Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday musings

You can tell it was a quiet weekend for cricket news, especially for any pertaining to Derbyshire cricket, when the highlight was Dominic Cork being knocked out of Nonentities on Ice, or whatever its called.

Corky’s departure actually removed the programme of one of its better known celebrities, at least in our house. We watched the start of the programme, when we spent five minutes collectively saying “Who?” to the TV as the ‘celebrities’ skated onto the ice, then the end, which was more than enough to be going on with.

Coupled with a glitch in our router, which meant I had to reinstall it, this has accounted for the relative quiet of late.

Of course, there will be little news now until we approach the season. John Morris has to all intents and purposes completed his recruiting and has done a pretty good job on the face of it.

He’s brought in two young bowlers of talent with reputations to build to replace two older ones with a track record of injuries. Palladino and Turner for Hunter and Lungley is a good swap and offers greater wicket-taking potential for me.

He’s also brought in two young batsmen of talent to share the overseas role, as well as bringing back a former favourite to cover a crucial role of wicket-keeper/batsman. Furthermore, Luke Sutton is now skipper, which can only be a good thing in my book.

Finally he has filled in a problem area in the Seconds with a new coach who has Derbyshire links, as well as signing up the standout batsman of the local leagues in recent years. All things considered, especially our financial situation, that’s a pretty good winter’s work by John Morris.

Further signings are unlikely and probably unnecessary, so we must now be patient and await the advent of pre-season training and matches, before April comes around once more.

The only news I anticipate is the club’s financial return for last year, which may not make for pretty reading. Having said that, it can hardly be worse than Lancashire’s loss of £2 million, which is a staggering sum in any business.

The only other relevant news of recent days is that John Wright appears as keen as John Morris to set up links between Derbyshire and New Zealand, feeling that county stints for his ‘more affordable’ players would be mutually beneficial. There have also been noises of some of our players going out there for the winter, which would doubtless broaden their experience. You can see an article on it here:

That’s it for now. I’ll be back soon with a roundup of news and between times keep well, keep happy and keep dreaming of a good, competitive summer.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Well, you did ask...

Thanks to 'Anon; for asking two questions - where do Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill fit into the batting line up and what will be the line up for the first match.

For me, the first part is easy. Both should bat in the place that they are accustomed. Guptill opens for New Zealand and should do for us, Khawaja bats three as a rule and should do likewise.

Notwithstanding comments about their lack of experience in this country, both players will be happier doing what they do well and what caused John Morris to sign them.

The first team? That's more difficult and will be affected by pre-season form, fitness, how people look in the nets, the weather and the wicket. My guess is that it will be something along these lines for Gloucestershire at Bristol:


While the claims of Redfern, Borrington and Lineker will ebb and flow through the season, the batting line-up features the most experienced men who probably have the strongest claim at this stage.

As for the bowlers, Palladino and Turner have not moved to Derbyshire to be reserves so will want to stake an early claim on a place. Yet for balance the side really needs a fit and firing Jon Clare, who adds depth to the batting. Tim Groenewald would otherwise be number eight, which is maybe too high despite some dogged performances with the bat. Palladino, Turner and Footitt are bowlers of talent, but any runs from them would be a bonus.

Jake Needham? He'll have his opportunities as the season progresses, but Bristol in April isn't likely to be a spinner's wicket. We'll miss Steffan Jones bullish batting and positive attitude too, but I think we'll see him in the T20 and some Pro 40 games. If things go to plan, John Morris will want to rotate his seamers and keep them fresh, part of the rationale in bringing in new blood in that area.

I'll do prospects a little nearer the season, but I see no reason why a young squad of talent cannot be competitive, enjoy their cricket and win a few games. The latter becomes a habit and if we can gather a head of steam, who knows what might happen?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tuesday thoughts

So, not just Khawaja, but Guptill. There’ll be some serious power down Derby way for the T20 and it should put a few extra derrieres on seats if there’s any justice in the world.

I suppose in an ideal world John Morris might have liked a reliable bowler for that second role, but there’s a dearth of them at present. While he may have got a bowler who could keep it tight for the T20, would he have got the required wickets in the second half of the season?

I’d have to say that on balance I prefer batsmen to bowlers in the overseas role, mainly because they’re less likely to be affected by injury. There’s a lot of body parts can go wrong in the mechanics of a bowling action and few bowlers get through a county stint without missing a fair bit of cricket. I know batsmen can pick up their fair share of knocks, but overall I think the theory is pretty sound.

No doubt people will now start to think about the batting order for the T20 and there is some serious power in there. If they fire regularly we should post some commanding totals and few teams will fancy bowling at us. There’s not been too many times we could say that of late…

Guptill, like Usman Khawaja, is a part-time off spinner and actually has best Test figures of 3-37. That he’s only taken four in his first-class career suggests we won’t see him turn his arm over too many times, but you never know.

Meanwhile, Surrey have signed Yasir Arafat as their overseas player for 2011 and he is sure to do a sound job as a cricketer of talent. Glamorgan, on the other hand, seem to be the greatest admirers of Derbyshire in the game.

How? Well, they took Graham Wagg from us and are now lining up Charl Langeveldt as their second overseas player for the T20. In addition, they’re hoping to bring over South African Richard Levi at some point, the link being that his surname is my Dad’s christian name. As he first saw Derbyshire play back in 1946, he must have a claim on being one of our longest-serving fans.

OK, the last part’s a bit tenuous. But somebody should tell them that they signed Alviro Petersen and not Robin Peterson…

They’ll be recruiting Virginia Madsen and Aled Jones next.

Martin Guptill signs

Amid all the conjecture regarding overseas players this winter I have seen Martin Guptill’s name mentioned once or twice. Such has been the focus of supporters on so-called ‘big names’, however, that he has perhaps slipped under the radar.

That should not detract from the fact that he is a very good player, one who has been compared by some good judges to the legendary Kiwi Martin Crowe in his style and poise at the crease. At 24 he shares his birthday with me (sadly 28 years apart…) and comes to England with a point to prove.

Guptill has faced accusations of giving it away when well set and against him stands the evidence of just one century in his Test career so far. Yet his county stint could well be the making of the player, as it was for his fellow country man John Wright thirty years ago. Being the ‘hired gun’ may well see Guptill translate delightful cameos into innings of genuine substance. To be fair there have been signs that this is coming, with telling contributions in the recent series against Pakistan. Some of these came in trying conditions and Guptill’s technique showed itself up to the task.

Where he should prove especially successful is in the T20, where his ability to clear the ropes should be handy in the powerplays. Last season I suggested that Derbyshire needed to find a couple of batsman of ability to draw in the crowds in the shortest form of the game, as well as providing pitches to allow them to play their shots.

We’re now halfway there. A likely top six of Guptill, Khawaja, Durston, Madsen, Hughes and Smith offers rich potential for some exciting strokeplay. If an attack of promise, but relative inexperience, can back them up there are the makings of an exciting campaign.

Martin Guptill is known among collectors of cricket curiosity for having only two toes on his left foot, the result of a fork lift accident when he was young. By the end of the season he could have cemented his reputation as a player of brilliance and proved to be an astute capture.

Put it another way. He can hardly be as bad as Chris Harris, while if he turns out to be another John Wright we will have few complaints.

Welcome to Derbyshire Martin. We’re looking forward to seeing you.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Khawaja watch

I got up early this morning to watch Usman Khawaja bat for New South Wales against Victoria in the Big Bash and was not disappointed.

Khawaja scored 68 from 43 balls and barely lifted a shot off the ground until he was caught. He was up against a good attack too, with Peter Siddle, Dirk Nannes and Andrew MacDonald in the opposition, but it was an exemplary effort that saw his team ultimately triumph in a close finish.

What I especially liked, besides the lack of real risk, was his use of the pace of the ball, with deft late cuts accounting for a number of runs. There was an audacious ramp down to fine leg too, while the speed at which he picks up length leaves bowlers little margin for error.

He has a lot of time to play his shots, always the sign of a good player, and looks in command of his game at present. He is essentially correct with a good technique, but his bat has the flourish of a player with above average gifts.

In short, his performance totally justified the positive response by the fans. However many runs the player makes this season, you can rest assured that they will be made with a bat that moves like a wand in the hands of a magician.

If he does get to grips with the different surfaces quickly, there will be some serious entertainment down Derby way.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Eddie Barlow - a 35th anniversary tribute - Part Six

Peakfan - Finally Eddie was largely responsible for the overhaul of Bangladesh cricket that saw them granted Test status in 2000. That must have been a huge job. Do you feel that the burden of work was a contributory factor to his stroke?

Cally Barlow – It was a huge job to sort out Bangladesh, not only from a playing perspective but on the administration side as well. I don't think Eddie ever cracked the administration side, but he did a thunderingly good job with the players. Without exception they all adored him and that rubbed off on the Bangladeshi people. He was absolutely the right person for the job at that time. He realised that a nation's aspirations were at stake and that Test status would empower not only the players but the people, who had lived for so long in the shadow of their more powerful neighbours, India and Pakistan.

He worked tirelessly to improve their game, even translating everything he did into Bengali so they could understand his words. He ignored those who patronised Bangladesh as not being good enough for Test cricket.

