't think he has much to offer and I'd take Stubbo and Sadler over him quite frankly. He's been a decent cricketer but we can surely aim higher?

One final poll for this season. Let me know what you thought of the year for Derbyshire overall. Did it meet your exepctations?

In closing tonight, congratulations to Graham Wagg for his award as player of the year. There can be few grumbles from anyone, except maybe those at Edgbaston who allowed him to leave and tried to get him back. I don't care what Ashley Giles says, his role at Warwickshire and his selectorial role with England are diametrically opposed. He should be told to do one or the other, but not be allowed to do both. It gives him an emotional pull on players who presumably thinks that if he wants them at Warwickshire they must have a better-than-average chance of an England cap.

Until the next time, keep following the news in the links from this site. If anything breaks, I'll let you know...