Tuesday, 30 November 2010

So who will it be?

Sorry about the lack of activity of late, but I've been somewhat preoccupied with the ever-rising snow outside and attempting (and failing) to get to work.

Hopefully I'll manage in tomorrow, but I was as intrigued as all of you by the news in the membership information sent out by the club that John Morris was chasing an overseas player (no suprise) and another one.

I'm as in the dark as all of you, but there are various options. I'd like to see us sign a big name overseas player who can come in and be skipper on the back of his reputation. I'm thinking of a Mike Hussey, Marcus North-type player. Given the choice and money, I'd love to see us sign Ricky Ponting after Australia lose the Ashes and he perhaps quits international cricket, but I don't see that happening, sadly.

Another alternative would be to address a shortcoming of the current side and pick up Danish Kaneria, who has been released by Essex. He always gets wickets and would do well at Derby. That would leave the second player as perhaps another seamer, but wouldn't address the captaincy issue.

If we went down that route my preference would be for Luke Sutton to take over the captaincy, a post he filled with success in his first stint at the club. Greg Smith would be OK, but his is such a pivotal role in the side that he scarcely needs something else to do. We need his batting back to its best next year and that is only likely to happen if he has less bowling to do. Perhaps he will need to choose between seam and spin to master one of them, rather than doing a bit of both.

Then there's Mark Cosgrove. A good player who will probably score runs, he attracts plaudits and jokes in equal measure. Definitely not a skipper, but could do a job. For me, Cossie's main appeal is the possibility of his becoming 'English' should he choose to use his British passport. As I've said before, I'd not be disappointed if we signed him, but would still prefer a bigger name.

As for that other player, I still think a seam bowler is the most likely, as I wrote last week. That's mainly due to the fact that we have a reasonable number of batsmen, as well as Smith, Needham and Durston to bowl a bit of spin when required. Its also down to the fact that I can't think of a spinner on the market who is substantially better than what we have in Needham. Former Somerset leggie Michael Munday has been mentioned a few times around the boards, but is he better than Needham or just another Mark Lawson? With Wes and Steffan on the staff we should have an inside opinion on his worth and I daresay that it will come down to whether his salary demands are acceptable at the end of the day.

Still, that's two things to look forward to as we approach December. Another month and the countdown to the season begins!

Maybe we'll get some fixtures soon...

Friday, 26 November 2010


Choosing the best player whose surname begins with the letter D is, like many of the others, a fairly difficult task, but after a little thought I have come down to a top three with which I am quite comfortable.

It was difficult to omit Phillip De Freitas. He had made his name at Leicestershire and Lancashire before joining the county but was a fine player for several seasons. A fast-medium bowler who could trouble the best, as one would expect with someone of his international experience, De Freitas was also a brilliant fielder and an explosive hitter who could turn a game in a very short time.

While at times giving the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he wasn’t in the mood, ‘Daffy’ at his best was a very fine player who, with Dominic Cork, gave us two quality all-round cricketers in the lower middle order.

The same goes for Kevin Dean. At his best an excellent left-arm swing bowler, Dean looked like he was set for the very top when he first emerged, but injuries truncated his career. Although he was always capable of golden spells, they became more sporadic and his early retirement came as no surprise.

My third place, however, goes to long-time wicket-keeper George Dawkes, who was a fixture in the side, missing very few matches, from the Second World War to 1961. Tall for a wicket-keeper, Dawkes was nonetheless agile and had an excellent pair of hands. He took over a thousand victims, 254 of them catches from the bowling of Les Jackson. He held every catch in Jackson’s hat-trick against Worcestershire in 1958 and was a hard-hitting batsman who often enlivened an innings.

My number two, George Davidson, was one of the best of the county’s early professionals. Anyone who has read the memoirs of Levi Wright will know that Davidson was a mercurial character with a sharp tongue and an unerring ability to rub people up the wrong way. Wright’s wonderfully entertaining stories portray the Derbyshire dressing room of the time as not especially harmonious, but things were generally overlooked because Davidson was such a fine player.

On 43 occasions he took five wickets in an innings, ten times taking ten in a match with a best of 9-39. 621 wickets at 18 is indicative of a bowler of some talent, but it is the player’s batting skills that have earned him lasting recognition. 5500 runs at just under 24 isn’t spectacular, but on the wickets of the time Davidson was regarded as one of the top all-rounders. He hit three centuries, the highest of which saw him make 274 against Lancashire that remains the county record individual score. Even on this occasion Davidson’s stubbornness shone through, as he refused to give his wicket away or accelerate, which led to a game that we had dominated ending in a draw.

He died tragically young, at the age of 32 from pneumonia, but left his mark on the county and took a lot of replacing, the sure sign of a good player.

Which links neatly into my number one, and the outstanding Michael Di Venuto. Some may argue that we have never replaced Diva and in the last few seasons, when Chris Rogers has batted with good sense, poise and considerable skill, I’ve often wondered what would have happened had he been opening the batting with Di Venuto. Irrespective of his merits as a man and as a coach – at least of batsmen – Dave Houghton’s tenure at Derbyshire will forever be tarnished by his decision to let our best batsman and the fans favourite go. He chose instead to go with the one-dimensional Travis Birt, a decision that was perhaps brought on by Di Venuto’s back problems of the time. It revealed an alarming lack of foresight, as has often been the preserve of Derbyshire over the years.

This was the same county that failed to check Allan Lamb’s credentials to play as an Englishman when he was in our Second XI, and that cancelled the registration of Peter Kirsten when, had they simply retained it, they could have had him back with another overseas star after he had taken a season’s break from the game…

Di Venuto was and still is class. He has been the rock around which Durham’s batting has been built for the past few seasons and can play any form of the game with equal skill and panache. His Italian passport has been an asset to them, as it should have been for us and although his one-day appearances are sporadic these days, he can be rightly regarded as one of the best batsmen of his generation.

