Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A winter warmer

I love where I live, but I wish it was in God's own county.

Scotland is a fantastic place to live and bring up a family. We live in a semi-rural village ten miles north of Glasgow. Close enough to be in the city in no time, but only an hour from the water in either direction. The cricket is good too and although the game doesn't have an especially high profile up here, there are a lot of good clubs and good players. Some clubs run four or five elevens, there are a lot of them with thriving junior sections and the main barrier is the weather.

My first game in Scotland was over 25 years ago, and however cold you've been on a cricket ground, I reckon I was colder that day. The East of Scotland in April is often dry but can be freezing and on this day I had pyjama trousers and long johns underneath my whites, while a vest, T shirt, cricket shirt, short sleeve sweater and two long sleeve sweaters made no impact except to make me look like the Michelin Man...

Of course, two hard chances came my way in the early overs and both went down. It was like trying to catch a ping pong ball between two planks of wood and I went home that evening thinking Scottish cricket was a non-starter.

Of course, years on and I'm still playing and enjoying it. I've played in balmy weather where the sun hat and cream were essential and come off with reddened arms when I forgot to apply it before going out to field for 40/50 overs.

Yet the one regret is that I've not been able to watch regular Derbyshire cricket for years. Any game on Sky is essential viewing and I usually get to two/three games every season when work/holidays/family commitments permit. I think back with a great deal of fondness to going to matches back home.

Of course, it was always sunny. We'd study the weather forecast and go when it was in any way favourable. Many's the time I'd go to bed when I was a kid and pray that the day would dawn bright and sunny, just like Michael Fish or whoever had said it would. I'd wake to a beam of sunshine between the bedroom curtains and sleep a while longer, safe in the knowledge that there'd be a game that day.

After breakfast we'd load the car. Deckchairs - check. Picnic (lunch and tea) - check. Pens and pencils for the scorecard - check. Binoculars - check. I always preferred Chesterfield when I was a youngster as you were closer to the action, but as the County Ground was developed it gained a space in my affections.

Even at that time for Championship matches it was a little like the old joke.

"What time does the game start?"
"What time can you come?"

The exception was the Yorkshire game, when there'd be a good crowd building from early on. You'd to get past the stewards first and Dad used to reckon that Derbyshire took retired SS men from Hitler's Germany. They were many things, but not helpful. Most comments were prefaced "You can't" and I've previously written about encounters with them. We used to get there early enough to be right on the boundary edge (just in case they needed a 12th man...)and we'd settle back to see who was knocking up.

Things were more leisurely then. A few took throw downs but there was little running around the boundary, loosening up or fielding practice before Eddie Barlow's time. I still smile at the thought of Fred Rumsey doing these activities.

Back in July at Chesterfield with my family, we sat on a bench across from the old scoreboard and my mind went back 40 years to my first game there. Yorkshire. We got beaten heavily. Over the years I'd guess I've seen far more defeats than wins, yet the latter are the ones that stay with me. You don't follow Derbyshire if trophies are your raison d'etre. Glory hunters need not apply. Occasionally we will rise from a morass of mediocrity to be competitive and from time to time will threaten to become something special. Under Eddie Barlow, Kim Barnett, Dean Jones and now Chris Rogers.

However many defeats there are, however many times I'll switch off the teletext or computer muttering about the "load of rubbish", I know I'll never get rid of the bug. On match days I'll still wake up and look for the sunshine, or if I'm up here I'll check the forecast to see if we're likely to get the chance to win (I know).

At all the home games, I'll imagine myself sat by the sightscreen with Dad, putting it to rights and getting frustrated when we collapse during a routine run chase.

Forty years of following Derbyshire does that for you.

But they're still MY Derbyshire.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

New contact detail

I understand one or two people have had problems with posting on Blogger with the way that it works.

I've now added an e mail contact to the "About Me" section on the left of the page. If you have any news about Derbyshire, would like to comment or have any suggestions, please feel free to get in touch. I'll reply as quickly as I can.

If you've been replying to posts via the blog, by all means carry on as you are.

For those who can't be bothered scrolling down the page, you can contact me at

36? Now what could be the significance of that number..

