2009 will not go down as the year that Derbyshire answered their critics, but will perhaps be remembered as one in which the seeds for future success were sown.
Three players - Wayne Madsen, Garry Park and Tim Groenewald - came in, and all look like being fixtures in a new, stronger Derbyshire side in coming years. Madsen produced a volume of runs in limited appearances to suggest that he could be the opening batsman sought since Peter Bowler left these parts, while Park impressed with both bat, ball and in the field as a dynamic player of real potential. Groenewald became the latest to make the career-changing move from Edgbaston (Graeme Welch and Graham Wagg were others) to find new opportunities and success at the County Ground, bowling bustling and penetrative seam in taking over 50 wickets in all competitions.
Greg Smith was another to advance, becoming a dependable middle order batsman with a range of strokes. Where Park made his thousand runs in the last match, Smith narrowly missed his but contributed with seam and spin to the balance of the side. That both have signed new two-year deals is a sign of a bright future.
Dan Redfern had an understandably mixed first season, but played enough innings of substance to suggest a batsman of rare talent at 19, while Wavell Hinds added experience, yet not quite enough runs for some tastes to a batting line up that was much stronger than those of recent vintage. The success of the batsmen meant few opportunities for John Sadler, who rarely let the side down on his occasional opportunities, but the season marked the end for three batsmen. Steve Stubbings, Dominic Telo and Dan Birch were all released, although only the loyal and dedicated Stubbings will be especially missed.
Above all towered the captain, Chris Rogers, who scored increasingly heavily as the season progressed and exceeded 2000 runs in all competitions, a magnificent effort. Indeed, but for arriving late after visa problems of his own, Rogers could have gone past 2,500 runs. He confirmed himself an outstanding player, one that Australia could have used themselves in an Ashes summer. All fans hope for his return in 2010.
The bowling suffered from the early season loss of Charl Langeveldt to a shoulder injury and most suffered injuries at some point. Nantie Hayward came in to replace his fellow countryman as a Kolpak but looked a spent force, while Tom Lungley and Jon Clare suffered from various knocks and loss of form that left the seam attack a little threadbare.
Graham Wagg came close to his 50 wickets again, but missed several matches with various niggles and the two other successes were from unexpected quarters. Tim Groenewald bowled his way into the Championship side and did so with hostility and skill, while Steffan Jones was re-engaged on loan to bowl tirelessly and with commendable accuracy in the latter part of the season. Most fans will hope for a permanent return for the affable Welshman in 2010.
The side would, indeed should have been promoted in the County Championship but for a frustrating inability to finish sides off. John Morris will undoubtedly be looking for bowlers this winter. with the spin attack giving real cause for concern. Jake Needham seemed to go back this year after a promising 2008, while Mark Lawson arrived on a one year contract yet rarely looked like taking wickets at this level.
In one day cricket Derbyshire are still an enigma and again the problem was the bowling. More often than not a decent total was posted but was quickly rendered inadequate by erratic spells from most of the attack. Langeveldt was especially missed here. The "go to" bowler of 2008 was not replaced and only rarely did anyone bowl a miserly spell in any form of the one day game.
There were flashes of promise from Anguillan Chesney Hughes in late season one day appearances, suggesting that he could play a part as an all rounder in future years, but Derbyshire need more clever recruitment from their Director of Cricket to progress in 2010.
A middle order batsman, perhaps two seamers and a spinner seem essential if the side are to continue to progress. Most fans will see 2009 as year when we did, but 2010 needs to see more notches in the wins column for the momentum to be maintained.
James Pipe retired at the end of the season to become the new club physiotherapist and John Morris moved quickly to bring in former county reserve keeper Lee Goddard from Durham as his replacement in 2010. Morris himself signed a new two year deal during the season. Fans are content that we have at the helm a man totally committed to Derbyshire cricket who is also honest about their achievements. Continued improvement is expected and most are confident that with more shrewd signings this winter, success is not as far away as once seemed the case.