He was unfortunate in that generation, being at his peak at the same time as many other top Australians. Otherwise Michael would have doubtless translated his talent to the international arena and been admired by a wider audience. A first-class average of 47 suggests that he should have played more international cricket, but Australia’s loss has been very much Derbyshire and Durham’s gain.

A brilliant fielder, especially at slip, Di Venuto is also one of the ‘nice guys’ of the game and has always been prepared to chat with fans. In many ways he is the antithesis of George Davidson, by all accounts a bit of a curmudgeon who on one recorded occasion reduced a team mate to tears. Hmmm...

While Chris Rogers was an outstanding overseas player, John Morris might have been able to recruit differently had the highly talented Tasmanian of Italian extraction still been among his resources. Who knows what might have happened then?

D? Definitely Diva.

PS The figures for George Davidson reflect his first-class career, not just matches for Derbyshire. Just in case you wondered why they differed from the club site.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


A comment tonight on the previous post suggests that we might be trying to sign Tony Palladino from Essex.

I hope so, because he has a decent county record and has taken a fair few wickets for a player still in his mid-twenties. However, I've seen nothing to substantiate it, so won't get carried away at this stage.

While DCCC Forever suggests we have a lot of seamers, I have to disagree.

We have Clare, Turner, Footitt, Groenewald, Sheikh, Hunter and Jones. Of those, Sheikh is a novice and Hunter must have question marks over his fitness, having missed all of last season. With Jones a player/coach and getting no younger, I read that as only five. I don't think you can regard Whiteley and Higginbottom as first team players at this stage, so for me we are potentially a seam bowler light. Steff may be able to carry on, Sheikh could be stronger and a contender next year, Hunter may resurrect his career - but there are still question marks.

While I would agree that we could use a quality spinner, Greg Smith could cover that area and Jake Needham may return from South Africa with his confidence enhanced. Fiscal issues may stop us strengthening in either area, but I'd have to say we'll need better luck with injuries next season as things stand.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday thoughts

Nothing really happening on the county cricket front just now, with the exception of Kevin Pietersen signing for Surrey to the end of next season. Given that they look like missing Mark Ramprakash for most of it they could do with an in form KP, but are likely to see very little of him unless he has a wretched tour of Australia.

Mark Cosgrove has been talking about Glamorgan’s travails and was interestingly saying that ‘they’ have problems. I might be getting into semantics and reading too much into it, but ‘they’ isn’t ‘we’, which suggests he is not an entirely happy bunny. While a T20 contract is on the table I would be very surprised if he took it up. I think his talents might be of interest to Gloucestershire, which wouldn’t be a massive move in terms of distance. Their fans still speak of the blistering starts that Craig Spearman gave them a few years back and Cosgrove is the most likely to replicate that. Given that they seem unlikely to retain James Franklin, they, like us, have a vacancy in that area.

As picked up on IMWT, Cosgrove has a British passport and could theoretically play alongside an overseas player for his county of choice one day. Much will depend on how his one-year contract for Tasmania goes, as the Australian still harbours desire to play for his country. I don’t see that happening, but I’ve also heard that a reason for him not to ‘go British’ is that he would need to undergo the requisite fitness checks pre-season. You can make up your own minds on that one, but it pre-supposes that Australians don’t have such things, which is nonsense.

Part of the reason he left South Australia was their concerns over his level of fitness, but Tasmania didn’t see a problem and he hardly struggled in Wales.

I know from the comments on IMWT that some fans would like him at Derbyshire. I’d not be unhappy either, but if John Morris was to go down that route the natural assumption would be that Greg Smith would remain skipper. I wouldn’t see Cosgrove fulfilling that role, partly because of inexperience but primarily because of his size. Prolific he may be, but he is hardly in a position to set an example on the fitness front. Interestingly, Glamorgan have one or two other ‘chunky’ lads…

Smith hasn’t had a prolific winter thus far for the Mountaineers in Zimbabwe, but maybe he’s saving himself for 2011. Interestingly Chris Harris is also in that country as an overseas ‘star’, which surprised me somewhat as I thought him longsince retired. Presumably he got a reference from Derbyshire after his brief star turn for us a few years back…

Elsewhere in the world, AB de Villiers broke the South African Test record for highest individual innings when smacking an unbeaten 278 off Pakistan. This removed the brilliant Graeme Pollock from the record book. I would love to see AB do something Pollock never did and play county cricket, as he would be a great draw. At 26 he averages mid-forties in all forms of the game and is a class act. A devout Christian, maybe his religion might mitigate against regular Sunday cricket, but he would pull in the fans should anyone manage to secure his services.

Like a few others others though, his IPL stints have made him a wealthy man, so it may be that his talents remain in the international arena.

Finally tonight, it is sad to report the death of former Worcestershire and Northamptonshire batsman Jim Yardley, who has passed away in Canada at the age of 64. Yardley was the great ‘nurdler’ of my youth and seemed to only have the nudge off his hip and the steer through gulley as shots. His average of mid-twenties belied his usefulness as a batsman who had to be dug out and who rescued a few lost causes in his time. He was also a very good slip fielder. That a player of perhaps modest talent made a good career for himself was an inspiration to club players such as myself.

Rest easy Jim.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

More fall out

Interesting, but not surprising to see Jamie Dalrymple resign from Glamorgan today as the fun and games there continues. Their long-serving player and administrator, former broadcaster Peter Walker, has also resigned and fans of the county must dread each new day at present.

I’ve had a few e mails suggesting our bringing in Dalrymple as our skipper, but I’m not sure we have the resources. A batsman who averages mid-thirties and can bowl handy off-spin should have no problems in getting a club though. I could see him ending up at Surrey or Middlesex (his original county) but have a feeling that Gloucestershire may see him as a man to shore up their side, many of who have departed this winter.

The Scottish budget was announced yesterday but there’s no news on Derbyshire’s. I still think that we’ll see an overseas player and not too much else this winter, unless Chris Grant is going to have a direct input to the club in terms of cash, or we can get Take That to do a festive gig at the County Ground...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Trouble at mill...

