Friday, 29 October 2010

Something for the weekend

Former Derbyshire player Dominic Telo was in the runs for Western Province yesterday, making what was called a ‘sparkling’ 96 before being dismissed.

Telo is now skipper of the side, which for old cricket fans like me makes confusing reading. Western Province was one of the country’s top sides for many years and the home of Eddie Barlow, Adrian Kuiper and Peter Kirsten among others. The reorganisation of their domestic competitions means that they now play in what is effectively a second-tier competition. If you don’t have an animal name now in South African cricket you’re nothing (unless you’re a Titan, Knight or Warrior of course!)

That he could bat was evident to anyone who saw him, but Telo, who looked beautifully balanced and composed at the crease, got out far too often when he was going well. Twenties, thirties and forties are OK, but are ultimately frustrating for team mates and supporters alike. Even that 96, in his career record, will go down as a fifty.

Meanwhile, Greg Smith is playing for the wonderfully named Mountaineers in Zimbabwe (bet they climb the table well…) and bowled seven overs for twenty-five yesterday. Considering the opposition were 443-6 the last time I looked, I bet he’s glad he’d little more to do. There was another century for Garry Ballance for their opponents, the even more wonderfully named Mid-West Rhinos. I wonder if he’ll be tempted back to Zimbabwe cricket when he finishes his degree?

Changing tack, there’s a nice idea from Nathan Fern on the club site with his A-Z of Derbyshire cricket greats. He makes a very valid comment about web polls giving an unfair bias to young people, generally the only ones who can be bothered to vote yet often with the blinkered opinion of inexperience. I recently saw a web poll that declared Garry Barlow was the greatest-ever songwriter and Take That the greatest-ever group. I’m not so sure that you could discount Lennon and McCartney for the former, not to mention Gershwin, Berlin or Rodgers and Hammerstein. Take That better than the Beatles, or the Stones? Hmmm…

As I’ve said before, comparing players from different generations is impossible, as the game has evolved. WG Grace would probably not make 200 runs in a season today, but was a giant of his era and crucial in the development of the game. Was Wally Hammond better than Peter May, or was Lillee better than Larwood?

Nathan’s first choice at A was the worthy Albert Alderman, opening batsman in the Championship side of 1936. For me, the selection was the antithesis of voting for modern players and was perhaps a vote for an old-timer for nostalgic reasons, especially in a year when we celebrate our 140th anniversary.

Was Alderman better than Chris Adams? I didn’t see him, but my Dad did and reckons he was ‘workmanlike but nowt brilliant.’ While his solid batting in 1936 contributed to the success that summer (as Denis Smith was woefully out of touch) he experienced many fallow seasons. He was a sticker, like Alan Hill and Steve Stubbings in more recent times and was probably worth a few runs more than his average suggests. Nathan points out the uncovered wickets of the time, but there were some truly great bowlers around in the 1930s, far more than is the case today.

Chris Adams’ form in 1996 could equally have won us the Championship and it was sad to see a player with so much talent ultimately flower elsewhere, as the highly successful skipper at Sussex. He played some fine innings for us though, learning a great deal from Dean Jones in particular.

Selecting Alderman also means that you overlook the claims of the brilliant Mohammad Azharuddin, who played some majestic innings for the county in an albeit brief stay. I would suggest that he played three of the best ten innings I’ve seen by a Derbyshire player, with his double century at Queens Park against Durham on a spinning track a quite sublime piece of batting.

It all comes down to preference. Alderman’s long service, Adams’ few seasons or Azharuddin’s year and a half? After a little thought, and aided by the way that the Indian genius (not a word I use lightly) left under something of a cloud, I’ll plump for Adams.

Perhaps if we’d noted his credentials and aptitude for captaincy a little earlier, the recent histories of Derbyshire and Sussex may have been considerably different.

In closing, a suggestion for what may prove the problem letters of X and Z.

For the former, I could give a few dozen examples of X-certificate batting over the years.

Z? No names, but there have been a few over the years whose batting has enabled spectators to catch up on their sleep. Zzzzzzzz….

Postscript - Greg Smith 44 not out at the end of the day in a score of 132-5 chasing 460. They've got a mountain to climb...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Consideration needed.

An article in the Coventry Telegraph today explained the reason behind Tim Ambrose’s wretched season at Warwickshire and is a salutory lesson for those who are perhaps too quick to criticise players for poor performance.

You can see the article at:

It is very easy for people to forget that cricketers are like everyone else in life. They have their share of problems off the field that impairs their judgement and can easily affect their form. Who among us hasn’t had a personal crisis that affected them profoundly over the short or long term? Yet cricketers are ‘expected’ by a minority of fans to always be at the top of their game, like those in other sports.

A marital crisis, the illness of a loved one, money worries or even lack of sleep because of a new baby can all make day to day routines more difficult. In a game like cricket, where the difference between success and failure can be measured in millimetres, the consequences are much more obvious. If I have a bad night and don’t shift quite so much paperwork there is always tomorrow. For a cricketer, that bad night can result in an early dismissal and tomorrow brings their failings to the fore in black and white.

We need to remember that next season. There may be times when our heroes fall short of our expectations, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not trying their best.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Bits and pieces...

Sorry its been a little quiet over recent days but a potent combination of family commitments and little news has created a brief hiatus.

Chris Benham, a batsman of some talent, has opted to leave Hampshire for opportunities elsewhere. He could find that opportunity at Gloucestershire, who would appear to be short of players, but a first class average of 28 at the age of 27 doesn’t suggest that competition will be fierce for potential employers. Useful a player as he may be, he doesn’t strike me as substantially better than what we have and I told you my thoughts on that last week.

Those keeping an eye on the scene overseas will have noted that Glamorgan’s Mark Cosgrove made an impressive 150 for Tasmania, while the latest in a long line of young batting talents in South Africa have taken to international cricket like ducks to water. Both David Miller and Colin Ingram have shown themselves unfazed by the demands of the game and the pressures of tight finishes. Miller, at 21, looks a real talent with impressive averages in all forms of the one day game though slightly less in the longer format. The powerfully built Ingram, four years older, appears to be even more impressive, with the added benefit of experience. Both players are racking up international one-day matches and I have a feeling that we could see one or both in the county game next summer.

Both have a tough job in breaking through to the first choice, full-strength South African side. With Smith, Amla, de Villiers, Kallis, Prince and Duminy ahead of them, they will surely want to increase their experience and build their reputations in a different environment. The county game would be an ideal opportunity and I have a feeling that a discerning county cricket chief would make a shrewd move in picking up such versatile young players, who would theoretically be available for most, if not all of the summer.