Did this bring on the stroke? I don't think so. Eddie had an underlying hereditary disease known as hyperhomocysteinemia, which increases the risk of artery or vein disease. It could have been treated had it been known about. I will say, however, that the treatment he received in Bangladesh was by far superior to any he received in either Singapore, where he was transferred, or in South Africa, where he ended up. In South Africa they let him fall off a commode and bump his head off the wall opposite Then they had the cheek to try and charge us for the X-rays!

P - He is still revered in Bangladesh and South Africa, as well as in Derbyshire. That must be a comfort to you?

C - You cannot believe how wonderful it is for me that Eddie is so fondly remembered. He could still be among us as everyone always talks about him to me. I had not been back to Bangladesh for nine years until this Spring, but the welcome I received would have done credit to the Queen! Even the youngsters came up to me and said, “You Mrs Eddie Barlow?” When I said yes, they wanted to shake my hand and now want to be my friends on Facebook!

Derbyshire and Gloucestershire fans are the same and it is a real pleasure.

P - After all of that, the two of you ended up in North Wales, where Eddie continued to coach despite having to use a wheelchair some of the time. If any one thing highlights his love for the game, that must surely be it?

C – This was something special for Eddie, having been thrown on the scrapheap in South Africa. He was delighted to accept Tony Lewis' offer of employment in North Wales. Thanks to the Professional Cricketer's Association he was given a motorised wheelchair, which gave him back his legs and meant I didn't have to trundle him up and down the nets in an ordinary one.

He coached North-East Wales juniors and they adored him. After he died, one of them came to me and said “We miss Eddie so much, as he was inspirational and motivated us so well.”

He was coaching to the end. Gray-Nicholls gave him three bats for my grandchildren and we took them over to Jersey for Christmas. He told me that he would show the boys how to bat properly. I wheeled him out into the garden before Christmas and he and the boys were out there for ages. I looked out of the window and the snow was beginning to fall so I called them all in. He really did die with his boots on (Eddie died on December 30, 2005 - P)

P - Did he keep in touch with the county throughout this time and they with him? Did many of his former colleagues keep in touch?

C – We often went over to Derbyshire and at ex-players lunches he and the guys would talk about the old days and the good times they all had together. He was also invited as guest of honour to the Lord's annual dinner and we went to many other functions too.

P - Whenever I think of Eddie, I see a somewhat dishevelled cricketer, mopping his brow with chunky forearms who, when I first saw him in 1970 playing for the Rest of the World against England, looked to be on a par with Sobers. Yet it was the glasses that inspired me the most, as a fellow-wearer who was just 12 at the time. Eddie inspired me and made me think I could play cricket, and I have, for the past 40 years! Did he ever get such comments from people?

C – In all the time I knew Eddie I only met one person who actively disliked him and another who always tried to put him down. Both I put down to jealousy and it was quite petty. Eddie was the most unassuming man in cricket. Yes, he believed he was always going to take wickets and catches and score runs, but if he didn't, that was yesterday and tomorrow was another challenge. I never heard him boast and apart from those two people everyone had a good word for him.

What did get him down a little was that when he met someone he had played against, they would always recall getting Eddie out for very little, or smashing a fifty off his bowling. He used to wonder why they never remembered him bowling them for a duck,or getting a hundred off their bowling.

P – I think that's a sign of his quality. Eddie was so good that people cling on to what they achieved against him, conveniently forgetting the number of times that HE came out on top!

C- That's maybe right! Because he was always so positive it rubbed off on everyone he met and made them believe in themselves.

P - Finally Cally, how do you think that Eddie is remembered?

C – On the field as a great opponent, giving as good as he got. Off the field as a man full of humour, with modesty in his achievements and a bucket full of charm. I was lucky to share his life for only a short time but would not have swapped a minute of it. Yes, he could be a pain in the backside, but can't we all? But he would have that twinkle in his eye and a little grin on his face and very soon the world was back on an even keel.

Dave Griffin - To me, Eddie will always be remembered as the man who made Derbyshire believe. There was no such thing as a lost cause and everyone at Derbyshire, on and off the field, became convinced that Derbyshire could beat anyone, and often did.

Gerald Mortimer - I had enormous admiration for Eddie as a man in terms of his personality and leadership qualities. Without doubt he was a born leader [he was an influential player and captain and could change the course of a game] and it is sad that he was denied the opportunity of showing this at Test match level due to the restrictions on S African cricket due to their apartheid policy.

Bob Taylor – In an era of great all-rounders, Eddie was up there with the best of them. He was getting on when he came to Derbyshire but still set the standards and demanded they were met. He taught us a lot and we were all grateful for the experience.

Tony Borrington - He was, quite simply, a great man and all those players who were privileged to have played under him not only benefited hugely from his influence but will have carried his values to the end of their playing careers – and beyond!


Thursday, 20 January 2011

Once more with feeling

There’s an interesting piece this morning from BBC Hereford and Worcester, with Steve Rhodes claiming that player demands are not as excessive as they were. Seemingly there’s a realisation that the ‘gravy train’ of county cricket is drying up.

He may well be correct, but the top tier of cricketers no longer need the county game so the next one down are keen to further their experience. I assume that will be the case with Derbyshire’s signing of Usman Khawaja and whoever is coming in to cover the second half of the season.

I am convinced that our forthcoming accounts for last season will show a loss. With the club incurring penalties for playing a Kolpak (Robin Peterson) and a non-qualified player (Chesney Hughes) the central allocation will have been reduced. Meanwhile, attendances at the T20 were disappointing despite an encouraging campaign, mainly down to poor weather, the World Cup and understandably slow pitches after being relaid and turned around.

That being the case I think it extraordinary that we will have two overseas players for the T20. My guess is that it will be another batsman, for no other reason than anything otherwise would be a change to the gameplan mid-season. While there may be concern over whether our bowlers can keep the opposition tied down, conversely we could go with the idea of putting ourselves out of sight.

I don’t see many available bowlers who could both keep it tight in the T20 and do a good, penetrative and affordable job in the second half of the Championship campaign, so I’d be happy to see another batsman come in with a reputation to build on.

If he has the potential of Khawaja, who’s going to be disappointed?

More on Khawaja

It has been quite heartening today to read the positive comments around the web about the signing of Usman Khawaja from New South Wales. Gratifyingly for all concerned it has captured the imagination of most, something that will hopefully be translated into positive action at the gates of grounds.

John Morris told how he moved quickly as soon as Khawaja was capped by his country in an article in this morning’s Derby Telegraph, which you can see here:

Of course, we shouldn’t pile too much pressure on a young man who will be experiencing his first taste of overseas pitches. The history of the game is littered with examples of young players who struggled to come to terms with our conditions initially. Greg Chappell had early struggles at Somerset, as did Barry Richards at Hampshire. Michael Slater, from the same state, never really came to terms with the conditions, although the technique of Khawaja appears more a foundation for success than did his earlier compatriot’s.

A thing that should work for him is what appears to be a love of batting. One sensed an edginess in Slater if the scoreboard wasn’t moving and teams quickly learned that if they cut off his profitable areas he would lose patience. While a batsman of flair and talent, Slats watching was regularly a frustration as he gave away promising starts.

In comparison Khawaja seems to have realised fairly early in his career, despite a love of playing his shots, that you can’t get runs in the pavilion. There’s an interesting comparator with Dan Redfern, who has played five more first class innings and scored around 800 runs less. While Redfern, a young player I rate very highly, has made eight half centuries thus far, Khawaja in just 46 innings has made ten and converted another six into centuries, one of them a double. The four years difference in age is a factor though, both physically and mentally.

There’s a nice piece from a recent Daily Telegraph on Khawaja, a qualified pilot, which is worth a read:

So there’ll be no bullish claims that Khawaja will ‘score a bucket load’ from me. We’ll need to see how he adapts to a new environment and alien conditions before it is fair to do that sort of thing. But all things considered, John Morris has done an astute bit of work on this one. If it doesn’t come off it shouldn’t detract from the good intention.

If it does, it may well turn out to be a bit special and well worth a watch.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Derbyshire sign Usman Khawaja

While dozens of names have been banded about this winter, that of Usman Khawaja, who has joined Derbyshire from the start of the season until the end of the T20, was seldom seen among them.

Having said that, anyone who is in any doubt as to the talents of this young Australian of Pakistani descent should have a look at this footage of his first century for New South Wales against South Australia:

Without doubt, he is a batsman of the highest quality. You don't bypass the likes of Adam Voges, David Hussey and Shaun Marsh on your way into the Australian side without having something special. Like many Derbyshire players over the years who have struggled to get international recognition from an unfashionable county, Khawaja probably had to be even better than most to get into that side as a Muslim. He was, after all, setting a precedent after his country had played international cricket for well over a hundred years.

The first man of that faith to represent his country, Khawaja seems pleasant and articulate, well aware that a lot rides on his shoulders. After 46 first class innings he averages over 50 and has six centuries and ten fifties, a remarkable return for one finding his way in the game. See how he feels about his rapid elevation here:

It may be unrealistic to expect a young man encountering English conditions for the first time to maintain such a record. Bristol in April could be a challenge, but any failures won't be for the want of trying. Reports suggest him a dedicated young professional of admirable discipline and he bats with a flowing style harnessed to a sound technique. He plays straight too, which always gives you a chance, especially in England. He may not be as prolific as the vastly more experienced Chris Rogers, but he could just surprise a few people. Write him off at your peril.