It looks increasingly as if Graham Wagg has jumped, if not from the frying pan of Derbyshire cricket, then certainly into a boiling hot tub floating down a raging lava flow at Glamorgan.

Wagg signed for Matthew Maynard at the end of last season and now finds the latter usurped, in a move worthy of the Night of the Long Knives, by Colin Metson. I would be very surprised if their recent (and very successful) overseas player Mark Cosgrove accepts being a bit part player for the T20, while James Dalrymple will surely move to pastures new after the manner of his replacement by Alviro Petersen. The whole process has been done with near gangland ferocity.

What appears to have been overlooked in all of this is that Tom Maynard, the Welsh side’s talented young batsman, can hardly be expected to stay after the manner of his father’s removal from post. Matt Maynard was offered a demotion to coach, working under Colin Metson, which made his position close to untenable. His subsequent resignation was hardly a surprise.

Given that Ryan Sidebottom left Yorkshire after they replaced his father Arnie as coach, while Gary Ballance departed from the County Ground shortly after his uncle, David Houghton, was sacked by Derbyshire there is precedent. I know that I would find it impossible to work for any organisation that treated my father so shabbily, so the fall out from this one could be far greater than it first appeared.

I don’t know what Wagg will make of it all, but on the face of it, replacing Cosgrove, Dalrymple and Maynard with a South African batsman of decent, rather than spectacular talent seems an imbalanced trade-off. The grass looks not at all green on the other side of the fence for Wagg and at this rate the Welsh county will need a liberal scattering of Miracle-Gro…

Of course, its all our fault. If we’d not earned a battling draw against the Welsh county in the season’s last fixture they would have been in Division One by now, something that they (and presumably Graham Wagg) expected. As things stand, they have a lot of work to do before April to restore harmony.

According to the Wales Online website tonight, there are now concerns over the futures of both Jim Allenby and Wagg and they are the first to mention Tom Maynard as being unhappy.

Of course, faults are rarely one-sided and there have been rumblings for some time of a drinking culture at the county. Perhaps this is a savage attempt to deal with the problem and at this distance it is unfair to be too critical.

But what a mess it is. When Alviro Petersen admits that he signed for the county WITHOUT speaking to the Head of Cricket, and that he was signed by the Welsh county’s equivalent of Don Amott and Keith Loring, there is something very wrong. For all the grumblings of a small minority about Derbyshire’s committee, we at least go about things the right way, with cricket matters left to the man who is paid to do the job. If they are not happy with his performance, get rid of him and then let the sucessor do the recruitment. As my granny used to say “I didn’t buy a dog to bark myself,” a comment that always confused me as she never bought a dog…

The story smacks of Macchiavellian subterfuge that does no one any favours. I suspect it has the legs to run for some time yet

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Best of the Cs

There are three realistic candidates for the best Derbyshire player beginning with the letter C. One of them isn’t Rikki Clarke…

The club site rightly pays tribute to Sam Cadman, a worthy cricketer and a coach responsible for the production line of talent through the 1930s, while Daryll Cullinan was a fine batsman in but one season. There are, however, only three real candidates.

In third place, Donald Carr was a very fine player and captain of the county for a good part of the 1950s. Though probably just short of the top drawer as a batsman, Carr’s strokeplay was redolent of the true surfaces of the public school rather than the green ones on which he played much of his cricket. He was also a useful spin bowler, but as a captain he got the best out of Gladwin and Jackson. Conversely, it could be said that with two bowlers of such ability, backed up with the likes of Derek Morgan, Edwin Smith and Harold Rhodes, he had some impressive resources to call upon. Had we had one more batsman of ability alongside Carr and Arnold Hamer we may well have won another Championship during that decade, but it was not to be Carr captained an England XI in India too, but highjinks involving an umpire probably cost him any possibility of a permanent role.

Second place for me would be Dominic Cork. A man who polarised the fans, Cork’s combative personality and skills saw him win a good number of matches but lose a few friends over the years. Like Kim Barnett before him, Cork’s tenure as Derbyshire skipper saw some high profile departures and a degree of acrimony, but few would doubt that he was (and still is) a player of great talent.

No one who saw it will forget his innings at Lords against Lancashire, when an unpromising situation was turned into a winning one by Cork and Karl Krikken’s late onslaught. I don’t think Cork ever got the credit he deserved for the remarkable flick to fine leg (from off stump!) that he played off Wasim Akram in the final over. It was a shot that saw acclaim rain down on Viv Richards when he played it, and for me was a nigh-iconic moment that laid down the gauntlet to our opponents. Whether you liked or disliked Cork’s public persona, few would dispute that most sides would be strengthened by his inclusion.

I also think he will become an outstanding commentator on the game when he finally retires, being unafraid to say what others might be thinking. Spiky and articulate, Cork at his best has been very good indeed.

Yet not quite good enough to take my top spot, which goes to Bill Copson. The coal miner from Clay Cross suffered periodic bouts of ill health and injury that truncated several seasons, but when he was fit, as he was throughout the Championship season of 1936, he was deadly. There were 140 wickets at 13 that summer for Copson, who maintained the typically Derbyshire ‘grudging’ line and length that he married to rare hostility. His run was not excessive, but his long arms and whippy action got considerable leverage.

The tactic for most of the decade was simple. If Bill (and brothers George and Alf Pope) could make inroads to the early opposition batting, Tommy Mitchell and Les Townsend would make short work of the lower order and tail. Over a thousand wickets at just under 19 suggests that Copson did that a few times over the years.

Indeed, for his first few overs he was perhaps as quick as any domestically-reared Derbyshire bowler until Alan Ward burst onto the scene. Harold Rhodes was lively in his earlier days and Les Jackson hostile and whippy, quicker than he looked, but Copson at full fitness gained both excessive bounce and extravagant movement that destroyed batting line-ups.