Indeed, Ingram also has useful leg spin to offer, with career best figures of 4-16 at a reasonable average. Unless personal circumstances dictated otherwise, I would be very surprised if someone didn’t make a move for his services in 2011.

Elsewhere, Paul Nixon has signed for another year at Leicestershire. Since Shaun Udal’s retirement he must surely be the oldest player in the county game. He has been a good servant to them and will doubtless continue to lend experience to a youthful and talented batting lineup.

Finally tonight, news today that Bon Jovi are set to play Old Trafford on June 24, which is more than the county plan to do next season. There’s something quirky about a band who sprang to prominence with Livin’ On a Prayer playing on the ground of a team who have been praying for Championship success since the 1930’s…

Friday, 22 October 2010

Something for the weekend

There was an array of season statistics in the Wisden Cricketer this month, but nothing, to my disappointment, on the performance of overseas players who were brought in specifically for the T20.

While some of the names below were engaged as season-long overseas players, the figures make interesting reading. Please note that I’ve omitted some players who played the odd match. The pick of these was Andrew MacDonald at Leicestershire, who averaged 86 but only played in three matches.

Derbyshire - Loots Bosman 368 runs @ 29 / Charl Langeveldt 13 wickets @ 23

Durham - Ross Taylor 315 runs @ 39 / Albie Morkel 272 runs @ 34 and 7 wickets at 42

Essex - Scott Styris 392 runs @ 36 and 13 wickets @ 31 / Danish Kaneria 17 wickets at 17

Glamorgan - Mark Cosgrove 562 runs @ 35 / Shaun Tait 7 wickets @ 41

Gloucestershire - James Franklin 470 runs @ 39 and 8 wickets @ 40

Hampshire - Abdul Razzaq 183 runs @ 20 and 7 wickets @ 35 / Daniel Christian 33 runs @ 8 and 9 wickets at 31

Kent – Malinga Bandara 17 wickets @ 22

Lancashire – Simon Katich 185 runs at 26 / Nathan McCullum 155 runs @ 17 and 11 wickets @ 30

Leicestershire – Brad Hodge 431 runs at 28 and 10 wickets at 18

Middlesex – Adam Gilchrist 212 runs @ 30: Dave Warner 260 @ 20

Northamptonshire - Chaminda Vaas 412 runs @ 25 and 23 wickets @ 15: Elton Chigumbura 160 runs @ 22 and 10 wickets @ 21

Nottinghamshire - David Hussey 524 runs @ 44: Dirk Nannes 17 wickets @ 28

Somerset - Keiron Pollard 354 runs @ 32 and 29 wickets at 15: Murali Kartik 13 wickets @ 30

Surrey - Andrew Symonds 263 runs @ 20 and 12 wickets @ 25: Younis Khan 154 runs @ 15

Sussex – Brendon McCullum 200 runs @ 33: Yasir Arafat 13 wickets @ 30

Warwickshire - Imran Tahir 20 wickets @ 20

Worcestershire - Sanath Jayasuriya 267 runs @ 26 Phil Jaques 330 runs @ 33

Yorkshire - Herschelle Gibbs 443 runs @ 37

While I accept that batting averages for T20 will not compare with those in other forms of the game, some of those above didn’t get a great deal of value from their imports. Lancashire, Middlesex and Surrey all have reason to feel short-changed by their players, while Hampshire seem to have won the competition despite, rather than because of their imports.

Keiron Pollard’s statistics suggest that he was probably worth the sizeable outlay, while Northamptonshire did better than most with their signings. I highlighted the value of Chaminda Vaas last winter having watched the IPL and he didn’t disappoint, nor did Elton Chigumbura, who ripped us apart in that decisive nightmare game at the County Ground.

Essex and Nottinghamshire also did well with their players, though Surrey must get the booby prize for their two high profile (and presumably cost) players. I just wonder if Ashley Giles saw these statistics before taking Younis on a two-year deal…

Derbyshire? Loots Bosman pretty much lived up to his career average, but struggled with a knee injury, while Charl Langeveldt still bowled with control but looked noticeably slower than two years ago. You couldn’t say they let anyone down, but they didn’t quite produce as often as we’d have liked. Mind you, Bosman’s assault on Yorkshire at Headingley will live long in the memory and there’s a lot of people would love to play just one innings like that.

For what its worth, my benchmark for ‘circus cricket’ is an average of 35 for a batsman and a bowling average of twenty and/or impressive parsimony from a bowler. If you’re bringing someone from the other side of the world that has to be a consideration.

On that basis, there’s not too many successes in that list.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Not too much required

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Derbyshire don’t need much more this winter to complete the side.

For one thing, as I wrote the other day, if other counties are having to cut their playing budget, it stands to reason that we may well have to do the same.

But what else do we need? Consider the following team:

Overseas player

Most fans would probably accept that this is close to our first choice side, based on last season’s form and the likelihood that new signings will get a run in the side. Yet the side omits Paul Borrington, Dan Redfern, Matt Lineker, Jonathan Clare, Jake Needham and Atif Sheikh. It also leaves Ian Hunter, who should be fit for 2011, on the sidelines. It is, in short, a good side, ten of them brought to the county by John Morris.

In the current economic climate I cannot see Derbyshire signing many more players, unless they are sufficiently talented and young to make it worthwhile from a cost/benefit perspective. That, of course, begs the question as to why they would be released in the first place…

With the exception of an overseas star, the only thing that the existing squad lacks is a spinner who turns the ball away from the bat. Like most of you, I’ve looked closely at lists of players released and the pick of the domestic players in this category is still leg-spinner Michael Munday, formerly of Somerset. How good he is I don’t honestly know as I’ve not seen him, but his record is decent and I’d reckon that with Steffan Jones and Wes Durston on the staff, who have both played with him, the club should have a fair idea of his ability.

Other than that, I haven’t a clue. David Wainwright would have been an asset but is staying with Yorkshire, while Lancashire are retaining all three of their left-arm spinners. The cupboard isn’t yet bare around the country, but the Tesco home delivery van appears to have broken down en route…

I’ll not be commenting on available players from now on for the above reason. Do the records of Shafayat, Wood, Kadeer Ali or Thornely, to give examples, suggest them to be better than we have? I don’t think so, and when we have nine/ten batsmen already on the staff I’m less than convinced that we need any of them. Usman Afzaal is a better player, but I understand we couldn’t match his demands when he left Northamptonshire. In difficult times, it wouldn’t make sense to have players like Durston or Park, who he would presumably replace, in the Seconds. Both are fine players, eminently capable of being major scorers in the Championship next season after disappointments in the four-day game in 2010.