Be honest. Can't you just imagine Khawaja in full flow in the T20? Such a sight should surely fill a few more seats than last year and while he perhaps lacks the explosive style of Loots Bosman, that sound technique and wide range of shots should see him more productive.

I'm thrilled with the signing. Suggestions of established stars were always unrealistic given our resources and the riches available to them elsewhere. As I've said for months, our target market was always going to be in the next (still very good) tier down. That being the case, we've signed someone near the top of that tier, his country's best (by general acclaim) young batsman. You can't do much better than that my friends.Whatever runs he makes in 2011, I hope I'm around to see some of them. From what I've seen, satisfaction is pretty much guaranteed.

I'm thrilled that despite the current economic climate John Morris has managed to attract one of the brightest young talents in the world game. If you're still not convinced, listen to what Ian Chappell says about him here - the section on Khawaja starts at 1'57

Whether he opens the batting or goes in at three or four will be down to John Morris, but I have every confidence that this young player will come with a steely determination to do well and repay the faith shown in him by Derbyshire. Who knows, his appearance may even attract the Muslim community, keen to see a young player of talent who has made it to the top in another country.

In short? A young player that people are talking about is coming to play for US. Full credit to Morris and anyone else who facilitated this one. Derbyshire fans have now got an early chance to see a player who could go on to grace the game for a long time. Chesney and Usman in full flow on a sunny afternoon would be worth travelling a long way to see.

A thumbs up from me. Roll on April.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Eddie Barlow - a 35th anniversary tribute - Part Five

Peakfan - I've always felt that Derbyshire missed an opportunity to have Eddie as a coach. Was that offer ever on the table for him?

Dave Griffin - Derbyshire wanted Eddie to stay. I think if he’d arrived 5 years earlier we’d have become a champion county. I think he felt he’d come and done what he needed to do and that it was up to Derbyshire to kick on. To be fair, they did – Nat West winners 3 years later with – predominantly – his side.

P – I'd agree with that! Had he come in 1970, at the height of his powers, he would have been an even greater sensation. Instead he ended up at Gloucestershire, where he was coach for two seasons. How did he find that?

Cally Barlow – To begin with he found it very difficult. One of the administrators told him he could not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The players had no motivation and no inclination to perform and some of them were downright obstructive. They had never met anyone like Eddie but would soon learn that they either did it his way or they were out. Eddie thought he had been brought in to get rid of the dross that the administrators did not have the guts to get rid of themselves. One of the players who had been contracted to bat and bowl came to Eddie and said that he could not bowl. Eddie told him he had better go and renew his contract with the chairman.

Guess what? He bowled! Eventually he got the team he wanted and who were willing and keen to work with him and it was a happy time for him. Unfortunately it came to an abrupt end when his father died and he had to go back to South Africa.

P - Presumably it was a frustration to be no longer able to change and affect games with his own skills?

C - Eddie was not the frustrated type. He had been the best and was now doing his utmost to produce cricketers with the same ethos he had himself. Some players can coach, others can't and Eddie always felt his job was to motivate players and fine tune their natural ability. It always annoyed him to hear Test players say they were on a learning curve. He felt that when they got to that level they should know what they were doing.

P - How did the players at Gloucestershire respond to his ideas on fitness? As well as (most of) those at Derbyshire, or was it harder work?

C - Derbyshire was definitely a wake up call for the players there. By the time he got to Gloucestershire there was a greater awareness that in order to perform at the optimum level they would have to be fit. The players at Gloucestershire were not averse to 'physical jerks' as it was becoming increasingly obvious that other counties were doing the same things, especially in the fielding arena. Eddie had led the way at Derbyshire.

P - I’ve read that Eddie’s methods sowed the seeds for Gloucestershire’s subsequent one-day success?

C – That's probably true. Eddie's greatest asset was making Gloucestershire's players believe they could be the best if they worked hard and believed in themselves.

P - Then of course it was back to South Africa, success with Orange Free State, Griqualand West and Transvaal and then the purchase of a winery. Life cannot have been dull?

C - Anything but! Besides wanting to be the best cricketer he could be, Eddie was always a wannabe farmer and while at Gloucestershire purchased a pig farm. It was probably a mistake in the then Nationalist Government as if you were not an Afrikaner all sorts of obstacles were put in your path. He never got paid first grade for his pigs but always second and third. When he asked where he could buy second or third grade pork Speckenham (the Pork Board) were not amused – and neither was Eddie.

He really enjoyed his time at Free State, getting five of his players into the national side, which was an amazing achievement. He left after a year for Transvaal, which he would later admit was the biggest mistake he ever made. He thought he was doing a good job and the players won their first silverware for ages, but one of the Board members went to the players and asked them if they wanted Eddie to stay. No one has ever given a definite answer to the question “Was Eddie sacked or did he leave of his own accord?”

After his stroke, Eddie could not remember, but the upshot was that he left and moved to the Cape to head up the new Superjuice Academy. This was a great success but after he divorced his second wife we moved to the Robertson area and bought another wine farm. Eddie decided to put cricket behind him for good. Wine farms are like horses though, they eat money, so he was pleased to be asked to go and coach at the Griquas (Griqualand West) by one of his good friends. Unfortunately this friend was rather controlling and always wanted to stick his nose into Eddie's business. After a season and a bit, Eddie came home and said “Right, pack up, we're leaving.”

It left a nasty taste in people's mouths, but I supported Eddie to the hilt on this one. We returned to the farm, but it was not long before he got a call from Ali Bacher to ask if he would like to coach Bangladesh. Prior to this, Eddie has a stint as batting coach to South Africa, but had got on the wrong side of Bob Woolmer and Ali said he was no longer required. Hansie Cronje was not pleased as he was very pro-Eddie and felt he had a lot to offer the team. At the end of the series against the West Indies he sent Eddie a present.

It was a silver tray, which read, “Don't piss on my patch. With thanks from the boys.” Eddie had told them that the West Indies were pissing all over them and they had to show them that this was not going to happen!

Anyway, Eddie came off the call from Ali and said “Ali must really want me out of the way.” It backfired though, if that was the intention, as we both loved Bangladesh

To be continued

AJ et al

The return of Andrew Harris to Derbyshire is not likely to be the most high profile move of the winter but could turn out to be the most important.

‘AJ’ is one of a select band of cricketers better known by his initials – in common with ‘AB’ (de Villiers) and ‘HD’ (Ackerman). Harris was a good, journeyman seam bowler who took over 450 wickets in his first class career that effectively saw him tour the East Midlands.

Had it not been for injuries he could feasibly have gone further, as he could trouble the best, especially when there was a little help in the wicket. He now has the opportunity to pass on his skills to a younger generation and if he can help those at the club to progress he will be doing a good job.

Harris’ role is as link man between the Academy under Karl Krikken and the first eleven. With Steffan Jones and Andrew Brown as bowling and batting coaches respectively, there now appears to be a logical and progressive coaching structure in place, all of them Derbyshire men. OK, I know Steff isn’t a Derbyshire man, but his mentality is Derbyshire through and through…

We seem to have an array of young batsmen coming through, albeit too slowly for most people. Redfern, Borrington, Siddique and Slater are all players of talent and perhaps Harris can help them to produce the goods more frequently than they have in the past. Weight of runs in the Seconds is the strongest argument for promotion to the senior side and while Harris was no great shakes as a batsman he will have his coaching badges and a wealth of experience to offer.

Where he can really excel is to bring through some young bowlers. With the exception of Atif Sheikh we have had few successes of late and Sheikh is some way from the finished article. A couple of lads in his own image coming through and Harris will be doing a sound job.

Elsewhere today Worcestershire have signed veteran Aussie Damian Wright for the early part of 2011. The player presumably gets a visa as he has spent part of the last few years playing for some county or another, including Glamorgan, Somerset, Northamptonshire and Sussex. He was also due to be at Derbyshire at one time but injury prevented the signing.

In other news, it was nice to see that Tom Poynton’s trip to Australia to work on his game has been sponsored by new committee man Chris Grant. The new man’s millions and his role have been the subject of discussion on the various boards. Poynton is the man in waiting for Derbyshire and a likely successor to Luke Sutton in two/three years time. If he can learn from this trip and from the skipper he will emerge as a good county cricketer. Equally Mr Grant will have done the club a good service and it is gratifying to see him help a young player in this way.

Finally tonight, Leicestershire’s auditors have expressed reservations about the club continuing as a going concern after their losses of £400K last season. The high profile and high cost investment in Matthew Hoggard and Brad Hodge might have won them two or three extra matches last year, but one wonders if it was really worth it. Jeopardising the long-term viability of a club for short-term and only moderate gain seems a foolish business plan to me and not one I would wish to see Derbyshire emulate

Monday, 17 January 2011

Monday musings

There’s conjecture a-plenty around the boards regarding our overseas targets for 2011, with all sorts of names being bandied about. In answer to a question on my post yesterday, I haven’t a clue when we’ll hear a name. These things take time and there will be agents involved, contracts to be signed and returned, visa eligibility to be confirmed etc.

As I’ve said before, there are lots of counties trying to sort things out now the IPL auction is done and dusted. We should bear in mind that while John Morris has made offers to two players there is no guarantee that they will automatically accept. One or both may be the subject of interest from elsewhere and they may wish to see if a more lucrative offer comes up. Like it or not, that’s the way it works.