Two examples of his prowess will suffice. Against Surrey at the County Ground in May 1936, a Derbyshire batting collapse (it has been known…) left the visitors chasing just 94 to win. At 49-2 they were coasting it at tea, but afterwards Copson ripped through the batting, taking 7-19 in 14 overs, five of his victims bowled and one lbw. A Derbyshire win by 16 runs looked barely possible, yet arguably served as the catalyst to the season. The following year he took 8-11 against Warwickshire, including seven wickets in 23 balls.

I once saw Derbyshire cricket in the period beautifully encapsulated within a paragraph. I cannot recall the author, but the essence was that there was a good crowd, a close field, a green wicket and a sense of expectation as Copson prepared to open the bowling. A shout often came from an excited member of the crowd, the first word pronounced in the Derbyshire way, to rhyme with howl and suggest that Copson was about to eviscerate the opposition.

“Bow-el the boogers aht Bill.” He often did.

Copson never played cricket until he was 17, bowling a batsman with his first ball, a feat he was to repeat in the first-class game when he dismissed the England batsman Andrew Sandham of Surrey. On both occasions the prodigious movement was deemed a fluke, but that ceases to be the case when you’ve done it a few hundred times.

The excellent Basil Easterbrook, a fine cricket writer, described him thus:

His run up to the wicket was an easy affair and he seemed to hesitate fractionally before releasing the ball. He looked deceptively slow through the air, but he could make the ball swing and swerve either way very late and he also seemed to make the ball gather pace off the pitch. He either forced the batsman to make a hurried stroke or caught him totally unprepared. In his heyday he could bring the ball back so unexpectedly and so viciously that at times he was almost unplayable. Few men of pace in my lifetime have ever been able to extract so much out of an easy-paced, even lifeless, pitch.

His back problems, a result of his work down the pit, probably resulted in an unusual gait, often described as a ‘trudge.’

“Bill, tha bloody walks like Groucho Marx,” said Denis Smith, watching him walk from third man to bowl one day.

“Aye, and sometimes tha bloody bats like him,” replied the bowler, a laconic man, his face deadpan under a shock of red hair.

Nine wickets at Lords and 3-33 at Old Trafford against the 1939 West Indians suggested that Copson could have become a good international player, but his only other Test appearance came against South Africa in 1947, when he was 39 and past his prime. Nonetheless, three wickets saw him far from disgraced. That he headed the bowling averages on the 1936-7 tour to Australia and still didn’t play a Test speaks volumes for the selectors of the time.

With better luck with health and fitness and without the loss of six seasons to the war, Bill Copson could have put the Derbyshire record for most wickets taken out of reach. A few have since surpassed his aggregate, but not many better bowlers have worn the county colours.

Cosgrove on the market?

Today’s work at Glamorgan seems to have been taken from the ‘Derbyshire Cricket Club Guide to Internal Strife 1990-2000.’ They have a new overseas player and captain, but may potentially have lost a fans favourite, their current skipper and their coach…

First up, I’m not at all surprised to see someone move for Alviro Petersen. He is a decent batsman and has been doing well in South Africa as skipper. Yet to offer someone with limited experience of English conditions the county captaincy is a very bold move. It replicates what we did with Eddie Barlow, although Eddie was a better player with a bigger reputation. I thought we might see him in county cricket as a Kolpak, but his Test selection against Pakistan in Dubai suggests that he is still seen as an international player.

The fall out, however, could be substantial. It would appear that Matt Maynard as coach wanted Mark Cosgrove back, while skipper Jamie Dalrymple may seek a move to another county as a result of being deposed. See:


I’m not sure how much of this is press talk and how much is based on fact. Yorkshire and Derbyshire now chasing Cosgrove? I think he’s a good player and scores a lot of runs, but if we were thinking of appointing an overseas captain, which must be an option, I don’t see Cosgrove in such a role. Maybe we’d give that to Greg Smith, or maybe we just see this as a load of tosh…

While it is not written in tablets of stone and cannot be deemed irreversible, cash-strapped Yorkshire reckoned that they had spent their overseas money on Ryan Sidebottom and that their young batsmen such as Joe Root and Gary Ballance would compete for Jacques Rudolph’s position in the side.

IF there is anything in it, for what its worth, I think that Cosgrove would score a bucketful of runs for whatever county he plays for. I’ve no more idea about John Morris’ plans than the rest of you, but I’d have thought that Cosgrove’s record for Glamorgan would earn him greater interest from elsewhere than being a second overseas player.

He has carried his form for the Welsh side into Australian domestic cricket this winter and while jibes about his size are easy, they will be irrelevant if he continues to score heavily. Just as former German goal machine Gerd Muller was deemed selfish if he shot and missed, but a great talent when he more frequently scored, such is the case for Cosgrove.

While the perception of the modern sportsman is of a whippet-thin, perfect physical specimen, one has to consider that the less obviously natural athlete Cosgrove misses very little cricket through injury. He also scores enough runs, like Milburn, Inzamam, Lehmann and many others before him, for it not to be an issue.

1200 Championship runs at 50, 400 one-day runs at 50 and 560 T20 runs at 35 last season carries more weight than the player. Given his availability for the full season I don’t think he will lack for suitors.

Whether one of them is Derbyshire we’ll have to wait and see.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Monday musings

Aside from the fact that he played some cricket at Matlock, IainO’Brien’s failure to win an appeal that would have allowed him to continue to play cricket in England has nothing to do with Derbyshire cricket.

Yet it is hard not to feel sorry for him and to be increasingly baffled by some of the current regulations. When he looks at Durham and Derbyshire and sees Michael di Venuto and Wayne Madsen playing on Italian passports through family relationships I can understand that. As O’Brien says, the fact that he has an English wife appears to count for nothing, yet had his wife been from Europe he could have played without question. It is, in a word, ludicrous.