If the side performs to potential, 2011 will see a competitive outfit. It will be down to the coaching staff to motivate a bunch of talented players and the right overseas player could be the catalyst for that. Players like Tony Borrington, Harry Cartwright, Ashley Harvey-Walker, Phil Russell and Colin Tunnicliffe became good, reliable county cricketers under Eddie Barlow. I’d suggest that the team named above contains better players than Barlow had, but someone – whether captain or coach – now needs to get them playing to their potential on a regular basis. I know that Barlow also had Geoff Miller and Mike Hendrick, but he played a key role in their development and John Morris has to find someone this winter who can do a similar job. He effectively only has New Zealand and South Africa to choose from too, given the congested international schedule. Easy job, huh?

Other than that, I feel only the ‘John Sadler’ role with the Seconds needs to be addressed. Whether someone comes in to fill that role, or whether the current coaching structure is overhauled I don’t know, but we need to somehow accelerate the development of our young players with the right setup. Having represented their country at age group cricket, they all have the talent.

By the way, I’m not claiming inside knowledge in suggesting an overseas opening batsman in the above team. For balance, a spin bowling all-rounder would be perfect, but there will be few out there who could emulate Robin Peterson and score nearly 500 runs and take fifty wickets, let alone exceed that tally and be available for the whole season.

Much will depend on availability. Given the financial issues around the country, we would need someone equally adept at all forms of the game, as I can’t see us affording a second player for the T20, in common with most other sides. Maybe a young gun from South Africa with a reputation to build would be ideal, but there’s also the captaincy issue to consider. A more established player may find the ‘carrot’ of captaincy irresistible. Greg Smith will still be in the frame, but John Morris could dangle that offer in front of the right man.

Of course, we’d love to see Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, JP Duminy or AB de Villiers at Derbyshire. Ross Taylor or Daniel Vettori would do nicely too, but that would be some coup, as they say up here on sight of a bovine critter…

The likelihood is that it will be someone from perhaps the next tier down, reputation-wise, who wants to build on that reputation and either wants a challenge or to further their experience.

I was interested to read in the Wisden Cricketer that Malinga Bandara ‘was the best we could afford’ according to Kent’s Paul Farbrace, but eighteen wickets at 40-plus was hardly justification for the signing, even for paying what was ‘a second team player’s salary.’

If we can’t do better than that I’d sooner we didn’t bother, but I’m confident that at some point between now and April we will hear some exciting news. Just don’t expect wholesale changes, as I don’t think we’ll have the money. With the right overseas player coming in, however, I think there’s enough talent already in place to hold our own.

And if there’s another Eddie Barlow out there, could you give John Morris a ring and let him know you’re up for it?

Madsen and Footitt sign for two years

Excellent start to the day for Derbyshire fans this morning with the news that Wayne Madsen and Mark Footitt have both signed new two-year contracts.

Put another way, we’ve secured the services one of the best batsmen to break onto the county scene in some time, together with perhaps the fastest bowler in the country for another two seasons.

What’s not to like? Big thumbs up from me!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

There is nothing like Hussain...

With excuses to Rodgers and Hammerstein, that’s perhaps the song going through the minds of Somerset fans this morning, after Gemaal Hussain followed Steve Kirby from Gloucestershire to their West Country rivals.

Somerset and Warwickshire seem to be the only sides with any money to spend so far this winter, which suggests that a lot of players with somewhat inflated salary demands may be unlucky. There are many currently out of contract or released and I’m far from convinced that there is much money in the counties to re-employ most of them.

Indeed, Gloucestershire’s Chief Executive Alan Richardson admitted in the Bristol Post early in the week that he expected ‘another four’ senior players from the club to depart as the club slashes its playing budget. He did say that two or three might come in, but that they intended to bring through youngsters from their academy setup, in much the same way that Kent have admitted they will operate.

Meanwhile, various clubs with ambitious ground building plans are feeling the pinch. I still can’t get my head around why we have so many international grounds developing with commensurate costs when only two, or at the most three international sides actually attract crowds that could fill existing capacities. Even at Derbyshire, where the commercial team have done an exceptional job in recent years (and won awards today - well done guys!) I’m still a little baffled by the new stand.

That it looks impressive and affords an excellent view of the play is beyond dispute. My only query is why we spent a considerable sum on increasing the capacity when we are a long way from bursting at the seams. There were some very good performances in one-day games by Derbyshire last season, but even their crucial T20 match against Northamptonshire was watched by at best an average crowd. The performance in that game hardly acted as an inducement for many to return. I know it’s a football city, as the 25,000-plus who attend Pride Park for home matches testifies, but surely there should be more than 1500 attending the T20, with all the associated razzamatazz?

The Daily Telegraph reported this morning that the T20 will be retained at its 2010 level next year, so there will again be 16 high-energy matches to play, eight of them at home. Could a T20 season ticket be worthwhile, offering a discount when paying up front and a greater incentive to get down to the ground when you’ve done so? It may be if there's a repetition of the many grey evenings that we seemed to play on this year, while bringing in a few of Derby County’s players for signing sessions and photos might encourage some footy fanatics to try a different class of game…

Perhaps the absence of the World Cup as a counter-attraction will also help to bring in additional fans, but based on last year I would be surprised if many counties opt to bring in a second overseas player. Too many high profile, high cost players performed poorly and simply didn’t warrant the expenditure. Brad Hodge, Andrew Symonds, Dave Warner – these guys will not have come cheap, yet averaged 28, 20 and 20 respectively. Most people will have permitted a wry smile when Essex’s gamble in paying £10,000 to Dwayne Bravo for finals day backfired bigtime and Hampshire's success had a lot to do with fine performances by youngsters.

All this leads me to think that Derbyshire cannot fail to be affected and that we will not necessarily see many signings this winter. With Test match revenues plummeting and John Morris playing non-qualified players to ensure we remain competitive, we won’t get as much as we would hope for from the ECB. We also carry a reasonable size of staff (assuming they all stay fit, of course) and perhaps the job is now to get the best out of what we have.

For what its worth, I think we already have a solid squad that with the right overseas player, better luck with injuries and good team spirit could do OK next summer.