What should also be remembered is that to qualify for a visa the players need to have played one Test in the last two years, or five in the last five years or 15 one-day games in 5 years. That rules out a lot of people…

IF both of our targets were genuinely in the mix for the IPL but rejected there’s only a small handful of options. Given the international calendar this summer, you can narrow likely targets to South Africa and New Zealand. I’ve seen a few suggestions of Chris Gayle, presumably based on wishful thinking and that Gayle missed out on the IPL, but there was a good reason for that. Pakistan tour the Caribbean in April and May, with India doing the same in June and July. Gayle, like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, has too many international commitments for a county deal, as he had for the IPL.

I’ve also seen suggestions of Ramnaresh Sarwan as an option. On the face of it that is a fair idea as he’s a good player who has been out of favour recently, but the West Indies are not so awash with talent that he can be omitted long term. Surely he will return in the next few months, probably in time for the World Cup?

Meanwhile Australia and Bangladesh meet in April and May with the latter going to Zimbabwe in July and August. Australia also go to Sri Lanka in August and September. Logically that takes Tamim Iqbal out too, together with a few Australians who could have been in the mix.

With all the big names in the IPL, there’s a very limited number of players to go around. Faf du Plessis, a very exciting South African all-rounder, said on Saturday that he’d love to return to Lancashire, where he spent time as a Kolpak. He wasn’t sure how many games he needed to play for South Africa to do so though (answer: one Test match or fifteen one-day games very quickly, as he’s uncapped right now.) The player would be an exciting asset to the county game, but it is unlikely to happen sometime soon, certainly not in time for 2011.

The only positive news, if we can be parochial and call it that, is that Leicestershire are the latest side to pretty much rule out a second T20 overseas player, in the light of losses of £400K last season. The news culminates a fairly horrible year for the Foxes and sees them join Gloucestershire, Kent and Worcestershire in doing so.

While there’s still no news on our accounts from last year, the news that John Morris is likely to have two overseas players for the T20 is a mini-miracle. To me, that suggests that either Keith Loring and his team have played a blinder (knighthoods must beckon…) or there’s been a little help financially from members of the Committee.

Or maybe John Morris has found a world star who, in a spirit of altruism, has agreed to play for nowt…

All will doubtless be revealed in time. For now, just enjoy the feeling of anticipation.

Andrew Harris rejoins Derbyshire

Andrew Harris has returned to Derbyshire after eleven years away as Second XI coach.

It is a key position and John Morris obviously sees the former county seam bowler as the man to help our young players progress.

More on this tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Got to be a relative of Timmy?

Regular readers will recall last winter I marvelled at some of the names of South African cricketers and came across the sublimely named Shadley van Schalkwyk, currently playing for the Knights.

He may well have been 'aced' in the name stakes by a young feller making his way into the game for Namibia.

Zhivago Groenewald is the name. Worthy of a fine cricketer, that name and I hope the lad lives up to it.

Maybe he should get some advice from Lara...

Friday, 14 January 2011

F-ancy that...

I can safely say that Derbyshire have had few players of genuine talent whose names begin with F.

While we had high hopes of Travis Friend until his back problems, only two players whose names began with that letter have risen, not so much to the top but from mediocrity.

One of them was Roger Finney, who for a few seasons looked like making it as an all-rounder. A medium pace left-armer, he could get the ball to move around and on occasion was a handful. He was also a batsman good enough to average 20 in the first-class game and stuck around like a latter day Fred Swarbrook. Just over 200 wickets was a fair return, but Finney’s spell at the top was relatively brief and he finished his career in the Minor Counties with Norfolk.

For me, the star turn, and agreeing with the club site is Tom Forrester, or Forester as he sometimes spelled his name (presumably when in a hurry…)

Forrester was a right arm medium pace bowler for Warwickshire from 1896-99 before registering for Derbyshire and playing for us from 1902-20. Born at Clay Cross, the move was a natural one, but he did only moderately in 1902 and 1903, played once in 1904 and then played no more cricket until 1910, when he was 37 years old.

In between times his game had improved, however, and in the four seasons preceding the First World War he gave sterling service. 1911 brought 62 wickets at 25, 1912 another 31 at 19 runs each and 1913 saw 65 wickets at 27.

The final season before the outbreak of war, 1914, was an especially impressive one. Seventy wickets at 20, twice taking ten in a match, was an admirable return for a man of 41, before cricket was effectively wound up until 1919.

I'd disagree with the club site that says he could have made a greater impression but for losing the war years. At 41 he had only one way to go and although he would have taken a few wickets, his career logically would have been heading downwards.

Forrester the batsman was a left-hander good enough to make eleven half centuries, though an average of just 15 was far from spectacular. Although he returned briefly in 1919 and again in 1920, Father Time had caught up with him at last and he retired aged 47, after a career in which he took 347 wickets at 25, with best figures of 7-18. That well over half of them came after his 37th birthday is extraordinary but a long way from unique for that period .

He died in Nottingham in 1927. A steady cricketer, but not a legend, like the star turn in the Gs...

Something for the weekend

It’s a sure sign that the season is fast approaching when fans start to select their first choice sides for next season, as is happening on IMWT.

It is something I enjoy doing myself, but I’m going to keep my powder dry until I know who our overseas players are for 2011.

There’s a natural assumption that John Morris is going to replace his overseas opening batsman in a like for like swap, but I would think that far from a done deal. Indeed none of the players I see as likelier signings are opening batsmen, which leaves suggesting teams difficult.

If Morris changes things around with a middle-order batsman, an all-rounder, spinner or seamer it will obviously skew any suggested sides. The loss of an opening batsman isn’t a major problem as long as the man coming in makes a good contribution, of course. Chesney Hughes and Paul Borrington can both open alongside Wayne Madsen, while Wes Durston could feasibly do so having enjoyed success in the one-day game. That’s even before we know how Matt Lineker will take to the county game. Why, in his last stint with us, Luke Sutton even opened the batting on occasion – we’re awash with them!

Those first three places in the order will be the key to our season though. Two years ago we were getting to lunch at 95-1 or better, with Rogers, Madsen and Garry Park all enjoying strong seasons. Last year we were all too often 20-2 in no time, with the middle order exposed to the new ball.

These are all crucial berths. While to some extent four to six in the order can be interchangeable, not everyone can bat in the top three with success. Only John Morris knows his plans for these positions, all I can say is that Chesney Hughes has said he enjoys opening and wants to do so, while we never filled number three adequately last season apart from when Chesney batted there. ..

So there’s an issue straight away, though a return to 2009 form for Garry Park would sort number three quite nicely… unless that’s the preferred berth for our new man.

See what I mean?

Similarly there’s a few people selecting Jake Needham in a first choice side, which is laudable as an idea, but I doubt there would be four pitches a season that would justify playing a specialist spinner. Unless Needham returns from his South African winter as the new Hugh Tayfield, my guess is that he will feature in a fair share of one-day games with four-day matches in Wales and (maybe) Northampton.

Given that we’ve signed Mark Turner and Tony Palladino this winter to add to a decent seam line-up, logic suggests our pitches this year should favour seamers, or at least give them a sporting chance. Greg Smith, Wes Durston and Dan Redfern can bowl spin of varying quality if required, even if just to change the pace or hasten a second new ball.

While I would love to see a Derbyshire-reared spinner taking stacks of wickets I would be surprised if pitches this summer were prepared for our current resources in that area. I still think Needham has potential, but spin bowling is a long apprenticeship. Graham Swann had some fallow years at Northampton before he emerged as a top player, but he had batting ability to carry him through. Look around the counties and so too do most of the spinners who play regularly.

I think that to become more than a peripheral figure Needham will need to improve his batting or bowling and probably needs Greg Smith out of the picture. Smith’s versatility, while very useful to the side, is the biggest barrier to his progress and unlike Needham his batting and bowling are probably equally strong suits. I’m not advocating getting rid of Smith, who is a very good cricketer, but we all know his situation and that he may look elsewhere at the end of this season.

Needham may yet have to wait a while longer, but can advance his cause considerably when he has opportunities this season. In between times, he has to bowl well on a regular basis in the Seconds, work at his game and be ready when the chance is there.

Eddie Barlow - a 35th anniversary tribute - Part Four

Alan Hill - Eddie was ahead of his time in County cricket. He instigated a fitness regime and we were the first County to do track suited pre match warm ups. He was a man of high principles and standards and a shrewd reader of people which enabled him to get the very best out of his players with outstanding man-management skills. He was beyond the level of a captain-he was a General-and that's what we called him!!!!
P - Did Eddie have pretty much total control over playing matters in his time at Derbyshire?

Dave Griffin - One of the reasons for signing Eddie was to raise the profile of the club. We saw him as a leader, even before he took over the captaincy. From my recollections of the time, and from all the anecdotal evidence I have heard since, only one person was in charge of Derbyshire cricket from 1976-1978….

Tony Borrington – Eddie was a truly inspirational captain and a master of motivational techniques. He led from the front with bat and ball and led in his own dynamic style. His sheer sense of presence seemed to intimidate the opposition. Individual and team performances rose measurably under his guidance and leadership and his positive impact throughout his three years at the club was quite astounding.