Elsewhere, it would appear that Marcus North and Michael Hussey’s international futures hang by a thread after the Australian cricket authorities named Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja in their squad for the Ashes. I would be very surprised if they jettisoned both, but would also suspect that a few counties will keep a close eye on that situation. Irrespective of recent international form, both are still fine players who would have a lot to offer at county level.

Meanwhile the run machine that is Hashim Amla goes on and on. The South African is perhaps the form batsman in the world game in the past twelve months and rarely fails in any form of the game. Jacques Kallis also continues to score heavily, a remarkable achievement for a player who has been at the top for fifteen years. A Test average of 55, slightly ahead of his first-class one, is indicative of a player of rare talent, but when you throw in his one-day average (45) and well over a thousand wickets in all cricket, Kallis has earned the right to be acclaimed one of the all-time greats.

On the Derbyshire front it is all very quiet. I’ve no doubt that budgets have been discussed at various meetings, but these are rightly conducted behind closed doors. One would assume that the balance sheet will be announced some time soon and with it perhaps get a better idea of any leeway that John Morris has for further signings.

More soon.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Something for the weekend

There is encouraging news from the club this morning with the announcement of the 2011 Academy intake.

It is understandable that the greatest attention is paid to the name of Greg Cork, son of our former England all-rounder. Yet it is equally unfair to place any burden of expectation on the youngster, talented as he obviously is at a tender age. To follow in a father’s footsteps in any sport is a somewhat onerous task and the history of the game is littered with examples. Billy Sutcliffe was always going to struggle to match the achievements of his father Herbert, while of Donald Bradman’s sons one didn’t bother to play and the other changed his surname to Bradson to do so. Richard Hutton, though a worthy cricketer, was never going to match Leonard, while Liam Botham opted for rugby ahead of cricket and the herculean task of matching his legendary father Ian.

Conversely, Maurice Tate was a far better cricketer than his father Fred, while both Chris and Graeme Cowdrey became good cricketers in their own right, despite having to follow their father Colin’s exploits. Ryan Sidebottom is also a better bowler than his father, Arnie, a decent player for Yorkshire over the years.

Cork junior is a left arm bowler, which sets him apart from Dominic straight away, and we should do our best to allow him to develop as any other youngster has a right to do. At 15 he is a bright talent, but realistically has a lot of work to do, not to mention schooling, before he is even considered for the Derbyshire first team squad. In that he is the same as the other boys in the intake.

It is also good to see Harry White, younger brother of Wayne, in the group. The latter has done well since his move to Leicestershire and again, the left-handedness of his younger sibling will help avoid direct comparisons. The encouraging performances of left-arm spinner Tom Knight for the Seconds last year will stand him in good stead, while there are opportunities for the others to develop alongside young players of equal talent and with an excellent coach in Karl Krikken.

All of the above neglects the fact that Derbyshire have a track record of father/son or sibling appearances. The current squad has Paul Borrington working hard to match the record of his father Tony in the 1970s and ‘80s, when he was a key member of the side and did well for several seasons. William Richardson was an all-rounder of talent in the 1950’s and probably a better player than his father Arthur. He was never able to play regularly, however and the fragility of our batting at the time meant that he would never emulate his father who led us to the Championship success in 1936. The Hill-Wood family, in an earlier era, produced no fewer than four brothers who played for the county with varying levels of success.

The most notable father and son, of course, were Albert ‘Dusty’ Rhodes and his son Harold. ‘Dusty’ was a leg-spinner of talent at a time when most counties had one and a good enough batsman to score four first-class centuries. He took five hat-tricks, a feat exceeded by only three players in the history of the game. Like many of his generation he lost a lot of years to the Second World War but managed over 650 first-class wickets before becoming an umpire, standing in ten Test matches.

Harold was an outstanding seam bowler, taking over a thousand first-class wickets at under 20. He learned at the feet of the masters, Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin, recounting in his autobiography how he benefited from their close control early in his career. Batsmen who had barely had a loose ball in the opening spells ‘had a go’ at the youngster, often hastening their demise in so doing. He went on to lead the attack through the 1960’s, when he should have been an England regular. Sadly, a perceived problem with his action led to his being called for throwing on several occasions. All too late for his international aspirations, this was eventually shown to be a hyper-extension of his elbow joint, which somewhat freakishly went PAST what a normal straight arm would do.

Given how more recently the regulations on what constitutes a legitimate delivery have been rewritten, Rhodes could rightly feel aggrieved that his career should be tarnished in such a way. Nothing should detract from the fact that he was an outstanding bowler, thoroughly deserving to take his place in the pantheon of top Derbyshire seamers.

Curiously Brian Jackson, who had several fine seasons in the 1960s after being plucked from the leagues, was often confused with his namesake Les. On several occasions people referred to his ‘Dad’, while someone once commented on how well he looked, considering he had made his debut in 1947…

If any of the new Academy crop can come close to emulating his efforts, there will be few complaints from the fans.

PS The Jackson anecdote above reminds me of one of the worst errors I have ever seen in a book, on Scottish football greats. It referred to the former Derby County and Scotland winger Dally Duncan, who starred for the side in the 1930s, having taken Chesterfield to the FA Cup semi-final in 1997. Sadly, this neglected the facts that:

A - it was John Duncan who did it.
B - that Dally had died in 1990 and
C - that he would have been 88 years old at the time had he lived…

As the old saying goes, there’s nothing like research - and that was exactly it. Nothing like research…

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

More on Barlow

I got an e-mail last night that asked how I could choose Eddie Barlow, who only had three years at Derbyshire, over Kim Barnett, who spent most of his career at the club and broke all of the batting records.