More on this before the weekend.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Still here...

Sorry it has been quiet on the blogging front but this is a Derbyshire cricket blog and there’s not all that much happening in Derbyshire cricket right now.

In fact, truth be told there’s not a lot happening in the county game as a whole, with the only likely move in the near future being Owais Shah’s to Essex. This will be a major blow to Lancashire, whose fans on 606 quite fancied him (though not in THAT sense…)

Warwickshire signed Younis Khan for two years and Ashley Giles remains confident that he will honour that deal despite a likely return to the Test fold, which will certainly test his loyalty. I suppose the promise of international cricket works in mysterious ways…

See you later in the week.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Something for the weekend

Had to laugh at the comments of Will Porterfield on signing for Warwickshire. Usual stuff about England ambitions, not at all harmed by cousin Ashley's dual (and unfair, in my opinion) role with county and country. Be honest, if you had comparable offers, would you sign for a bloke who was a national selector or one who wasn't? Hmmm, thought so.

Elsewhere, Vikram Banerjee is the only man to not escape from Gloucestershire this close season. Maybe they could do a remake of The Great Escape and base it in Bristol, rather than a POW camp. Don't know about you, but I'll be watching next season's averages of Messrs Kirby (28 per wicket this year) Hussain (22) and Ireland (21) very closely to see how they compare. For that matter, Steve Kirby's average on the dirt track was nothing to write home about, was it?

Shaun Udal has retired at the age of 41 after a long and successful career. He looked finished when Mark Footitt was tearing in at him in the Pro 40 near the end of season, but has been an admirable professional. It made me think how unfair we are in our expectations of Jake Needham, who at 23 is a long way from the finished article but could still develop into a very good bowler. His winter with Phil Russell will only improve him, as the ex-county seamer is a very good coach. I wonder if we could entice him back to Derby to work with John Morris? Probably not, as he has built a good life for himself in South Africa, but he was the best Derbyshire coach of my experience. Les Stillman was good, but had much better players than Russell at his disposal.

Digressing slightly, I was amused tonight to read Derby County fans writing off England Under 21 goalkeeper Frank Fielding, who has signed for the club on a month's loan. That's right, England Under 21 goalkeeper. I'm not sure what it is with local sports fans that they denigrate their heroes at any opportunity, but it seems especially ludicrous before they've even pulled the team colours on. The same has already happened in some quarters with Mark Turner and Matt Lineker and it is grossly unfair.

I was amused (but not especially surprised) to read Alec Swann commenting in this month's Wisden Cricketer about the conclusive match between Derbyshire and Northamptonshire in the T20. You'll recall we didn't turn up, but Swann hits an interesting note:

The result goes the way of Northants, but while Derby aren't at their best, they aren't as bad as one fan, situated right under the press box, believes. His sole observation, made every two minutes just for effect, is that they're "f****** s***."

And that's support?

Over forty-three summers I've been reduced to despair on many occasions, but I've never got quite that bad. However poorly they've played - and trust me, I've seen much worse than that game - I've never resorted to that and always try to remember that they're still our lads.

Next summer will be a challenge, but who knows, maybe we'll take a leaf from Worcestershire's book. A handful of prudent signings to replace the big name departures and you never can tell...

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Gloucestershire gloom

I’m not sure whether they have installed revolving doors or ejector seats at Bristol, but the speed with which players are leaving the club brings the words ‘rats’, ‘sinking’ and ‘ships’ to mind…

Anthony Ireland has gone to Middlesex, Steve Kirby to Somerset, Will Porterfield to Warwickshire (“you’ll be the next England opening batsman, son…”) and Gemaal Hussain to…who knows? The thinking money is on Nottinghamshire, but county fans are disappointed in his decision to leave after just one season of a two-year deal. You might call it ambition, others could call it disloyalty. Say what you like about Graham Wagg, but he gave Derbyshire good service after we gave him a fresh start. In my opinion, Hussain owed Gloucestershire at least a second season after he had been rejected at four other counties, but I suppose he’s entitled to sell his services to the highest bidder while his star is in the ascendant. If he had a poor year next season, he would be in a much weaker bargaining position, undoubtedly a factor in his decision.

With Vikram Banerjee also set to leave and Kadeer Ali supposedly talking to other counties, Gloucestershire coach John Bracewell looks like having either a very young squad or one made up of Kiwis with English passports next season. Losing such players should, of course, free up some money in their playing budget but they have also to make considerable savings. It is by no means clear whether James Franklin will return either, so if you think Derbyshire have problems, spare a thought for one of several counties (Kent, Leicestershire and Yorkshire are others) who are worse off.

Reports suggest the latter have signed Ryan Sidebottom with the money freed up by Jacques Rudolph’s departure and they may not sign an overseas player next year. Others suggest that Surrey wanted to sign Will Porterfield but couldn’t afford him. The latter I find quite staggering and suggests that their backroom layoff has had an impact on the cricket budget. It also lends credence to John Morris’ assertion that too many ordinary players are demanding inflated sums. Porterfield is a decent, but by no means exceptional batsman who misses a fair amount of cricket with his commitments to the Irish national team. The same goes for Niall O’Brien, a steady wicket keeper and on his day exciting batsman who may be leaving Northamptonshire. Potential employers have to accept that he could miss up to half a season, a consideration when they are doing any cost/benefit analysis.

So to Derbyshire, and there was a nice piece by Dave Griffin on the funeral of Ian Buxton on the club site yesterday. It would appear he got a good send off with many former team mates present and it was richly deserved. I once bought some cricket gear from his shop in Chesterfield and he was extremely helpful and courteous, even if I was a little awe-struck in his company as a youth. He even gave me his autograph, which I still have to this day. If you’ve not been on the blog before, my appreciation of Ian Buxton can be seen in last week’s posts.

Nothing much else to report at this stage. Thanks for your positive comments on the site’s revamp and also for your continued interest.

See you soon!

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Little Master at Chesterfield

No doubt like a few of you, I have been watching the events of the second Test between India and Australia this weekend with considerable interest. A continuing joy is the form of the ‘Little Master’, Sachin Tendulkar.

At 37 he has most of the records of the game and must surely now be considered the greatest there has been after Bradman. In my time watching cricket I have been privileged to see some of the greatest players in its history and watching the likes of Garfield Sobers, Barry Richards, Viv Richards and Ricky Ponting has been a joy, even when they were making runs against the team I supported.

