Friday, 25 February 2011

Something for the weekend

Six weeks to go…

Those winter days spent shovelling snow and clearing ice seem but a distant memory as the bulbs are poking through the earth once more and there’s greater signs of activity from the birds. I could swear I picked up the aroma of linseed oil this morning!

Anyway, counties are finishing their plans in different ways, with Kent announcing they are unlikely to have an overseas player this year and Sussex naming three new players in a day, two of them with overseas backgrounds, despite declaring losses of over £170,000.

On that very subject, I’d an e mail the other day asking which Derbyshire players will see us incur a penalty when they play in the Championship this season. The answer being that there are three: Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes, despite their respective European and British passports, will qualify to play without penalty in 2013, while Greg Smith is still playing as a Kolpak.

I’m not sure why Smith is not yet qualified as he has been here for long enough to do so - indeed, many wars have begun and ended quicker than his qualification period. Maybe he has not filled in the requisite paperwork and retains an ambition to play for South Africa, but I’d see that as a somewhat forlorn hope.

Irrespective of his future plans I would suspect that Smith’s best bet might be to fill in those forms and accelerate his ‘Englishness.’ With all county budgets under pressure, players who will incur penalties when they play are unlikely to be high on shopping lists. I don’t know if Smith sees his long term future at Derbyshire or not, but potential suitors may baulk at any hidden costs - at least unless that player offers guarantees of returns.

Of course, Smith can boost his chances of a good deal somewhere with a fine season and must surely aim to break the 1,000 run barrier for the first time. Much will depend on the amount of bowling he has to do and few will complain if he was close to a 500 run/50 wicket double. More to the point, if he did so our chances of a decent season would be considerably higher.

I’ll be preparing my pre-season prospects in the coming weeks but won’t get too carried away. I’ve seen evidence of potential in our cricket over the last two years, but this is a young squad. If we get off to a good start and build momentum then anything could happen, but I’m expecting a season of respectability. I think there are a lot worse squads than ours out there and I think we have enough individual talent to win our share of games. Enough to win something? There I'm not so sure.

I do think that in signing Mark Turner and Tony Palladino John Morris has secured the services of two wicket-taking bowlers who have much to prove. If we can get their rhythm right and their confidence up they could make a big difference, especially in the County Championship.

If we assume (can we?) that Steffan Jones will play more one-day cricket this season than anything else, the Championship seam attack is relatively inexperienced. Indeed Palladino’s 52 first-class matches puts him comfortably ahead of Tim Groenewald (39) who himself is way ahead of the rest.

Yet if Mark Footitt has allied increased strength and stamina to his undoubted pace, Jon Clare is recovered from his injuries and Atif Sheikh has improved with a winter’s conditioning, Derbyshire’s seam attack could surprise people. The Australians rated Sheikh ‘pretty quick’ for a few overs last summer, while Clare and Turner can both bowl in the mid-high 80s. Throw in Footitt’s capability of 90mph and there is undoubted talent. Groenewald is no slouch either, with Palladino a more sedate pace but capable of extravagant movement on his day.

Much will depend on those ‘days’ for all of them being more frequent than some of their kind have managed in the recent past. If they can do that and we can produce appropriate wickets for them, batsmen might not fancy those Derbyshire fixtures.

In closing, news today that Warwickshire had recorded a profit of £528,000 last year, which sounds pretty good. Conversely, they made £2.7 million from a land sale, meaning that their trading deficit was £2.1 million. First Yorkshire, then Lancashire, now Warwickshire. Don't know about you, but if one of the counties is going to go bust, my money is on it being a big one.

Peakview, a regular reader and contributor to this blog hit the nail on the head with a post on Lancashire's 606 page. They must cut their cloth to suit, rather than living beyond their means with over ambitious and extravagant ground improvement plans. A lot of others need to learn to do the same.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Tune in tonight

First terrestrial opportunity to see Martin Guptill put bat to ball on BBC2 tonight on the World Cup highlights.

Our new overseas player scored an unbeaten 39 from 32 balls as New Zealand cruised to victory over Kenya, with two sixes and five fours. Brief it may be, certainly of the cameo category, but I'd hope the thought of this chap and Usman Khawaja combining in the T20 should whet some appetites.

My recorder is already set...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Something for the weekend

Here we are again, another week gone by and another week nearer the season. Only 48 days to go now...

Like most of you, I was encouraged to read the news of Derbyshire's pre-season trip to Barbados. With Chris Grant generously funding half of the cost and the players and the Barbados Tourism Board paying the rest, the team will benefit from excellent practice in conditions that are nigh-ideal. A few dour individuals may say we should have stayed here, but there are few opportunities for outdoor work in March. As John Morris says, getting the bowlers run ups ironed out and the batsmen out in the middle has to be a good thing and they should be raring to go by April 8.