Now, if this was a reality TV show, at this point I’d be saying ‘it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.’ Such comments are the norm for X Factor judges when deciding who needs to leave the show, which always leaves me thinking that they must have had a pretty easy life. Personally, deciding on an operation for a child and an entire raft of personal decisions sees such a choice pale to insignificance…

It was a tough call though, but one I thought I’d explained yesterday. Kim Barnett was a lovely batsman to watch and was himself a good captain. He had set ideas about how we could get results, taking a leaf from the great West Indian side of the period by building an attack of pace. This took advantage of some ‘sporting’ tracks at the County Ground, where the wicket was often undistinguishable from the rest of the square. Yet while the opposition often struggled, Barnett would lead from the front and produce an innings that made a mockery of conditions. He bowled tidy legspin or seam too, though the bowling was of an occasional nature as his career progressed.

Barnett is one of my two all-time favourite Derbyshire cricketers, the difficulty being that the other is Eddie Barlow. See the dilemma?

I went over some of the reasons for choosing Eddie yesterday, but to expand a little, he came into a club that was at rock bottom in 1976 and in three years took us to a Lords final that would have been laughable as a concept when he came. His own performances were steady, rather than spectacular, but his runs and wickets usually came when most needed. When people moaned about his batting in his first season (yes, we had moaners then…) he went out and scored 217 against Surrey at Ilkeston…

His statistics?

1976 - Championship - averaged 30, plus 28 wickets at 24
           One day – averaged 33 plus 34 wickets at 20

1977 – Championship – averaged 29 plus 46 wickets at 19
            One day – averaged 22 and 33 wickets at 17

1978 – Championship – averaged 30 plus 24 wickets at 22
            One day – averaged 22 plus 44 wickets at 12

Every season his batting average, however modest, exceeded his bowling one, the true mark of an all-rounder of talent. Yet he was 36 when he arrived at the county. Dad and I have often talked about what we might have achieved had we been able to pick him up six years earlier. In 1970, playing in the Rest of the World side against England, he looked as good as Sobers, averaging 39 with two centuries and taking 20 wickets at just 19 each. As I mentioned yesterday, he was an eye player and at 36, with fifteen years at the top behind him, was past his peak when we signed him - but boy, he could still play!

Captains like Stuart Surridge at Surrey, Ronnie Burnett and Brian Sellars at Yorkshire, Arthur Richardson at Derbyshire and Mike Brearley for England achieved great feats with their sides despite limited personal success. Barlow was at least their equal as captain, yet his own performances were also inspirational.

Besides transforming young players like Tony Borrington, Alan Hill, Harry Cartwright and Colin Tunnicliffe into good county cricketers, he effectively turned Geoff Miller and Mike Hendrick into England players with a strong work ethic and sensible advice. As the latter once commented, Eddie worked on the basis that if the opposition had someone who could hit the ball into the next county, Derbyshire could fetch it back quicker than anyone…

It was just three years, but so much happened in that time. He brought over three young players from Western Province who all played for our Second XI one summer. We opted for Peter Kirsten ahead of Allan Lamb and Garth Le Roux, but must never have fielded a better second string side. Kirsten went on to become the star of the 1981 side that won at Lords, a powerful line-up that owed so much to Barlow and one in which the young Kim Barnett was introduced to the first-class game. The difference between that side and the one inherited by Barlow in 1975 was extraordinary and only a man with his dynamism, positive outlook and skill could have been the catalyst. If you didn’t see the Barlow era, you were unlucky. I consider myself privileged to have seen much of it and live in hope that the excitement of those years will be replicated in my lifetime.

In the same way that Derby County fans still discuss the relatively short tenure of Brian Clough, or the even shorter (effectively one season) period of Carter and Doherty, Derbyshire fans of a certain age will probably always be nostalgic for the Barlow era.

While it didn’t conclude with the definitive proof of its excellence and a trophy, it marked a time when the club emerged from years of mediocrity to become worth watching again.

King B? It’s just got to be Barlow.

Postscript: after a two-year hunt, my lovely wife has told me that she’s managed to source a copy of Eddie Barlow’s autobiography from South Africa and it will be part of my Christmas present. How can you not love a woman like that?!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Brilliant battling Barlow

Full credit to Nathan Fearn at Derbyshire Cricket Club for the idea of the Derbyshire A-Z. It makes for some stimulating thought and is much better than the notion of the fairly recent book on one hundred Derbyshire cricket greats.

The concept of greatness depends on the individual, but I would argue that Derbyshire have had perhaps a dozen truly great cricketers in the wider form of the game in 140 years, and around twenty to thirty who were perhaps bordering on greatness in their services to the county. One day I will have to quantify that more accurately…

So who is King B? There are more candidates than in the As, that’s for sure. Ian Buxton was a solid county player, as was Peter Bowler and to a lesser extent Ian Blackwell, but it is indicative of the strength of the category that they earn only passing mention here. As Nathan points out, Bill  Bestwick gave extraordinary service over many years, much of the time effectively keeping one end going when there was little support at the other end.

Third place for me would be Ian Bishop. A fast bowler of lissom action, genial temperament and astonishing speed, Bishop would have been one of the all time greats had he been blessed with a more robust back. Changes in action cost him pace and crucially some of his ability to swing the ball at extreme speed, a potent combination. He could also bat and hit a fine century against Yorkshire at Scarborough, but in this company his contribution to the county cannot get a higher placing than third.

In second place would be Kim Barnett. Our all-time top run scorer and long-time captain, Barnett was perhaps the best locally produced batsman I’ve seen (though John Morris ran him close and was more orthodox.) His play through the off side was impeccable, although his curious, shuffling stance perhaps cost him greater international recognition. He was a good captain too, at his best when he had Phil Russell as coach. The down side was that for a lot of Barnett’s tenure there was considerable discord behind the scenes. While all of that cannot be laid at his door, it would be unrealistic to suggest he was always an innocent bystander.

What it is safe to say was that he remained a batsman of rare talent at county level, one of the best that the county has had. Despite that stance, Barnett watching was always a joy.

Indeed, relegating him to second place is difficult, but while Barnett was every inch the star at local level, Eddie Barlow was an international star who transformed the county. Indeed, had the South African all-rounder not come to Derbyshire and shaken it from the foundations, I doubt we would have experienced some of the subsequent success.