Dad told me from an early age that I should always see both sides in a match and I’ve always done that, whether in football or cricket. Only the most partisan of fans could fail to enjoy the batting of such players as those above, but Tendulkar has been touched by greatness since we first saw him as a teenager.

That was at Chesterfield in July 1990, when he played for an Indian team managed by the great Bishen Bedi. A pre-match pleasure was seeing the great slow left armer bowling a few in practice, a reminder of that classic, easy style that graced the game for so many years. Derbyshire posted 235 in 55 overs, with a century from Kim Barnett and runs from both Peter Bowler and John Morris, and for a long time in the visitors innings looked like winning easily. At 88-4 with both Azharuddin and Kapil Dev back in the pavilion, we looked like picking up a notable scalp.

The batsmen were all troubled by steepling bounce on a lively track, especially when Ian Bishop was bowling seriously quickly from the pavilion end. Bishop took an early wicket but had moral victories several times an over. The diminutive Tendulkar, coming in at number three, sparred at several balls and the battle seemed uneven, as if one of the world’s fastest bowlers was bowling at a schoolboy. Which is exactly what it was, of course.

Derbyshire continued to chip away at the Indian batting but no one could dismiss the little player, who for a sixteen year old had an obviously impressive technique, as well as time to play his shots against all but Bishop. Even then he was working the lifting ball off his hip and there was a delightful, Boycott-like force off the back foot that brought a murmur of acknowledgement from Dad. “He can bat, this lad,” he said, which has always been the most effusive of praise from his lips.

The calculation came down to a tricky 20-odd from three overs and with Bishop to bowl at least one of them it was obvious where the key to the game lay. Surely the youngster’s charmed life against the scarily quick but genial Trinidadian couldn’t last?

It could. As Bishop dropped another ball short, climbing and homing in on the batsman’s chest/head, the player rocked back and hooked/pulled the ball for a country mile over the trees by the old scorebox. It was an enormous hit for a player who hadn’t looked like a big hitter, but was the result of superb footwork and impeccable timing. After that, the visitors won in a canter, their young star finishing unbeaten on a superb unbeaten 105 out of 239-8, the win coming with two balls to spare. His previous best one-day score was just 36, so I can safely say that we were in at the start of something special.

Since then Tendulkar has become a global brand and an icon of his country, indeed the game as a whole. Despite living his life in the spotlight, he has remained a man of charm, modesty and consummate professionalism.

A Test average of 56, which even now looks set to increase, is impressive, but perhaps no more so than a one-day international one of 45, a first-class one of 60 and a T20 average of 37. By any standards impressive, but Tendulkar has also been a useful bowler and has had stints as captain. It would be understandable by now if his powers were on the wane, but that appears to be some time off. Indeed, his last thousand Test runs have come in just fifteen innings…

The only disappointment has been that his international commitments have seen him spend only one season in the county game, where he perhaps experienced his only disappointment in a year with Yorkshire. It was asking a lot of a teenager, no matter how talented, to adapt to life in a foreign country in such a key role and Tendulkar’s class came through in glimpses, rather than with the evidence of a stack of runs behind him. Like many before him, however, the experience probably did him good and went some way towards the making of the batting maestro we have all witnessed for the past twenty seasons.

Long may he continue to entertain us!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Overseas players

Just to clarify my comment from yesterday, following (and thanks again to) Master Villain's response below.

The regulations now will prevent all but the handful of players with requisite international experience from coming here, even as Kolpaks or overseas players.

In days of yore, counties may have taken a chance on a young player and there are plenty of examples out there. They can't now though. Chris Wilkins was regarded by South African judges as being nearly as good as Barry Richards when we signed him (he wasn't, but was some player.) Greg Chappell was unknown at Somerset, Majid Khan at Glamorgan and so on.

As I see it, the only Saffers who will potentially be Kolpaks next year are likely to be Ntini, Petersen and van der Merwe, guys without central contracts but have played internationally fairly recently. If a few others get more games this winter it would open it up, but there's not many options.
Given the congested international calendar though, I'd prefer to see a young tyro from elsewhere as overseas professional than have four guys flying in and out for six weeks each, with little opportunity to integrate into the team. I accept this gives them experience on our tracks, as it always did, but would add considerably to the appeal of the domestic game for fans to see players on the cusp of greatness.
Of course, it would need a change in the regulations, but would certainly make the jobs of cricket supremos much easier. We may never see exciting players like Rossouw, Elgar and Miller in the county game, while a very fine player like Michael Klinger in Australia is another who is victim of a surfeit of fine players over there. He would be a huge asset to the county game, as would Stiaan van Zyl and Andrew Puttick. Their paths to the South African national side are blocked by brilliant players, but with first class averages over 40 would be an exciting asset to our domestic game.
I am 100% behind the regulations to ensure that Kolpaks are of top quality, but if we're allowing an overseas player, I just think it should be anyone that counties want to bring in. It might just enhance things and I reckon that a young player with a reputation to build would offer more than the many 'have passport will travel' mercenaries out there. When some of them are onto their fourth or fifth county, I just don't see how they can be genuine team men.
Crucially, such players as named above would also be more affordable, so counties would be able to field a player of genuine talent who few fans will have seen and therefore may attract additional crowds.
As far as I'm concerned its a winner all the way.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Saffers on the rise

Back in the days when I was a lad, South African cricketers were among the very best in the world and their presence enriched county cricket over many years.

They were not all world beaters, but still gave good service to their adopted counties. Lee Irvine at Essex, Peter Swart at Glamorgan and Chris Wilkins at Derbyshire were not huge names, but there were plenty around.

Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow, Garth le Roux, Peter Kirsten, Jimmy Cook and Ken McEwan were all the heartbeat of their respective sides and were outstanding servants to the county game. In recent years, however, such involvement has declined because of the international calendar.

What would we give to see the likes of Smith, Duminy, Kallis, Steyn and de Villiers in the county game today? I don't see that happening, but there are signs that the next generation in South Africa is going to be another golden one. I would be very surprised if some of the young guns making such an impression didn't end up in England, especially as their experimentation in lesser series will give players the requisite international games to earn a visa.

One of my close friends is South African and knows the game well. He insists that young players like David Miller, who at 21 averages over 40 in all forms of one day cricket will be a part of the next 'golden generation' and would benefit from some time in England to complete their education. By the way that Miller finished off Zimbabwe yesterday he can't be far from the finished article, but he is far from alone.