Academy News

Its amazing how quickly time passes. That's a full calendar month since the end of the season and we're well into November already. Winter tours are underway, Christmas shopping is upon us and there's still little more news from the County Ground about additional signings.

Even the message boards are fairly quiet across the country but I would think it likely that discussions and negotiations continue apace between players, cricket managers and agents. There are still some big names to decide where their future lies and hopefully one of them may head towards Derbyshire.

On a lesser level, but very important, the club has announced the next intake to the Academy and they sound like promising players. Having come third in he national Under 15 county competition, the younger element in the game appear to have talent and we must hope that they continue to develop apace.

Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern, Jake Needham and left-arm fast-bowler Atif Sheikh will all be part of the professional squad next year, having progressed through the system.

Eddie Ikin, 15, a seam bowling all-rounder who plays his club cricket at Ticknall CC and opening batsman Tom Hamilton, also 15, a product of Swarkestone CC join for the first time having played a starring role for the Under-15 team that performed brilliantly in the ECB Under-15 County Cup.

The full academy intake for 2008/09 includes Ben Slater, Alex Hughes, Sam van Doesdonk, Chris Durham, Georgia Elwiss, Danielle Wyatt, Ikin and Hamilton.

They will benefit from specialist coaching and development throughout the winter, which will range from lifestyle information and sports psychology through to technical work on their cricketing skills.

In addition, fellow graduates - Staffordshire based fast-bowler Ed Jones, left-arm seam bowling all-rounder Ross Whiteley and wicketkeeping prospect Tom Poynton - have all signed summer contracts for 2009.

I'm pleased to see the conveyor belt working well, but there's two names missing that seemed to have a lot to offer. Akhil Patel is presumably too old for the Academy now but hasn't earned a summer contract, while there have been many good comments over the past couple of years about Jack Ratcliffe, who I seem to recall bowled leg spin as well as being a talented batsman. Does anyone know what happened to him? Patel looks to have a lot of talent but has maybe not done enough in either discipline to warrant a contract at this stage. I hope we don't end up missing out on a mercurial talent who is perhaps a later developer.

The only other news is that the England Sixes are doing well in Hong Kong and have made it through the group stages. There's little news on major sites (or if there is it is well concealed) but I hope Waggy acquits himself well.

See you next week - or when there's more news, whichever is the sooner!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Another quiet week

Well, just under half of those who voted think Stuart Law would be a good acquisition for next year.

Me too, but if there was a younger model out there I'd be more tempted. There's life in some of those old dogs though. Look at the impact of Shaun Udal last year and Ian Salisbury. Law may not be a whippet these days but fielding at slip and passing on the benefits of his experience would be a doddle for him. It may be inspired work too, but lets discuss that one if/when there's any news.

Elsewhere, Waggy is off to Hong Kong and the sixes so we'll wish him good luck with that. They've a good squad and could do well. I'm not normally that bothered, to be perfectly honest, but Wagg deserves his selection and could be a real asset out there.

Its the final of the Stanford series tonight. The multi-million match or however they are billing it.

Whoopy doop.

The fact that the main talking point thus far has been the WAGs and Mr Stanford tells its own story. The wickets are low and slow and the cricket singularly dull, especially so for 20/20. They have been great tracks for nurdling and for dibbly dobbly bowlers. I was left with the feeling that Wavell would have been hard to get away and Langaeveldt nigh impossible. Unless Gayle has one of his periodic blinders tonight, I expect England to win and head home with big cheques to guarantee their futures.

Outside of the players, however, who cares?

We'd our club AGM this week and first look at the stats for the year. I averaged 17 with the bat and 27 with the ball in 20/20 this year, including a strike rate of just 6 an over from my bowling. I'm less mobile in the field than I used to be (I had my 50th a couple of weeks back) but am available, if selected, for Derbyshire next year...

Mind you, I was also re-elected skipper for the ninth year in a row, so it will have to be around my club commitments!

Until next time. No poll this week. At this stage I can't think of something worthwhile, unless its "Will you be buying Christmas presents from the Club shop"?

Hopefully next week. Any ideas for a poll- let me know!