Before he arrived we were at our lowest ebb, a poor side under Brian Bolus, but Barlow, through a strong work ethic, force of personality and sheer talent, made us a side to be reckoned with. While individually the side was of only moderate ability - at least on paper – collectively they were dangerous opponents who you discounted at your peril.

As an eye player, Barlow was past his best as a batsman, yet still produced enough innings to make a difference, some of them quite brilliant. If quick runs were required, Barlow would hit a quick 50. If we were under the cosh he might counter-attack, or could just as happily dig in to frustrate opponents. Irrespective of the style that he adopted, you felt it was part of a plan and eagerly awaited developments. As a bowler he would always take wickets when they were needed, often in clusters as he changed the direction of a match. He caught most things that went his way too, usually at slip.

Yet it was his captaincy that set him apart. At first you’d see him make a bowling change and wonder ‘Why?’ yet it soon became evident as a wicket fell. Fields were changed and catches went to the man who had just been moved. Those making a mistake and/or opponents would be fixed with a basilisk stare, often while those chunky forearms wiped perspiration from his brow. The game rarely stagnated as Barlow didn’t let it, preferring to challenge the opposition as well as his own team.

It was a magical time to be a fan and I lapped it up like everyone else. We didn’t win every match, but we went down fighting and won many more than we were used to. The cricket was aggressive, whether batting or bowling and Edgar John Barlow was the hub, the catalyst, the star and our hero. We’ve had better batsmen and better bowlers, but none who so captured the imagination or had a greater influence.

I’ve written before that two Derby Telegraph headlines will stay with me forever. “Rams sign Dave Mackay” was one. “County sign Eddie Barlow” was the other. Both gave me goosebumps then and still do when I think about them.

Best B? Best any letter for me. End of argument.

Monday musings

There was an extraordinary innings by Loots Bosman for the Dolphins in the MTN40 competition in South Africa yesterday.

Bosman scored 150 from 86 balls before being first man out in the 31st over with the score on 253. His innings included 12 fours and 9 sixes against an attack that included Makhaya Ntini and Nick Boje. It must have been something special, and Loots has been in impressive touch this winter – which is all down to us of course…

Despite such an onslaught, his side ‘only’ ended up with 311 and won the match by just 22 runs after a spirited reply by the Warriors.

It is just a pity that we didn’t see more of Loots in that vein at Derbyshire. His opening knock at Headingley was spectacular, but a knee injury hampered him latterly and the pitches at Derby were far from conducive to someone trying to hit through the ball with any confidence. In some ways it mirrored our signing of Shahid Afridi. The latter had a terrific spell at Leicestershire before we signed him but profited with bat and ball on the mid/late summer pitches. We then picked him up for April and May, when he looked as comfortable as a balloon man on a bed of nails. The Afridi experiment never looked likely to work, though Bosman’s average (29) was far from a disgrace. It just didn’t live up to our expectations, nor requirements.

Changing tack, I was interested to read the Derby Telegraph’s report of Chris Grant joining the committee.
“I hope to be able to assist in the club's development, on and off the field, in any way I can" were the words used. This might suggest that he is prepared to support bringing in the right players financially. I still don’t think that the advent of Mr Grant will see us signing overpriced players for the sake of it, but his input may make the difference between signing an up and coming overseas player and an established name.

Of course, the other way of reading that statement is that he’s now part of the committee and will support the Head of Cricket like any committee man worth his salt would do. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Speaking of the committee, there have been comments on IMWT about the people on it and that it needs ‘shaken up.’ I’m not sure why, to be honest, as I’m unaware of any shortcomings in that area. I’ve been a committee man for years in both cricket and hockey clubs and the reality is that most people think they can do it better than the current incumbents but very few actually want to. Over the years I have experienced such ‘delights’ as delivering leaflets door to door for gala days, bar and DJ duties at events and lining pitches, many done when there were no other takers outside the committee. I’m not sure who has what responsibilities in the existing setup at Derbyshire, but the tasks are probably the sort that don’t get noticed until no one does them.

I once had an encounter with a talented young player who made his usual 50 then berated a lesser talent for dropping a catch, the latter having made his usual negligible contribution to the batting.

“Why’s that useless blank playing?” he yelled at anyone prepared to listen, before I took him to one side and explained, politely but firmly, that if it wasn’t for that ‘useless blank’ we would have neither the fixture, which he’d arranged, nor the pitch, which he’d prepared. Truth be told, I continued, given the choice between the ‘useless blank’ and a youngster of talent but little consideration for others I would back the former every time. Without the latter we would have been a lesser side; without the former we would not have had a club.

I’m not sure of the motivation in such criticism. First the players, then the Head of Cricket and finally the committee. It’s as if we must have some blood-letting somewhere to satisfy a latent blood-lust. I’ve heard the story that is being alluded to on IMWT, but cannot account for its veracity nor do I intend to. It needs to be remembered, however, that while a shake-up can sometimes be productive, it can also make things go horribly wrong. Look how Somerset fans demanded change after a poor season, and ended up losing Joel Garner, Viv Richards and Ian Botham.

Both 606 and IMWT refer to a player who has an impressive record of wickets for Little Stoke Cricket Club in the last couple of seasons. Various contributors suggest he would be a good signing, but perhaps fail to take into account the fact that the player, who is 21, may not want to play professional cricket, much as Matt Lineker didn’t want to for several seasons. If he has a decent job, the chances are that it would be more rewarding than a county deal at that age or in the long term. League cricket across the country is littered with talented players who choose to play recreational, as opposed to professional cricket for that very reason.