Colin Ingram didn't make many yesterday, but is another punishing batsman, while it is only a matter of time until the astonishingly talented Dean Elgar and Rilee Rossouw force their way through. At 23, Elgar averages 46 in the first class game with 12 centuries and 15 fifties in just 91 innings. The left hander also averages over 35 in the one day game and is a real talent, while Rossouw is perhaps even better. At 21 and another left hander, his average nudges 50 from 56 innings and he already has eight centuries and a highest score of 319...

If I'm honest, irrespective of via regulations I would love to see young players like that in England. Comparisons with counterparts of a similar age at Derbyshire are odious, but these are young players in the top South African franchise sides (unlike Dominic Telo a few years back) and would translate such runs into the English game with a little experience.

While their paths to the national side are currently blocked by some very good players, their presence on the horizon could mean that the likes of Alviro Petersen is unlikely to earn a national recall in the near future and could therefore consider a Kolpak deal in this country. At 29, Petersen, like Stephen Cook (son of Jimmy), Dave Jacobs and others is less likely to see an international call up, but is a very fine player. He is also a victim of a crop of outstanding players coming together over there.

I think South Africa will be THE force in the world game in five years time. Remember, you read it here first!

New look

As you've probably noticed, I've given the blog a revamp, thanks to the assistance of my glamorous designers - aka my wife and daughter.

As always, I welcome your comments and hope you like the new - more vibrant look!

The ads are hopefully not too intrusive (they are only at the top of the screen) but they will make the blog worthwhile financially - especially if you find any of them interesting and click through on to them.

Its not compulsory though, so hopefully you'll continue to visit and find things of interest.


Friday, 8 October 2010

The greatest XI I've seen

I got an e mail a couple of days ago from a Derbyshire fan wanting to know what the best Derbyshire XI I have ever seen would look like, allowing for only one overseas player.

Tough call! After much deliberation, this is the crème de la crème over 43 years.

Kim Barnett
Wouldn’t he be in everyone’s all-time XI? Simply a very, very good batsman

Peter Bowler
A fine opener who we missed badly when he moved to Somerset

John Morris
A class act at three, which is why I've omitted Peter Kirsten instead of

Dean Jones
Plays at four. I swithered over Kirsten, Diva, Azharuddin and Rogers. Barlow would have got the best from all of them, but Jones was a simply brilliant batsman and the best pacer of an innings I ever expect to see. Plus he would graft if conditions were unfavourable. You couldn't ask for more

Chris Adams
Pugnacious batsman who learned a lot from Jones. Sadly, Sussex then saw the very best of him but he was a fine player.

Dominic Cork
Some serious competitors in this team! Like him or not, Corky was always up for a battle and could win matches with bat and ball.

Graeme Welch
Aggressive batsman, penetrative bowler and top bloke. Could you ask for more?

Geoff Miller
Far better batsman than his returns suggested, steady off spinner and reliable fielder. Can’t leave him out

Derek Morgan
I only caught his later years, but he could play. Bowled both seam and cutters and they’d have to dig him out if the innings went pear-shaped. Caught anything in the field and a genuine all-rounder

Bob Taylor
He’d be in my World XI to take on Mars, so you can’t go past the best wicket-keeper I’ve ever seen.

Mike Hendrick
Hendo leading the attack with Cork? Welch as first change then Morgan and Miller? We’d only need three batsmen…

I look forward to seeing your sides. Remember, only one overseas player!

Pietersen for Derbyshire?

As Kevin Pietersen’s struggles continue in South Africa and Middlesex announce that they will not be pursuing their interest in him, I reckon that if we hold off until Surrey have also cooled we’ll pick him up league style.

£50 per match retainer and pass a bucket round when he makes 50 or 100. That’s one slot sorted then…

Something for the weekend

There’s few better ways to spend an evening as the nights draw in than with your family around you in the living room, chatting about this and that, watching a bit of TV and surfing the net on the laptop.

Vegetating? Yeah, probably, but good for all that and right now is a time in my life when I wish I could stop time and things could stay the way that they are. Except of course we’d then not know who is likely to line up for Derbyshire next summer.

There was an interesting piece on IMWT last night (apologies but I can’t recall the contributor) that suggested the three signings thus far were effectively straight replacements. For Lungley read Turner, for Goddard read Sutton and for Sadler read Lineker. Which meant, according to the article, that we still had the replacements for Peterson, Wagg and Rogers to find. Of course, none of us know if John Morris will get that budget. We hope so, of course, but there are no guarantees at this stage.

The other factor – keeping the earlier TV theme, let’s call it the X factor – is what will happen with regard to the T20. We don’t yet know if the tournament is definitely to be reduced but the thinking money is that sides will have ten matches, rather than 16 next year. What hadn’t been included in the above figures was the money spent on Loots Bosman and Charl Langeveldt. It may not be that much, as perhaps most of it was taken up by Chris Rogers taking a cut while he had a break, but it needs to be considered anyway.

I don’t think too many teams will opt for a T20 specialist next year, as a number of counties were ‘burned’ by under-performing stars. Bosman, Brad Hodge, Simon Katich, Andrew Symonds, Dave Warner – that was just a few of a number of players who performed poorly in their brief stays for the tournament. I’d be surprised if many of them were on performance-related contracts, so counties lost a hefty wad of cash as a result. With so many struggling to stay afloat at present, the extra player may well end up sacrificed.

That being the case, I think 2011 may see sides recruiting overseas stars who are multi-dimensional players, capable of doing well in all formats of the game. A few days ago I referred to the claims of Mark Cosgrove, who has not yet signed a new deal at Glamorgan, while someone who has yet to do the same is James Franklin at Gloucestershire.

I noticed that last night, while reclining on the couch surrounded by my nearest and dearest. While the player may feel some loyalty to John Bracewell, his fellow countryman, there will surely be interest from elsewhere in a very good cricketer.

We can vouch for that! His hundred in the first Pro 40 of the season effectively won the game for them, while his seven wickets on the first morning at Bristol in the Championship ripped us apart. His stats for the season were very impressive. Nearly 900 Championship runs at 33 and 46 wickets at 23 are the figures of a very solid player. He did less one-day bowling because of injury, but averaged 39 from 470 runs in the T20 and 73 from 500 runs in the Pro40.

Do you see what I mean? He has shown himself versatile enough to play in any format and can be proud of a season like that. I obviously haven’t a clue of the figures concerned, nor the availability of the players, but if we could pick up someone like Franklin, or South African Ryan McLaren as overseas player, I don’t think we’d need to worry about changing for the T20 nor bother about bringing a second player in.