P - Did he ever wish that he could have come over earlier when he was in his prime as a batsman? His batting averages at Derbyshire were around 30, while his Test average was mid-forties. Though still a force, did he feel himself his batting was on the wane?

C - The ever ebullient Barlow would have thought an average of 30 was not bad for a "has been"! As for wishing he had come over earlier, I don't think it would have entered his mind. I do know that he regretted leaving when he did and said he should have stayed another season.

P - In 1978 Eddie had an astonishing season with the ball, especially in one-day cricket and led us to a Lords final. How disappointed was he in the loss against Kent after a superb campaign?

C - Mega disappointed for the team, but he didn't agonise over it. That was today, tomorrow, we win.

P - Had he decided to leave before that final, or did he feel that he’d done as much as he could on the pitch? Injuries were starting to play a part at that time.

Dave Griffin - He said at the 1978 AGM in the Grandstand that he would probably not return in 1979, and it was no real surprise that he didn’t. He always stressed the need to return to his work in South Africa.

P -What were his favourite memories of his time at Derbyshire?

Dave Griffin - His favourite memories always seemed to involve the improvement of other players…

P - Eddie was instrumental in Peter Kirsten, Allan Lamb and Garth Le Roux coming to play for the county 2nd XI and in local league cricket. Not a bad trio! Was it his decision that we took Peter as a second overseas player?

C – Yes it was.

P – That turned out pretty well! I assume Eddie was unaware of Lamb’s potential to play for England (and Derbyshire) at that stage?

Dave Griffin – That's right.

P - I've often wondered if Eddie had anything to do with the likes of Ashley Harvey-Walker, Fred Swarbrook and Phil Russell heading out to and settling in South Africa. Was that the case?

Dave Griffin -Those players had already visited South Africa, played there and enjoyed it. However, Eddie was hugely instrumental in the young Kim Barnett going to to play for Boland – and many more followed.

P - David Steele took over as Derbyshire captain from Eddie and that never really worked. Was Eddie involved in that decision? Was he surprised by how it turned out?

David Griffin - David Steele had been contacted by Derbyshire to replace Eddie as skipper during the latter stages of 1978, when it was clear Barlow would be going.

P - Eddie was an outspoken critic of apartheid. Did that cause any problems for him back home, or was his status such that this was never a problem?

C - Eddie's profile was high enough that he would not have been flung in jail unless he had put a gun to someone's head, but the day to day problems he faced while trying to run his business were sometimes intolerable. Afrikaners ran the country and if you were an English speaker you got short shrift. His pigs when he took them to market were never grade 1 (the highest prices) but 2 or 3. Eddie once asked them where he could buy the grade 2 and 3 pork but of course it was never available. Police would also come onto his farm late at night and terrorise the staff, simply because Eddie paid better wages than the Afrikaner farmers.

P - He played under fine captains in Trevor Goddard and Ali Bacher. Was he frustrated by South Africa’s exclusion from the international scene, that presumably prevented him from leading the side?

C – Yes, but he didn't dwell on it.

To be continued...

Thursday, 13 January 2011


So 90% of people agreed with me that any overseas player should be allowe to play as a professional in England just like in the old days.

It would make a lot of lives easier, especially John Morris and his counterparts around the country.

Twice the fun...

News that John Morris plans to share overseas duties for 2011 comes as no real surprise given the congested nature of the international cricket calendar, though the identity of his targets remains shrouded in mystery.

The good news is that it appears we will have two players for the T20. I wasn’t sure that we would be able to afford that, and there’s still no news of a club financial statement. This has to be seen as a positive step as the season approaches however.

There are a few clues in Mark Eklid’s article, which if you haven't seen it is here:

The players we are after weren’t signed in the IPL auction, which one assumes means that they were at least in it. That rules out the big names, but regular readers will know I’d discounted them anyway. Presumably it also excludes Charl Langeveldt, as he was signed up. Again, for convenience, the list of players unsigned are here:

Possibilities? Adam Voges wasn’t signed but will probably be too expensive, nor was Wasim Jaffer. Loots Bosman and Robin Peterson also missed out, though the qualification criteria of these two is unclear. I couldn’t see Bosman as an overseas player for the second half of the season anyway, though I’d like to be there if he ever really let go in a longer innings. Peterson might struggle to get a visa after quitting international cricket for a Bosman deal, only to go back to it when the season ended.

I suppose that in the second half of the season a spinner would be useful, but I can’t see one other than Peterson. Ajantha Mendis of Sri Lanka was unsigned, but has potentially a lot of international commitments. As it was, Peterson took more wickets in the first half of the season last year, though tiredness and injury niggles could have been an issue as the season wore on. I can’t see Morris gambling on an unknown spinner, who wouldn’t have the international experience required for a visa anyway.

With the T20 in mind a ‘go to’ bowler would be useful. Among the names that missed out in the IPL and could potentially do an affordable job might be Ryan McLaren, formerly of Kent, a good seamer who can also hit a ball to distant parts. There’s also fellow South African all-rounders Vernon Philander and Johann Louw.

Two other observations. One is that the player for the second half of the season may not have been in the IPL shakeup and we're all reading too much into it. The other is how people still think we are going to sign Jacques Kallis, who just earned $1.1 million from IPL, or Chris Gayle who is tied up with West Indies for most of the summer. If it was a 'name' South African my guess would be Ashwell Prince, a fine player who is prepared to battle.

But sadly wasn't in the IPL shake-up. Drat...

If we're going to fantasise, I suppose we could all dream of Tamim Iqbal opening the batting in the T20 and late summer…just as long as we don’t end up with the too-long retired Brian Lara…

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

T20 XI

Following on from my Derbyshire Dogged XI, here’s my T20 all stars side as requested by Nick. As allowed under current regulations, there’s two overseas players. I've also based my selection on players I've seen play.

1 Eddie Barlow – he’d have loved the format and been good at it. Would enjoy going in to play his shots and would be my skipper. Would also take stacks of wickets as people took his bowling on at the death - at their peril. Though the team has some strong characters, Bunter would have kept them all pulling in the same direction.

2 Kim Barnett – a very fine batsman who could play all forms of the game. Would have driven them over cover and got us off to a flyer with the skipper.

3 John Morris – tremendous stroke player who loved the big occasion. An ideal number three for some big shots.

4 Chris Adams – agile fielder, fast runner between the wickets and aggressive batsman. Couldn’t ask for more, really.

5 Adrian Kuiper – just shades Chris Wilkins as he was a better bowler. Huge hitter who would be great in Powerplays, a real danger man.

6 Dominic Cork – a major factor in Hampshire’s win last year and could change a match with bat or ball in his prime. Can’t overlook him.

7 Phil de Freitas – another fierce competitior with bat or ball, a big hitter and brilliant fielder. Perfect for the last five overs.

8 Geoff Miller – a spinner who was hard to hit, fine fielder and classy batsman who should have made more runs than he did. A good insurance policy at number eight.

9 Luke Sutton – T20 isn’t all about big hitting and Sutts is one of the best runners between wickets I’ve seen in our colours. Averaged over 40 in his last T20 campaign for us, so pretty effective

10 Mike Hendrick – opening bowlers need to be accurate and there were few better than Hendo. Rarely got hit, so an obvious choice.

11 Les Jackson – a slight bending of the rules here, as I only saw Les bowl once and he’d been retired for five years. Yet he kept Barry Richards, Fred Goldstein, Geoff Boycott and Ted Dexter to two an over in a match against the International Cavaliers in 1968 and they could all play. If you can bowl nine overs and take two for nineteen when you’re 47, you’d handle things in your pomp…

Yeah, that team would do nicely. Eight bowlers, nine batsmen, five all-rounders - good prospects!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Eddie Barlow - a 35th anniversary tribute - Part Three

P - Eddie then signed up for World Series Cricket and Kerry Packer. Presumably he did that without Derbyshire’s knowledge? Was there any awkwardness?

Dave Griffin - My recollection of him signing for WSC was that it was great for him and Derbyshire. He was outlawed from Test cricket because of South Africa’s isolation, so most Derbyshire people saw it as a rare opportunity for him to play top class cricket.

Bob Taylor – We were playing Somerset at Chesterfield in 1976 and batting on a hot day. In the dressing room Eddie suddenly exclaimed “There's going to be a revolution in cricket.” That's all he said but it was the first we heard about what became World Series Cricket.

P - How did he find WSC?

C – He got on a plane and turned right at Mauritius - only kidding!

The beginning was not auspicious at all with all the writs flying around, but the Boards had met their match with Kerry Packer and sanity prevailed. Eddie absolutely adored Australia and once thought of emigrating there. He did not play in the World Series proper, but his main job was captain of the Cavaliers side, which was mainly made up of injured players coming back to their best. 

Eddie went to Kerry once and told him that the players were getting too many injuries. He replied "The spectators want blood, I want blood and so does Channel 9." That was the end of that! There were a few incidents where Eddie dropped a couple of West Indian players because of bad timekeeping. They accused him of racism but Kerry soon sorted that one out.

P - The 1977 and 1978 seasons were two of my favourites as a Derbyshire fan, as Eddie led the team with panache and the players responded. Did he have any favourite players from that era?

C - Eddie didn't do favourites and the players he held in the highest regard would probably have got the sternest criticism, because he wanted them to do well. I remember a youngster he was coaching many years later saying to me "Why is the Coach always riding me"? My reply was "Because he respects your talent and wants you to do the same."

