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