If Alviro Petersen fancied a Kolpak stint as a quality batsman who can either open or bat lower down I’d be happy, which would leave a spinner’s berth to fill. I’ll be honest, I genuinely cannot think of anyone at this stage. Paul Harris or Roelof van der Merwe might be prepared to go Kolpak, but that would then rule out Petersen. Would you then try to sign the likes of Usman Afzaal and bring in a spinner? Or try Michael Munday, a decent bowler but one with little more experience than Jake Needham? Maybe we will go with Needham, who is off to South Africa to work with Phil Russell. Now there's a very good coach.

John Morris’ job this winter is akin to someone doing a jigsaw. He’s been putting all the pieces in around the edge and now has to insert the important figures in the middle. Like most jigsaws that I have ever done, it is likely to take some time to complete, but like you I will be following overseas cricket, especially in South Africa, very closely this winter.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

More thoughts

I don’t know about the rest of you, but something stood out to me when re-reading the piece that I highlighted yesterday on IMWT.

John Morris indicated that he expected the bottom to fall out of the market for players in the light of current financial difficulties around the country. With what appear to be ‘average’ players currently looking for £50,000 salaries, I have a feeling that Morris will sit tight for a while until reality perhaps hits a few of them.

That reality is that few counties have that sort of money to spend on anything but the finished article. While the likes of Owais Shah and Ryan Sidebottom will command impressive salaries, lesser lights may have to accept that the gravy train is fast running out of Bisto granules. If they are serious about remaining in professional cricket, their expectations may need to be lowered somewhat. Playing for £30,000 may be anathema to some, but is perhaps more palatable than demanding £50K and finding there are no takers for your services and that others have now taken the position that you could have had.

Of course, if the player’s self-valuation and Morris’ own match we may see action sooner, but I was also intrigued by the comment that even with the penalties some Kolpaks could be better value.

That should keep a few eyes on South African domestic cricket this winter…

Monday, 4 October 2010

Monday musings

I spent half an hour yesterday afternoon looking around 606 at what fans of other counties were saying and there was a fair amount of activity.

One Lancashire fan suggested they could sign Muralitharan as a Kolpak, which was an eye-opener since I hadn’t realised he had a South African, Zimbabawean or West Indian passport. As things stand, only players from those countries can become Kolpak signings and my understanding is that such players will only get the requisite visa/permit by signing to say that they are finished with international cricket.

Given that Kolpaks also need to have played recent international cricket, the window of opportunity isn’t open too wide, which heightens my feeling that we have seen the last of Robin Peterson at Derbyshire. He may or may not return to the international fold this winter, but I would find it hard to think that the ECB would then grant him renewed Kolpak status having previously declared himself finished with the international game.

Unless it is challenged under labour law, Peterson may be one of the last. You can play as a Kolpak for two years from your last international appearance, as long as you’ve played the requisite number of international matches in the previous 2-5 years. But if you’re then signing to say you’ll not play international cricket again, you cannot perpetuate the circle by returning to the international fold, then come back as a Kolpak for another two years. There will be mixed opinions on this one, though few would dispute Peterson’s contribution to Derbyshire last season.

One player in talks with counties is former New Zealand batsman Lou Vincent, who has had his share of problems in recent years. A tempestuous time at Lancashire perhaps did him no favours and he has had health issues, but Vincent now holds that most precious of cricket commodities, the UK passport. At his best he is a fine player with a lot to offer, equally at home in one and four-day cricket and in opening or batting in the middle order. At 31 he should be around his prime, although a batting average in the thirties suggests an as yet unfulfilled talent.

Perhaps someone will take the plunge and offer him a deal. After all, batsmen of international pedigree are not exactly falling from the trees right now. Many will recall his blistering T20 century against us at Old Trafford in 2008, but the very public fall out with then coach Mike Watkinson will make a few wary of him.

Another player of talent but with a question mark over his future is Mark Cosgrove of Glamorgan. He has not yet been signed for next season by the Welsh county who are ‘considering their options.’ Now that may be media-speak for ‘Oh heck, we can’t afford him now we’ve shelled out megabucks for Graham Wagg and not managed promotion’ or they may genuinely be unsure as to their greater need. Perhaps they’re looking for a star bowler instead, but I would have thought Cosgrove’s agent will not be short of alternative offers should he prove to be available.

In a time of whippet-lean cricketers who look every inch the athletes the rest of us aspire to be, Cosgrove’s more ample form stands out. Then again, his batting statistics are more impressive than his vital ones and he has produced some meaty performances for his adopted county. Given his availability appears to be season-long, there will be a few people keeping an eye on ‘Baby Boof,’ so nicknamed after Darren Lehmann. The latter was far from conventionally-sized, but there have been few better overseas players in the past twenty years.

It is another sign of the times, of course. Back in my early days of cricket watching, there were some big lads around, including the likes of Colin Milburn and David Shepherd. Fred Swarbrook and Fred Rumsey were far from svelte, but were effective performers for all that. Cosgrove should only be judged on what he does and while the runs continue to stack up in his favour, negative comments on his size will carry little…ahem…weight.

In closing tonight, there's a superb piece by Mark Eklid that has been copied onto IMWT by Chris. Great job mate and it should be essential viewing for any Derbyshire fan. John Morris tells it like it is with regard to signings and also with regard to message board comments.

It is a shame that the piece isn't available on line as it might silence a few people unaware of the bigger picture. I haven't any qualms whatsoever with the disparaging comments about 'bloggers' when what is being referred to are primarily contributors to 606. I believe the comments on this blog are fair and even-handed and definitely pro-Derbyshire cricket. Given that this is, to my knowledge, the only 'blog' on Derbyshire cricket (the others are bulletin boards or forums if we're being pedantic) I should be upset.

But I'm not.

If a few more people looked at things that way, perhaps having read the excellent piece on IMWT, then Mark Eklid will have done a very good job indeed.

Ian Buxton - an appreciation

There is a sad irony in the fact that on Friday I posted that one of my favourite cricket summers was 1970, on the same day that the captain of the time, Ian Buxton, passed away at his home in Matlock.

No one ever put Buxton’s name forward for international recognition because in that era he was simply regarded as a solid county professional, at a time when that phrase was perhaps more worthy than it is now. Most counties had an Ian Buxton, though the current requirement for bringing in untried and unready youth appears to be hastening their demise.