P - Who were the characters of that side?

Dave Griffin – They were all characters – just ask Geoff Miller!

(Around this time Miller and Hendrick did a brilliant comedy double act of two Derbyshire miners discussing the cricket club. 'Eric Bartlett' or 'Laszlo Baslow' was often discussed, as were 'Cliff Gladstone and Les Jackman' The former used to 'baarl big benders...')

Bob Taylor- It was a very happy dressing room and there was a homely and friendly atmosphere around the club. Eddie made us more competitive but we still had a lot of fun!

P - Did many of the players keep in touch later?

C - Like most walks of life, while you are with a group of people you are great buddies, but when you part your life changes. When their paths crossed it was as if they had met yesterday and I think most of them would say they would never forget what Eddie did for them.

Mike Hendrick - Eddie's arrival at Derbyshire gave my career the kick up the backside that it needed. He gave me the understanding of the strength and fitness needed to push on to achieve a flourishing career at Test level. His encouragement was a major factor in my development. He was a great bloke, on and off the pitch.

P - What sort of a captain was he? Would he have been quiet and authoritative, or prepared to give an Alex Ferguson-style hair dryer treatment to anyone who messed him about?

Bob Taylor – I was fortunate to play under two outstanding captains in Eddie and Mike Brearley. They were both very competitive and both commanded respect. You had total belief in them and in what they did. Eddie would always confer with you and listen to your thoughts.

Eddie was a fine batsman and his bowling was always dangerous. He bowled a good line, moved it a bit either way and he had a really quick ball that caught people out. He was outstanding as a skipper and rarely missed a trick.

Harry Cartwright – Eddie treated all the players as individuals and knew exactly how to get the best out of them -which player needed and arm around the shoulder and which one might need a much sterner approach. He was, quite simply, the best captain that I ever played under.

C - He would never ask a player to do anything he was not prepared to do himself. He led by example. I never knew him give a rollicking to anyone in his team in front of another player. I only once saw him go for a member of another team and he richly deserved what he would have got if Eddie had been a little quicker!

P – What was he like in defeat?

C - If the team had played badly he would walk off the field, go into the dressing room, get changed and go home. The next day he would call a meeting and in the cool light of day they would discuss what had gone wrong. Occasionally there would be a young whipper-snapper who thought he knew better than the captain. Eddie would send him to third man and then fine leg to get him out from under his feet!

Geoff Miller – On a personal level, Eddie transformed my career and was my most important mentor in county cricket. On a team level he transformed the whole of the thinking of Derbyshire County Cricket Club from a negative to a positive approach to the game.

P - What was his secret with young players? He seems to have had a knack of turning ordinary players into good county professionals. Was that force of personality, coaching tips or something else?

C - He never talked down to youngsters, always praised their endeavours, had a fund of stories for them, was always willing to listen to them and joined in their fun, even latterly from his mobility scooter. He also had their respect, which was probably why he did so well with the young county professionals.

Alan Hill - Eddie was ahead of his time in County cricket. He instigated a fitness regime and we were the first County to do track suited pre match warm ups. He was a man of high principles and standards and a shrewd reader of people which enabled him to get the very best out of his players with outstanding man-management skills. He was beyond the level of a captain-he was a General-and that's what we called him!!!!

Monday musings

As a somewhat casual observer, given I’m not a huge fan of T20, watching the IPL auction unfold over the weekend veered between the fascinating and bizarre. The number of relatively unknown Australians signed can be attributed to the fact that there are so many Aussies involved in the organisation of squads. Worthy as they may be I’m not sure how Chris Lynn and Nathan Rimmington get into what is supposed to be the biggest cricket competition in the world.

They may at least represent value for money, but I was astonished to see Doug Bollinger and Dan Christian earn a fortune on relatively modest skills. That the former went for $700K was mind-blowing, but then Christian went to Deccan for $900K. The state of Australian cricket has been evident this winter, yet their players still make up the bulk of imports.

Bollinger will have been cheered by such a handsome payday. Who wouldn’t be? Worcestershire fans who recall his 16 wickets at 44 in 2007 will doubtless be incredulous though. Maybe his subsequent hairweave gave him additional powers, but the fact that he couldn’t hold down a place in a poor Australian attack this winter speaks volumes.

Meanwhile, Christian bowled six overs for 66 against England earlier today. Granted he made a breezy fifty in the Presidents XI innings, but I’d reckon that a net deficit. For the money he’s set to earn, the player will be under a lot of pressure and presumably his new side were unaware of his statistics for Hampshire in the T20 last year. 33 runs in eight innings at an average of eight and nine wickets at 31 was a modest return that he will need to improve on substantially.

To be fair to him, he’s had a couple of good performances in Australia this winter, but I’m not sure a couple of quick tonks justify that sort of money, nor that I’d swap him for Greg Smith or Wes Durston. Smith at $20K would have been a far better deal, while Wes at $50K would have given an explosive batsman at the top of the order. Christian, nearly 28 years old, has not yet made a century in first-class cricket yet is billed as a ‘dangerous customer with a bat in his hand…’ Surely not that dangerous? By the same token, Steffan Jones could legitimately call himself ‘Lethal Weapon’ and Wayne Madsen is ‘Licensed to Kill’…

Such figures, and many others alongside them, reinforce my previously expressed opinion that the big names will not be seen in county cricket again and certainly not at Derbyshire. The likes of Ross Taylor (£1 million), Cameron White ($1.1 million) AB de Villiers ($1.1 million) and Yusuf Pathan ($2.1 million) have been mentioned by contributors to this blog or myself over the winter which now looks a little silly.

Even a workmanlike professional like James Hopes went for $350K, which illustrates how hard it must be to get players to even consider a county stint for (I’d guess) £70-80K. It also makes a mockery of suggestions that our committee millionaires should make up the difference for a big name. Looking at those figures, it is as realistic as my chances of beating Usain Bolt in a 100 metre sprint…

Be serious. We would need £100K per season as a minimum, more if we wanted a second overseas for the T20. One correspondent on 606 suggests we need to do it to remain competitive, or die. I think that we can remain competitive with sensible recruitment but WOULD die if we spent at that level. There is no economic sense to spending more than you have, as plenty of football fans are well aware.

Our hunt for an overseas player will go on and at least John Morris and others around the country now know who is and isn’t available for the English season. James Franklin, for example, has been linked with Lancashire but will be with Mumbai until June. His higher profile countrymen, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori will be in India too, so that pretty much rules out a New Zealander in the county game in 2011.

I thought Colin Ingram might have been a good option for someone, but the South African, who did so well for Spondon as a professional, has signed for Delhi for $100K, while Faf du Plessis has gone to Chennai for $120K. The timing of their seasons has meant Australians and South Africans are in demand, which makes the fact that no one moved for Robin Peterson or Loots Bosman slightly surprising. Both were available for moderate sums and have had their moments in the short format, but lesser known countrymen were taken up instead.

There will still be options though. I’ve previously mentioned Indian batsman Wasim Jaffer, scourge of the Yorkshire leagues and erstwhile international as a possibility. He wasn’t picked up yesterday so would theoretically be available for the full season. The twenty-over thrash isn’t the strongest suit for a cultured player and he has missed out this time, though I am sure he would score heavily in the county game, especially as the summer progressed.

Curiously the less talented but glamorous Saurabh Tiwary earned a nice $1.6 million on the back of a few well-timed slogs last year, an extraordinary sum. With just three first-class centuries to his name, Tiwary has secured his future. While he obviously has a good eye and is a clean hitter, I’m not convinced he’s THAT good. By the same token I’m sure Jaffer will appear in county cricket this summer, the only question being where. With respect to all concerned, he’s way too good to be stuck in the Huddersfield League.

Adam Voges, who has done so well with Nottinghamshire as a stopgap, is also technically available and is sure to interest more affluent counties. Various cricket supremos will be looking at the list of those not signed and making a few phone calls in the coming days and weeks.

Only a handful of Englishman were signed, primarily because any players selected would have missed a lot of games with international commitments, the reason that Chris Gayle ended up unwanted. This left Yorkshire and Derbyshire breathing loud sighs of relief, together with one or two other counties. Essex have lost Ryan ten Doeschate though, while Leicestershire will not see Andrew McDonald until June and are ‘unlikely to bring in a replacement.’

One of the few logical decisions on a day when money was spent like it was going out of fashion was in no one signing the long-retired Brian Lara for $400K. Why he thought of a return is beyond me, but thankfully the money people showed a little common sense on that one.

Still, there’s a few cricketers last night must have gone to bed with smiles on their faces. None bigger than Johan Botha of South Africa. Granted he’s their one-day skipper, an excellent fielder and a decent bowler. But $950K?

Good luck to the guy, but that’s crazy money.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

IPL auction update

So Travis Birt is sold to Delhi for $20K, but there's no bids for Robin Peterson, nor Loots Bosman.

There were no takers for Wes Durston or Greg Smith. Its a shame for the players, but good news for Derbyshire, who would otherwise have lost them until June.

Colin Ingram, formerly of Spondon went for $100K, while Charl Langeveldt remains a prize and went for $140K.

