Thursday, 29 January 2009

Come in number three...

Your time is now

Yes, there's no pressure but the role of number three in our side this season will be crucial to our chances of success in competitions.

For starters, this is how I see the first choice Championship side line up:

1 Chris Rogers
2 Steve Stubbings/Paul Borrington
3 ?
4 Dan Redfern
5 Wavell Hinds
6 Greg Smith
7 James Pipe
8 Graham Wagg
9 Jon Clare
10 Jake Needham
11 Charl Langeveldt

There's quite a few names missing from that side, so who are the candidates for that final place. You'll notice that I've got Wavell down at 5 (where he'll avoid the new ball most of the time) and Greg Smith at 6. The latter has a big year in 2009, as he's been bracketed as a "promising" player for a few years now. He was unlucky with early injury last year, but must translate undoubted ability into fulfilled talent. While I'd perhaps push him up the order in one dayers, he has a major role in the middle order.

Dan Birch

Dan the man can hit a ball and in form can give real impetus to an innings. He can also get out early with a shot that looks careless and ill-judged. A solidly built man, he isn't the most lithe of movers in the field and at times seems to lose concentration and has put down a few sitters. The jury is still out, but there were signs last year that he was coming to terms with the County game. Another facing a big season but a contender, without doubt.

Dominic Telo

Dominic arrived on the back of a fine winter in South Africa, although not at the highest level. Great expectations preceded him and its fair to say his first year was a disaster. He would often make a start, only to find a way of getting out when he'd done the hard part. Geoff Boycott has said that only poor players get out in the 20s and 30s. There's plenty don't get that far, but the fact remains that Telo needs runs this year or may well be back in South Africa. Has he got the temperament? After a prolific school career, Dom is facing a big test of character this season.

Steve Stubbings/Paul Borrington

Once Bozza finishes University there'll be a battle royal for the opening berth to partner Chris Rogers. Perhaps the "loser" could drop down to three? I'm not so sure, as neither are fluent stroke players and the innings could lose, or fail to gain impetus. Both have great "stickability" but we can only win games by getting runs on the board and bowling teams out twice. While there will be days that their grit will be crucial as the ball moves around, I can't see us accommodating both in the same side.

John Sadler

I was genuinely surprised to see Sads struggle last year. He'd had good one day and four day years at Leicester and could play with aggression or dig in. Last year he struggled to get the ball away and occupied the crease for a long time for no obvious reward. Later in the season he returned to the one day side and made more runs than most - not that this says all that much in a poor one day season. I think he can come again, but is at an age where he simply has to.

Garry Park

Park arrives from Durham with a reputation as a fielder of Rhodes-like brilliance at point and a batsman with a fine array of strokes. While he has batted throughout the middle order for Durham, he spent most of last year scoring loads of runs at number three for their second eleven. He's billed as an all-rounder, but has only two first class wickets and can also keep wicket. I would be very surprised if he didn't have a big part to play this season and even more so if he didn't at least start in the side as first wicket down. Why else would he leave the County champions but for regular first team cricket?

So that's my call at this stage. Of course, it all depends on pre-season form, fitness and the possibility of another signing before April. There's every chance I could be wrong, but we're all entitled to an opinion!

Which brings me to a final point. I'm ever so slightly concerned about the finances (stay with me on this one)

Last year we lost/got rid of Rikki Clarke, Nayan Doshi, Wayne White and Kevin Dean. My guess is that saved us around £200K, a figure based on suggestions of the salary our erstwhile skipper commanded.

We've signed two younger players in Park and Tim Groenewald, so I'd hope that at least half and probably much more of that figure was still available. Yet we're saving five grand by chopping the yearbook and there's little sign of anyone else coming in.

Is the money going into ground improvements? Or are we keeping a sum aside to bring in a big name for the 20/20 this year? It would make sense, as the big crowds at these games have seen some pitiful cricket in the past two years. To keep them coming in we need a big name who will offer the possibility of a few wins and some electrifying batting. I'd be surprised if Buk didn't take another mid-season break and miss the form of the game in which he has had the least success. So perhaps we're bringing in a Hayden, Gayle, Symonds or Sehwag? That would be something to look forward to, but I don't think I'm alone in wondering when the club might set our minds at rest on the financial and playing fronts.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Better news from South Africa

On what would be called in this country a "sporting" wicket, Dan Redfern and Atif Sheikh have emphasised their potential in SOuth Africa against a University Sports XI

To be fair, it would be called sporting at the Oval or Chester le Street. At Derby they'd call it unplayable and be calling in the pitch inspectors...

Anyway, England Under 19s were put out for just 119 on the first day, with Redfern top scorer with 36 before he was run out. The bowlers have hit back and Sheikh reduced the opposition to 9-4 with a five over burst of 3-10. For a boy playing against youngsters two years older than himself he seems quite a talent and although there'll be mixed times ahead for him, there can be little doubt that we have unearthed a player of genuine potential - and by all accounts, pace.

Given that there have been comparatively few genuinely quick fast left arm bowlers (Wasim Akram and then...) I hope that we are ready to look after this young man and allow him to develop at the right pace, if you'll pardon the pun.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Still around...