Buxton could play. You don’t score 11,000 runs and take nearly 500 wickets if you can’t. The other day I referred to his prodigious inswing and remember Jim Laker discussing it at length one Sunday afternoon as he dropped balls in on a nagging length.

He was another of those players born in the wrong era and would have been an asset in the twenty-over game. The bowling would have been hard to get away while his pugnacious batting helped restore many an innings. Five centuries doesn’t do him justice and when he opened his shoulders he could hit the ball. At Buxton in 1970, Dad and I were sitting in a sizeable crowd at mid-wicket when the batsman opened up and twice peppered the area with big sixes. One caused everyone around me to stand, as it was obviously homing in on our seats. It fell to earth about a yard away from our deckchairs, leaving me free to tell my pals at school the next day that I nearly got hit by Buxton at Buxton…

Many times in my formative years I saw a Derbyshire batting collapse, which if it was rescued was normally redeemed by Buxton and Bob Taylor. Later Fred Swarbrook took on the mantle, but Buxton often was the difference between some total and very little.

I also saw Ian Buxton the footballer at the Baseball Ground, when he was a fixture in the side at centre forward in the days prior to Brian Clough’s arrival. Again he was a steady, rather than spectacular player who was replaced by John O’Hare as the Clough revolution kicked in. They were similar players, both helping those around them do their job better by holding the ball and giving it to them at the right time, though O’Hare was the better.

Buxton was one of the last of a breed though, with Worcestershire’s Ted Hemsley and Leicestershire’s Chris Balderstone. Footballer/cricketers were a part of the sporting landscape, but as both sports became increasingly professional and the football seasons merged into each other, the all-round sportsman went the way of the dinosaurs.

Like all Derbyshire fans, however, I mourn the passing of a good and loyal servant of the club and our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Thanks Ian. Rest in Peace and thanks for some happy memories.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Weekend thoughts

The other evening on IMWT, regular contributor to this blog Master Villain came up with a well thought out scenario under which Usman Afzaal could feasibly join Derbyshire.

It made sense as there are several counties around the country who would appear to have a substantially reduced playing budget for 2011. It is all relative, of course, with Derbyshire and John Morris still having much less than the others. Yet the fact remains that we are one of only a few counties this winter who will have a little money to spend, as far as we know.

Middlesex are the early big spenders. Anthony Ireland is the latest to join the Lords revolution, suggesting that pre-season training next year may see players wearing name badges for the first few days. The signings of Rogers, Collymore and Ireland can only be good news for fans of the county and is a good illustration of where the money is in the game.

The delay (until November) in deciding the format of next season will possibly put the plans of several teams for overseas recruitment into abeyance. One school of thought was that the T20 should be played on Friday evenings throughout the season. The concept was worthy, except for meaning that counties would thus need to pay a player for several months rather than weeks. The alternative, condensing a shorter competition into a smaller timeframe, is more likely to get the nod. The only issue with this (for me) is that we’ll probably be back to the group of death with Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham and Leicestershire.

From a personal perspective (and I’m allowed to be selfish, it’s my blog!) I would like to see us paired with Scotland in one competition, if only to give me a match I don’t have to drive hundreds of miles to see. I’m sure people enjoyed the Netherlands experience, but I hope we have the sections shaken up for next year. If the plan is to attract crowds, and of course it is, local rivalries will do it but so too would playing someone different.

I’d also like to see the T20 played on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons, good times for attracting crowds, while we really need to get more Championship cricket played at weekends. Those bemoaning the attendances at the ultimate test in county cricket neglect the fact that only the retired or unemployed can easily watch a game that is scheduled for some combination of Monday to Friday. Even the biggest fan has only a limited number of annual leave days that he/she can use for cricket watching, but would happily watch more if it was scheduled for the weekend.

If ten matches were to be the limit for the T20, they could be accommodated by five weekends of Friday evening/Sunday afternoon. Allowing for Sky needs, the Pro 40 could be played on perhaps another ten, leaving five for Championship matches to start on.

Give players their days off in the week and maximise the opportunity for cricket-lovers to see the games. It’s got to be worth a try?

My favourite Derbyshire summer

My favourite Derbyshire season? It would be hard to go past the ‘Dean Jones summer’ in nominating a favourite, but in the pursuit of something different, I’m going to opt for 1970.

Why? Various reasons, but one was that Derbyshire played some terrific, attacking cricket that year under the captaincy of Ian Buxton in all forms of the game. The advent of South African Chris Wilkins gave much needed ‘oomph’ to the middle order. Even dour opening batsman David Smith played his shots that summer, while Peter Gibbs always looked a class apart, especially when he unfurled his trademark cover drive. Mike Page was another fine player, while John Harvey played some pugnacious knocks at five. We had the quickest bowler in the country in Alan Ward and some useful seamers as back-up.

Ian Buxton led the side well, was always prepared to play his shots and bowled some niggardly spells of massive in-swing. I’ve always been amused when people said that it is scientifically impossible to swing a cricket ball, as Buxton swung it from the hand – ‘big banana benders’ we called them.

We led the Sunday League for a while that summer but eventually tailed off to finish third behind Lancashire and Kent. Eleven wins from sixteen games and seventh in the seventeen-county Championship too. The season filled us with optimism for a bright future that never materialised, but there were some special memories from 1970.

Chief among them was watching matches at different grounds. That year, Dad’s old Ford Anglia took us to Chesterfield, Derby, Ilkeston and Buxton on various occasions and we were royally entertained.

It was the club’s centenary year too and there was a bumper issue of the yearbook with fascinating articles by former players. I must have read and re-read them hundreds of times in the intervening period as they are a fascinating glimpse into history.

On the international front, that summer was perhaps my favourite as it marked the appearance of a World XI against England that was chock-full of massive names. Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Graeme Pollock, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Mike Procter, Faroukh Engineer, Intikhab Alam. For a twelve-year old boy who was already a cricket nut, this was manna from heaven! England ran them close too, under the excellent captaincy of Ray Illingworth and by the summer’s end my love for the game was well and truly established.

I even managed a match-winning innings for my school team that year, a princely unbeaten 17 made up of my then trademark swipe to leg, that latterly became the pull and hook. That I was the only player on either side to reach double figures speaks volumes for the pitch and the batsmen. I was convinced by the summer’s end that Derbyshire were an outstanding side and that I was going to play for them one day.

Wrong on both counts…


This article also appears on IMWT.