Meanwhile Mohammad Kaif, who had a part-season at Derbyshire a few years back, was the last player auctioned in the second stage and went for $130K...

The auction was simply, in a word, bizarre. More tomorrow.

IPL auction

There were no bids for either Wes Durston or Greg Smith in the first round for the Indian Premier League.

Both players could yet be picked up in the second round. A lot of high profile cricketers are as yet unsigned, which could make the second round interesting.

More later

Friday, 7 January 2011

Eddie Barlow - a 35th anniversary tribute - Part Two

Peakfan - Eddie was a big name in world cricket circles from around 1960 and county sides were recruiting overseas stars from the mid-1960s. I once read that he’d never been asked to join the county circuit before Derbyshire’s approach?

Cally Barlow - Yes that's right.

P - I still find it extraordinary that one of the top all-rounders in the world has to wait until he’s 36 for a county deal. How did that come about?

Dave Griffin - During the winter of 1975, George Hughes, Derbyshire’s chairman, who was a road haulage businessman from Loughborough, made enquiries about bringing a top world name to the club. Graeme Pollock was mentioned as well as Eddie and Derbyshire had to break the bank to sign him. At the time Garfield Sobers was earning £5,000 per season at Nottinghamshire and Barlow's £10,000 per season (around £85,000 today – P) sent serious shock waves through the cricket world. Hughes paid Barlow's salary, on the proviso that Derbyshire paid his tax. When the tax man came calling in the early 1980s, it became clear that Derbyshire hadn’t made good their promise on the tax!!

Bob Taylor – As far as the players were concerned, Eddie's reputation spoke for itself and there was no resentment about his salary. There was the odd comment around the circuit, but it wasn't an issue.

C - Eddie had so many things going on in South Africa. Cricketers had to earn a living in those days, as well as play cricket.

P - What were his first impressions of county cricket?

C - Mostly unprintable! He was always a player's man, which did not sit well with most administrators, but they were probably so desperate to get Derbyshire out of the doldrums that they would have agreed to anything he said and did. And he did a lot!. He had enjoyed his time in the Lancashire Leagues, where it was real blood and guts, but he found county cricket had very little direction. Some players were content to just play out the season, possibly due to no one really giving a damn, having just written them off.

Bob Taylor – Eddie took over from me as skipper part way through that first season. I wanted to concentrate on my wicket-keeping and believed that captaincy is something you have a natural aptitude for. Eddie had that, and as the senior player with international experience was the obvious choice to take over.

I remember he called a meeting soon afterwards and talked about professionalism, using me as an example. I used to have an hour's drive to the ground from my home. Eddie told the rest of the team that even when it was raining I did this with the expectation of playing cricket. He said too many cricketers were happy to sit in the pavilion in a negative state of mind when it rained. Eddie wanted us to stay positive, expecting to be on the pitch every day.

P - In that first season, Eddie’s batting form was the subject of a few moans from supporters. Did that bother him, or was he confident that it would come good in the end?

C - Eddie was always confident and I think he saw his job first and foremost as getting Derbyshire right, but he was at his best when he was getting either runs or wickets.

P - When he returned to form, it was with a career-best 217 against Surrey at Ilkeston. That was typically Eddie?

Dave Griffin – I saw the double hundred. There was real consternation among the members during the morning session as Eddie scratched around at the crease. The same members were giving him a standing ovation several hours later. One of the best innings I’ve ever seen.

C - Eddie never did anything by halves, but on the other hand he never revisited failure. He was always about tomorrow, never yesterday.

Gerald Mortimer - Eddie was an eternal optimist in his approach and in 1976 he lifted a bedraggled Derbyshire side, giving hope and belief to both players and supporters.

P - At the end of the first season, as referred to by John Wright in his autobiography, there were a couple of high profile departures from the county in ex-England players Phil Sharpe and Alan Ward. Wright suggests they did not subscribe to Eddie’s theories on physical fitness?

C - At that time it was most unusual for county players to even think about fitness of any kind. If you could bend your right arm, smoke coffin nails and party all night you were generally OK. It was a long way from Eddie's ethos for getting a team to peak performance and if players were not willing to go with what he wanted they got short shrift. Nor did he tolerate divisiveness in the dressing room.

Tony Borrington – Wardy had become very injury prone by 1976 and Bunter just could not see him lasting a season, when he was operating on a low budget with a small staff. He went to Leicestershire but was still plagued by injuries and it turned out to be a shrewd decision. However, I remember Wardy knocked Eddie's middle stump out at Grace Road (I was at the other end) and Bunter could see the irony in it!

Sharpey was a lovely man – greatly liked and respected. However, although a great slip catcher he was not the fittest at that stage of his career and the new fitness regime was always going to be a challenge. I don't recall it being controversial – I just think at that stage he was ready to move on to other things in his life.

P - So what did Eddie say to the players at the end of that first season? Looking at the difference between 1976 and 1977 it appears to have worked!

Tony Borrington – His training methods were innovative – specific training regimes for each player to be tested on the first day of pre-season. Also we did sprints fully kitted out in net sessions. He would call out 'run two' three times running so there was no complacency in the approach. He was very much ahead of his time.

Bob Taylor – He had us running around the County Ground and Queens Park even when it was raining. There was no room for complacency! You could always be fitter and Eddie used to stress the importance of concentration. People who maintain focus perform better and that's what separates international from county players. He helped us all, without question.

C - He was delighted for the players that fortunes improved and always quick to put his hand in his pocket when the occasion arose. He probably overstepped the mark when he took them all to a strip club. The wives found out and were furious...

P - Eddie then signed up for World Series Cricket and Kerry Packer. Presumably he did that without Derbyshire’s knowledge? Was there any awkwardness?

Dave Griffin - My recollection of him signing for WSC was that it was great for him and Derbyshire. He was outlawed from Test cricket because of South Africa’s isolation, so most Derbyshire people saw it as a rare opportunity for him to play top class cricket.

Bob Taylor – We were playing Somerset at Chesterfield in 1976 and batting on a hot day. In the dressing room Eddie suddenly exclaimed “There's going to be a revolution in cricket.” That's all he said but it was the first we heard about what became World Series Cricket.

To be continued...

Derbyshire Dogged XI

I got an interesting e-mail from someone the other day, asking me to list two Derbyshire sides. The first was to be a side that had to bat a day and a half, maybe two to save a match that was unwinnable; the second was the perfect T20 side, complete with two overseas players.

It has given me great food for thought and thanks to Nick for the idea! Tonight I’ll give you my side to bat a day and a half - maybe even three days - to save a game. Trust me, this side could easily do that as they all had, or have great powers of concentration.

I've called it my Dogged XI, and I've re-read that carefully to avoid misprints...

1 Alan Hill – Bud had the ability to bat for hours and frequently did. There was nothing pretty about his technique and he had an unusual, almost double backlift. Yet it worked and he was very effective for a number of years.

2 Ian Hall – a player who rarely attempted a flamboyant stroke, Hall knew his limitations and played within them. While not someone who would attract the crowds, supporters appreciated his dogged attitude and willingness to battle in adversity.

3 Tony Borrington – like Alan Hill, he had the shots and played some effective one-day knocks, yet he could and would dig in when things got tough and needed to be prised out. A battler, and his son Paul is a chip off the old block

4 David Steele – need I say more? He’d block it out for hours…no, make it days. I'm sure he went to bed playing the perfect forward defensive.

5 Dean Jones – Deano would bat and bat. Anyone who defies cramp, sickness and dehydration to make a double century for Australia in India gets into this team – as overseas player and skipper.

That little lot would take me through to lunch on the last day, so here’s the rest to ensure we escaped with the draw points:

6 Derek Morgan – rescued so many lost causes and propped up dozens of innings over the years. An essential selection.

7 Luke Sutton – a great team man and a batsman who, while not naturally flamboyant, makes the best of what he has. Delighted to see him back and in charge, the ideal man for wicket keeper.

8 Graeme Welch – another team man who battled in adversity, Pop had all the shots but would keep them hidden if there was a tough situation.

9 Edwin Smith – battling tail ender who would block it out.

10 Fred Swarbrook – my secret weapon. Three overs to go, two wickets left and the opposition think they’re through. Not a chance. Super Fred walking out would dampen their spirits and they’d not get close to seeing

11 Tim Groenewald – Came with a reputation as a hitter, but we’ve seen plenty of dogged knocks from Groeners. If he had to bat, they’d need a bulldozer and semtex to get him out when things were tight.

That’s my eleven. If you think I’ve missed anyone, please let me know. There were others – Albert Alderman, Charlie Lee – who could have been in there, but I never saw them. My side is picked on those I’ve seen play and to give a balanced side. I could easily have picked 11 batsmen.

Which is why we probably needed to bat all that time to save the game, of course!

Congratulations to England

Like most other cricket fans in the UK, I'm delighted to see England win the Ashes.

Amid the thousands - nay millions - of words that this has and will generate, could I be the first to point out that it's only when we appoint a Derbyshire man as Chairman of Selectors when we get things right.

Biased? Parochial? Moi?

Yup. Well done England. And Geoff Miller :-)

Something for the weekend

Hampshire have made an interesting signing as overseas player in South African seamer Friedel de Wet. He made a good debut in international cricket against England last winter but then missed several months recovering from a stress fracture to his back.