I've not gone into hibernation, honestly.

Its just that there's not a heck of a lot to write about just now. The lads who went to South Africa didn't tear up any trees, with Dan Redfern a little out of touch, Tom Poynton barely getting a game and Atif Sheikh injured for a good part of the tour, although he came back with a couple of wickets in the last 20/20 game.

More encouraging was the news that gate revenue at the club increased by 70% last year. Much of this must have come during the 20/20 campaign, although the usual attendances at Chesterfield will have helped. It makes you wonder what would happen if we started winning 20/20 matches...

Good news on the domestic front. Rachel, our daughter said today that she was "desperate" to go to Chesterfield when we visit my folks at Easter.

"Why's that" said her Mum, doubtless thinking that the array of shops, the crooked spire or the market were an obvious lure for her little girl.
"I'd really like to see that cricket ground again" she said, unaware of the broad smile that swept across my face as she spoke...

The realist in me accepts that it has more to do with the very tasty cobs that we had in the park while watching the groundsman go about his duties than the game itself, but lets allow a little romance into it. She's obviously smitten by the wonderful ground and has taken in all those subliminal and non-too subliminal messages I've been sending throughout her 11 years!

That's about it for now. No news of additional signings and we approach February at a fair old rate. Mind you, given that Klusener and Law have yet to sign for anyone, I daresay that conjecture will be ongoing for some time yet - although probably without any real reason.

The bottom line would appear to be that Telo, Sadler, Birch, Park, Smith and Hinds will battle it out for the number three berth as things stand. In my next piece I'll look at those players and give you my opinion on the front runner.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

They had me worried there...

Had a quick look at the club site today

"Maynard back at Queens Park" said the headline and I broke out in a cold sweat...

Matthew Maynard? Surely we weren't signing the former Glamorgan batsman on as the batsman we have all been anticipating?

Thankfully, the answer was no and he was just a guest of the Cricket Society at Chesterfield.

Strange as it seems, we've done dafter things at Derbyshire. Some will recall the signing of Clive Inman on a short contract after he left Leicestershire, a team he served well for years.

An apposite word, as I remember reading the newspaper headline "Derbyshire sign Inman" and thinking that John Inman, of "Are You Being Served" fame, had changed career...

I'd never heard of Clive at that point (hey, I was young) but I could visualise the skipper asking who fancied opening and Inman skipping gaily down the dressing room saying "I'm free..."

Truth be told, Clive in his Derbyshire appearances was only marginally more effective than John would have been, and less entertaining. Our rest home for the elderly then went on to offer accommodation to an assortment of lags in varying levels of fitness. Fred Rumsey, Fred Trueman, Ron Headley, Phil be fair, some gave decent service, but it sent out strange signals and they were very short-sighted signings.

Nottinghamshire will be hoping for good value from Ally Brown and if he matches the deeds of Mark Ealham they'll have no complaints. They don't seem short of batting at Trent Bridge though and one wonders what the younger batsman are thinking after that one. The same could be said if we, or anyone else signed Stuart Law, or Lance Klusener. As a huge fan of pre-war cricket and players, I know that many players went on until nearer 50 than 40, but that is impossible today. The amount of cricket and the requirement to be a whippet in the field legislates against it.

So no Maynard at Derby - but we keep our eyes fixed on the County Ground and hope that news will be forthcoming of an additional batsman for 2009.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Hayden set to retire, so...

The thinking money has to be on Chris Rogers being in the frame to tour South Africa as his replacement as opening batsman.

If he doesn't, the genial left hander should realise his Test hopes are gone, as he could have done no more this year than he has to stake a claim.

His rivals would be Phil Jacques, Phil Hughes and Shaun Marsh. One would expect that Dave Warner's credentials lie in the short forms of the game, at least for now, and Marsh has had an up and down summer, averaging just 24 in the Sheffield Shield, while Jacques has hardly played after a serious injury, from which he is close to recovery.

Hughes has batted well in all forms of the game and at 21 looks a certain Test bat of the future. Michael Klinger could also have his fans, but has had several poorer seasons before averaging 90 this year.

Rogers is second in the State averages, with just under 83 an innings. If he made the South African tour and batted well, perhaps the Aussies may not want him playing County cricket and risking injury (although he may find fine form).

If Matt Hayden retires tomorrow morning Aussie time, I'd see if he fancied one more crack at the County game, just like his erstwhile opening partner Justin Langer. At 37 his anticipated retirement is only from Test cricket and he is still a very fine player. I suspect he'd love Chesterfield, with a quicker track and short boundaries and would give a great start in 20/20, as well as being an astute skipper.

Yes, Hayden would be my choice if we lost Buck. I hope we don't, but I fail to see how anyone could fail to be impressed by his form this season...

New features

Couple of new features on the blog this week.

There's some links to Derbyshire cricket entries on Youtube, which are quite entertaining, but please let me know if this causes delays in the loading of the page for you, or if you don't like it. In fact, use the poll on the left to let me know. Your wish is my command...

You can also sign up as a fan or follower of the blog if you wish. The instructions are easy enough, just click on the link and follow them. Be open or bashful - whichever you prefer.