To suggest Derbyshire are unaware of him, or are slow in acting, is unfair, especially when his club are one of only two Staffordshire League clubs to get Pro Coach Sponsorship. This sees current and former first-class players visit the club to coach, a scheme that includes the like of Graeme Welch and Steve Stubbings. If there was anything really special about the lad, surely they would have alerted the club, even if he wasn’t already on the radar? According to the local press in that area, he is a medium pace bowler, not the fast bowler being portrayed in some quarters. Nothing wrong with being a bit slower, but we might as well be as accurate as he obviously is…

It also needs to be remembered that finances are tight, we have a number of seam bowlers already on the staff and that even a summer contract would cost money we may not have. Nor am I sure about the standard in that league, which could also be a factor. Maybe he’s a big fish who enjoys being in a smaller pond? Again, I played cricket against a chap who averaged 70 every season but didn’t want to step up in standard ‘because I enjoy averaging 70.’

Good luck to the guy, I could see his point. Our club gained promotion three seasons running a few years back and went from involvement in competitive matches that were fun to something quite unpleasant. Batting became less a case of scoring runs than escaping with life and limbs intact, sledging was de rigeur and it became increasingly difficult to get an eleven. In short, the fun went out of it.

Finally tonight, have you noticed how slowly things are happening around the country regarding signings? I think this is indicative of the tight finances around the game. There are a lot of players out of contract who will all, understandably, be getting touted around the clubs by agents looking for the best deal for their clients. The clubs will, if at all interested, be holding off for more sensible terms as time passes. While Laurie Evans has now joined Warwickshire, I would see this as a ‘plan B’ in case Younis Khan pulls out of his contract with them to play for Pakistan again.

Until the next time. Thanks for dropping in.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Random news

The hunt for Saffers is on, with Kent declaring an interest in re-signing Wayne Parnell as their overseas player next season.

Given that only South Africa and New Zealand are without tour commitments next summer, I suspect there will be a few braai around the country next year, as counties that can afford to do so look for a worthwhile overseas star. Earlier this week Worcestershire announced that they are ‘unlikely’ to have an overseas player, though Shakib al Hasan may play for a few weeks in mid-season after his successful stint this year.

There have been early suggestions of Kolpak interest in Makhaya Ntini, though again Kent, for who he starred in a brief stint last year, have suggested they’ll not be pursuing it. Given the parlous state of their finances I’m not surprised, but someone could get a good overseas player who would theoretically be available all season.

Thanks to DCCC Forever for recent comments and his shared enthusiasm for Colin Ingram as a potential overseas player. I doubt that we’ll see the pairing of Ingram and Juan Theron in the T20 though on cost grounds, though I’d share your opinion that it would notionally be an excellent one.

It's also good to read on the club site that Chris Grant has been co-opted onto the club committee. There has been months of speculation that he could be brought on board and all fans will hope that the excellent work he has done at Swarkestone can continue at the County Ground. Some fans will, of course, assume that he will plough money into the club, which is a little unfair. That may happen, but his 'nous' in business will be invaluable to the club. Anything else will be a bonus. Welcome on board Chris - I hope that the relationship is a long and mutually beneficial one!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


That’s pretty good!

That was my initial reaction on seeing this afternoon’s CB40 draw for 2011, at least until I realised that we had again got the Netherlands and not Scotland. Grrrr…

Group A in full is:


While Yorkshire and Sussex will probably start favourites, Derbyshire will be encouraged by recent performances against the White Rose county. They have to find someone to replace the runs of Rudolph, while I maintain that on a given day we can be a match for any side in the country. All of the sides are beatable and a good start could see a solid campaign.

If we can just get the Yorkies at Scarborough, that would do me very nicely!

The other groups are:

Group B:


Group C:


Group C is a belter and I’m glad we’re not in with that little lot. Just what Gloucestershire wanted after all their departures, while I suspect Graham Wagg may not be fancying his new side’s chances either…

Tuesday thoughts

It has again been a fairly quiet weekend on the news front, with little cricket news of real consequence to report.

Colin Ingram scored another century for South Africa against Pakistan and seems to be a player of real talent. Thanks to ‘Anon’ who pointed out that Ingram played for two seasons with great success for Spondon, scoring 2,400 runs at an average of 57. I’d not be at all disappointed if he were to return to the area as our overseas player next season, though I wouldn't necessarily see him as captaincy material.

I don’t understand the pessimism of some supporters with regard to next year. Even if, in common with other counties, we have to reduce our playing budget, I think we have the nucleus of a decent squad, certainly better on paper than some others at present. I posted on IMWT the other night, in reply to someone who suggested I must be crazy to write such a thing. Of course, in an ideal world we could and would replace Robin Pietersen, Graham Wagg and Chris Rogers with Daniel Vettori, Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, but this isn’t fantasy cricket. When times are hard, cloth has to be cut to suit and we have to remember restrictions on overseas players, the Memorandum of Understanding and the hectic nature of international cricket these days, as well as budgetary considerations.

Comparisons with even five or six years ago are unfair, as there are now far greater controls over who you can and can’t sign and on the general availability/affordability of players. The gap between the rich counties and the poor ones has widened and we must accept that this is unlikely to change in the near future.

Like all of you, I was delighted to see that Mark Footitt and Wayne Madsen have signed new contracts, but anyone who thinks that this will be on their existing terms is delusional. Both are fine players who will be rightly rewarded for good performances. In contrast to Graham Wagg, their demands will have been deemed affordable and our ongoing recruitment will continue in similar vein as finance permits.

On a different tack, my money is on someone signing Makhaya Ntini on a Kolpak deal now he has finished in international cricket. He would be a terrific signing, but I'm less sure who has the money to do so.

Finally tonight, I’m no betting man but I’d have £100 that the man who comes out as Derbyshire’s best-ever player whose surname begins with an I in the club website A-Z will be Richard Illingworth.

Why? Because he’s the only bloke to play for us with a name beginning with that letter. If you were wanting to introduce a little (I use the word loosely) competition, you could include Clive Inman, who had a few one-day games for us prior to retirement in the 1970’s. Mind you, my Dad was never sure whether we’d signed him or his namesake John from Are You Being Served.

I guess that tells you he was largely unsuccessful…