At 30 he is a seasoned cricketer who should get wickets, although the presence of Kabir Ali and Simon Jones at Hampshire makes the signing a strange one in some eyes. Presumably the county will rotate the three and give each a game off on a regular basis, though their collective fitness record suggests that this may be enforced rather than optional. If they all stay fit it should, however, be one of the better attacks in the division. If not, I guess they could assemble the working body parts of all three into a composite super-bowler.

Maybe I’ve watched too many science fiction movies. It reminds me of when our club was looking at a funding bid for a bowling machine which would prepare our batsmen for matches better than ever before. One wag asked if the machine was on wheels or static.

“Och, it disnae matter,” he said. “Either way we should play it. It’ll be more mobile in the field than our regular opening bowlers…”

Meanwhile, Somerset have added to the signings of Steve Kirby and Gemaal Hussain with Saqlain Mustaq, who appears likely to play when Murali Kartik is unavailable. They must have plenty of cash in those parts, as they’re still talking about re-signing Kieron Pollard for the T20. Fair play to them – its nice to see a small club (which they are) competing with the big boys and still turning in a small profit.

Of course, there’s a world of difference between most small counties and us, the smallest of the small, the Mini-me of county cricket (one for Austin Powers fans there…) We made £70K last season from the T20, whereas Somerset made £327K. It illustrates quite nicely how they can afford the players named above. Improving on those figures has to be an off-field target for Derbyshire this season. Only 14,000 people attended our T20 home games last year, the lowest by some distance behind Leicestershire (17,000) and Gloucestershire (19,000).

Quite how we do that when finance makes it unlikely we can bring in a second overseas player is anyone’s guess, though better weather, the lack of a World Cup as competition and improved pitches for batting should help.

As I’ve written before, getting some of the Rams involved would help. Everyone’s says Derby is a football city, so why not get a few in for signing sessions? Get Nigel Clough or Robbie Savage to do a pre-match Q and A session? Photo opportunities with your favourite player? Q and As with former players? Bowl at a Ram in the nets, or at one of the Derbyshire players out of the side? They could use wind balls to avoid a footballer getting hurt, and offer a prize to anyone who bowled out a cricketer.Maybe a contract…

Seriously, such ventures could and should work. Don Amott can pull a few strings at Pride Park and the football club could do a promo at the same time for mutual benefit. Gloucestershire’s extra 5,000 fans saw an additional £50,000 of income, an amount, one would guess, that is roughly what is required for an additional overseas player.

I’m sure John Morris would love such a luxury in 2011. Here’s hoping that he and the team get the support that they need.and the club continue to come up with innovative ways to make more money.

Incidentally, Middlesex have today launched their 'Sponsor a player' campaign for 2011 and it makes impressive reading. For £300 you get:

· Your own sponsor's message in every single Middlesex home match programme (including the Twenty20 event guide), in all Panther magazines, on the official Club website, and in the Middlesex Annual Review

· An invitation to an exclusive after match kit sponsors 'meet the players' party, held at Lord's during the 2011 season

· Ten free match tickets to bring guests or friends along to any LV= County Championship or Clydesdale Bank 40 match at Lord's during the season

· A free gift from the Middlesex CCC Club Shop

· An exclusive kit sponsors' discount card - giving you a discount on any item purchased in the Middlesex CCC Club shop

· Your chosen players' actual competition playing shirt, which will be signed, personalised, and presented to you to keep

· A signed pen-pic of your sponsored player

· Entry into a number of exclusive competitions to win an array of Middlesex and cricket goodies

Not only is that an attractive set of benefits, they’re hitting companies EXACTLY at the right time. January is when many start looking at their budgets and what they have left. £300 isn’t a lot of money, but might meet with greater scrutiny at the start of a financial year in April than at the end of one – always assuming the companies approached have money left….

Hopefully our marketing team will follow suit sometime soon.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Less than a hundred days to go!

Happy New Year everyone!

So that’s the festivities over for another year, with more nuts, chocolate, cake and biscuits having been consumed than was probably good for me. Still, it’s only once a year and the diet can start any time now.

So what’s new? Not a lot really. As you’ll see on the left hand side of the page, I’ve added a countdown timer to the new season, which starts on April 8. I’m increasingly convinced that we’ll be starting on April 1 in a few years time, perhaps a more apposite date for an early start to the season. It’s really too early, but we seem to be trying to squeeze quarts into a pint pot. Pity the slip fielders trying to hang on to a sharp chance in early April, or the seamers trying to work up a head of steam on cold days.

Still, for those of us who don’t have to hold those catches, a new season’s excitement is less than a hundred days away...

No doubt the pre-season training will be cranked up a little more now, with winter nets for those in the country, some fitness work and some bonding sessions. There will be a few new faces and the sooner they are assimilated into the squad the better. I’m sure that Luke Sutton, Matt Lineker, Mark Turner and Tony Palladino will soon get to know their new team mates and Sutton will get everyone pulling together.

Thoughts on IPL and overseas role

At the risk of being in a minority of one, I’m a little astonished by some of the player values in the Indian Premier League auctions, scheduled for this weekend. They highlight quite nicely the difficulties faced by John Morris and his counterparts in attracting overseas players of note, with an array of staggering reserve prices.

$200K for Steve Smith of Australia? He has obvious potential, but alarming technical deficiencies for an international player. How about $400K for Shaun Marsh? Again, he’s a decent cricketer but not an international regular and his first-class averages (in the mid 30s) suggest that he’s not really top drawer. James Hopes is another – a fair player, but is he worth $200K? Alternatively, you could sign Brian Lara, who retired four years ago, for $400K, or Sanath Jayasuriya, who based on his form for Worcestershire last year probably should have done, for $200K. Extraordinary..

Even Wasim Jaffer, who I suggested as a Derbyshire possible, is rated at $100,000. If he gets that for a bit of ‘thrash and giggle’ cricket, would he even consider a county stint? Take a look at the line up and see how many players are listed at $100,000 or more:

Such figures confirm why I recently suggested that Derbyshire would need to aim at the next tier down. Given that only South Africans and New Zealanders are available for most of the summer, a cursory glance shows all their best players are available at a MINIMUM reserve price of $300K. Do you still think we could afford them?

There are still bargains, assuming no competition and a commensurate price hike. Mark Cosgrove, Phil Jaques and Andrew McDonald are all ranked at $50K, all representing decent business. Nathan Hauritz, rated by England but not Australia, isn’t involved at all and looks an increasingly astute signing for a county. He bowls tight lines, spins it and is scoring runs for fun at present in Australia. He would also appear to be available for the full season, making him close to an endangered species…

On the local front, Wes Durston is ranked at $50K and Greg Smith at $20K, the latter the same value as Travis Birt. Hmmm…maybe they’re about right. Wes did well for Somerset in India last winter and might be remembered as a dynamic player, whereas Greg is an unknown out there. Good luck to both of them, though from a selfish point of view I hope there’s no takers or we’re two good players down until June.

The availability of these rewards makes county stints an unnecessary chore for many players. For those who suggest John Morris goes out and signs big names X or Y, just accept that he can’t. While these are reserve prices that may or may not be met, they are indicative of the sums being sought that are way outside the compass of most county sides.

Forget millionaires on the committee too. The difference between what we have and what players want could be up to £200,000. Why should anyone be expected to fund that level of shortfall on an annual basis? For that matter, who would? Rod Bransgrove has ploughed a lot of cash into Hampshire, but the best he could come up with for their T20 last year was Australian Dan Christian, an all-rounder of ability but far from the finished article (yours for $50K in the IPL, incidentally…)

The irony is, of course, that there are plenty of lesser known players who could do a fine job in the county game, but their lack of international experience means they would not get a work permit as things stand. South African Francois du Plessis or Australian Michael Klinger would be ideal, but the days when such players came and enhanced their reputation in the county game are long gone.

Perhaps the regulations need to be changed again. If there’s no means of luring the big names through lack of finance and a surfeit of counter attractions, maybe we need to allow a little more leeway in the eligibility criteria?

I know that, like Miss Jean Brodie, the English cricket authorities want to attract the crème de la crème, but it isn’t working and won’t as things stand. I’m equally aware that every ‘foreigner’ takes the place of a young British player, but there’s a balancing act in fielding people who will attract the crowds. Such players may not be big names, but they would bring a different perspective, mindset and skillset and might just capture the imagination, as well as winning a few matches.

Under the current criteria, we’d never have seen Chris Wilkins at Derbyshire, one of the most exciting batsmen I’ve seen. You didn’t stay in the bar when he walked out and you glanced at a magazine at your peril. If you did, you risked missing a booming straight drive that cleared the sightscreen by yards, or a pull that cleared deep mid-wicket with greater ease than my daughter lobbed chocolates across the living room to me in recent days. Yet he was a fair way from international standard at a time when his country had some extraordinary players.

Nor would we have seen Michael di Venuto, while Peter Kirsten and John Wright wouldn’t have been able to sign in the first instance either, both using county cricket as a springboard to subsequent success. All were huge favourites and gave excellent service.

Still not convinced? Look elsewhere and see what impact relative unknowns such as Keith Boyce, John Shepherd, Brian Davison, Clive Rice and Glenn Turner had on their adopted counties and how crowds reacted to them.

Given an opportunity to see their like again, how many would disapprove?

Why not vote in this week’s poll and we’ll find out.