New signing?

Interesting question posed by "Anon" as a reply to my last article:

"Who do you think Derbyshire should get this summer for the 2009 season?
Also I think John Morris should try to pursue Lance Klusener because he is a world class all-rounder
Also Derbyshire try and attempt to get Saqlain Mushtaq instead of Mark Lawson because Saqlain is a world class spinner and help Jake Needham
Plus I am not impressed with signing of John Morris has made Garry Park and Tim Groenwald".

Well, the options are running out! Klusener is still on the market, but rumour suggests that this is primarily because he is asking funny money for another county stint and may well need to be realistic to return to the County game. I've heard up to £150K being quoted and cannot think anyone would bite at that sort of price. Glamorgan were rumoured to be interested, but that level of money rules us out of it. Same goes for Stuart Law, another fine (but aging) batsman who would be a good signing but only if, to quote dear old Brucie, "the price is right".

To be fair, Klusener struggles to justify the term "all-rounder" these days and sightings of him with a ball in his hand last year were a tad infrequent. His batting has probably improved, so he is still a force to be reckoned with but not as an all-rounder.

As for Saqlain, the same applies. His agent appears to be pricing him out of the game and I would go back to when we signed Venkat in the 1970's with a cautionary tale. His signing was ostensibly to help the young off-spinners Bob Swindell and Geoff Miller, but Venkat got choice of ends and Miller never got a game while the Indian was with Derbyshire. Swindell also lacked opportunities as we never played two off-spinners (Fred Swarbrook being his regular partner) and drifted from the game, an unfulfilled talent.

Saqlain has had chronic knee problems and he no longer seems able to pivot as he once did, which is crucial for an off-spinner and his wicket-taking has reduced as a result. So in short - thanks, but no thanks!

As for the younger signings, I'm more optimistic. Park could be an inspired bit of work. We have some fine fielders, but Park will up the ante considerably and is apparently in the Jonty Rhodes class in the covers. As a batsman his record in Durham Seconds, as well as in occasional first team games, suggests a player of some ability. I think he brings something different and may be a shrewd bit of work. He can also keep wicket and bowl medium pace, so if we want to save a bob or two, we could always send him and Waggy to away matches in a Smart car and there's enough versatility to keep things going...

Groenewald I'm less sure about but he was well rated in South Africa and can both hit a ball and the deck hard. Maybe he'll flourish on increased opportunity and he has a tough act to follow. The last two all-rounders we have signed from Warwickshire were Messrs Welch and Wagg - more of the same would do nicely, thank you.

We should still have some money in the coffers after the release of Clarke, Doshi, Dean and White. Unless we pick up a good number three, my guess is that Morris may augment the 20/20 ranks with an explosive batsman or all rounder. James Hopes would be a good signing and new kid on the block David Warner will have opened a few eyes with his heroics against South Africa at the weekend. I wouldn't say no to JP Duminy either, but much depends on whether Chris Rogers plays 20/20, or indeed is with us from June onwards. Buck may well find himself on the Ashes tour if he continues in his current form, especially if Matt Hayden falls from grace. I can't see them blooding a youngster in an Ashes series, but you never can tell.

Until the next time - farewell!

Friday, 9 January 2009

News at last!

Three lots of news emanating from the County Ground this week, the first for a while.

First up was that the talented triumvirate that is Dan Redfern, Tom Poynton and Atif Sheikh headed off with England Under 19s to South Africa. Talented cricketers all, I hope they will all make a good impression. Redfern looks a certainty to play, while Poynton should get his share of games. Sheikh at just 17 sounds a great prospect as a left arm quickie, playing two years ahead of himself if you will.

After being awarded a contract for next season, Sheikh was described by John Morris as being his "project bowler". Strange then that we now find ourselves short of a bowling coach with the season just over three months away. I would hope that Morris has this in hand, as I'm a little baffled as to how "consultants" can help a young lad finding his way in the game. Mind you, maybe that's where Langeveldt may come into his own...

Then came the news that the square has to be turned at Derby, which seems an eminently sensible solution. I have to say that the temporary solution of a screen on a cherry picker didn't strike me as the safest of solutions if there was any wind about. I'd certainly not have fancied sitting in its vicinity, that's for sure.

Jake Needham must have got excited if he saw the heading "wicket to turn at Derby" but seriously, the club have made the right decision and I just hope that in the relaying of wickets they manage to get some life into them. A few last year were dreadfully slow and made stroke playing and getting people out equally difficult. Keeping them quiet was easier (except Ravi Bopara...) but a little more pace would be enjoyed by batsmen and bowlers alike.

Finally "Lungley in hospital" didn't bode well after the affable Tom's injury-hit 2008. Closer inspection revealed a visit by Don Amott, Lungley, Graham Wagg and James Pipe to Derby Children's Hospital, where they handed out club goodies. A nice gesture by the club, but I just hope that the youngster pictured on the club site playing air hockey with Tom didn't get too vigorous...

I'd love to see Lungley back to full fitness this season. With him, Jon Clare, Wagg and Langeveldt all fit, few sides would fancy batting against us.

Here's to a good (and healthy) pre-season!