The other good news came from Keith Loring, with the club due to get a £300K windfall in September after making the requisite ground improvements. While a loss is highly likely after last season, Keith Loring is predicting a profit in the coming year, with most of the above money effectively going into the bank. It is another excellent piece of work from a behind the scenes team that must be the envy of many on the county circuit.

Certainly there are a few counties, including Leicestershire, Yorkshire and Lancashire who will be counting the shekels very carefully in the next twelve months after a disastrous 2010. If, as some are predicting, a county goes to the wall in the not too distant future, the thinking money is that one of these three must be a likely candidate. Like them or not, it would be a very sad day for the game if that happened, with decades of rivalries going in one fell swoop.

It doesn't look like being Derbyshire though, which must really annoy some people within the game. Shame that...

Elsewhere this week there were a couple of interesting snippets of county news among the many articles on the cricket World Cup on the web.

One was that Warwickshire feel they have been let down by Younis Khan. Not only is he now unavailable for the first few weeks of the season, he may not manage to play at all because of his international commitments. That’s the same international commitments that he didn’t have as effectively a persona non grata with his country’s Cricket Board. Now things are all sweetness and light it would appear Warwickshire are an afterthought, to be cast aside. To say the least, for their fans and administrators this is a disappointing turn of events and the old adage ‘one good turn deserves another’ seems far from the truth in this instance.

From this distance Warwickshire appear to have been well and truly stuffed. Not too many Derbyshire fans will sympathise, but this could happen to any county. I’m just glad that we’re ‘sorted’ in that area for the coming season.

One man who isn’t ‘sorted’ is Iain O’Brien, the former New Zealand bowler now living in Matlock. His hopes of playing as a non-overseas player were dashed when the powers-that-be decided his English wife didn’t give him the same qualification route as, for example, Wayne Madsen’s European passport. It is somewhat bizarre, but the bowler’s quest for an opportunity has come to naught. Part of this is perhaps down to his injury record last season, but O’Brien will, I’m sure, find work as a stopgap during the season as others encounter similar problems with the incessant workload of the county game.

Anyway, time to go. In closing, thanks to Chris for alerting me to a Charl Langeveldt shirt you can bid for on ebay (current price just £19.99) while there's also a match-worn Azharuddin top that could be yours if you're happy to pay £55. Alternatively, you can buy a Dominic Cork 'Corky' clock.

Why, I'm really not sure.

Have a good weekend. Soon be time for those pre-season previews...

PS My bet for the World Cup? Hard to go past India on their own patch, but if South Africa are ever going to win things that matter, surely this is their time? With Smith, Amla, du Plessis, de Villiers, Duminy and Kallis in the batting, and Morkel, Steyn and Tsotsobe  to bowl quality seam, they have to be in there. With Imran Tahir now qualified and bowling on friendly tracks they should regard anything less than the final a dismal failure.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


There was a very promising innings of 130 from Martin Guptill today as New Zealand posted a score of 311-6 against Ireland in a World Cup warm up match.

The Irish have a decent attack, including former Derbyshire bowler Boyd Rankin, but Guptill batted until two overs from the end of the innings and hit 12 fours and 3 sixes in a fine display that should win them the match.

I'm feeling good about that lad. I think he is going to be next 'big' Kiwi batsman and I'm delighted that we'll see him at Derbyshire for the second half of the season.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Something for the weekend

There’s less news emanating from the County Ground in recent days than is normally generated by a recluse's newsletter, so I’ve not been blogging so frequently. There’s no point me going over old ground and its also a waste of your eyesight reading things twice!

Somerset have effectively completed a winter of major expenditure with the double signings of Ajantha Mendis, to cover for Murali Kartik at the start of the season, as well as Keiron Pollard for the T20. That’s an impressive pairing and coupled with the signings of Gemaal Hussain and Steve Kirby they should be the team to beat this year. Hampshire, also known as Kolpak Central, should be up there too, but the winter has been relatively quiet for a lot of counties who seem resigned to working with what they have.

There has been no deal at this stage for either Usman Afzaal or Bilal Shafayat, another sign that is indicative of financial pressures in the game at present. Both players would have been assured of a lucrative contract a few short years ago, but the game has changed in that time. Further proof of that has come with Yorkshire following their Roses rivals Lancashire in announcing a £2 million loss for the past twelve months. These are extraordinary, not to mention worrying figures.

We still don’t know what Derbyshire’s balance sheet looked like for last year, but in the current climate, allied to the fact we incurred on field penalties for much of last season when Chesney Hughes and Robin Peterson played, I’d regard anything under a six figure loss as reasonable going. The T20 crowds were a disappointment and salvation can only be down to the events income that we may or may not have made.

The next twelve months will be critical for Derbyshire, but no more and no less so than for every county. By my reckoning only Warwickshire, Somerset and Worcestershire are currently projecting or have achieved a profit, the latter two ironic in that they are two of the smaller, theoretically at risk county sides.

Their respective financial models are ones that others would do well to take a look at. Derbyshire, to be fair, have done extraordinarily well in recent seasons too, but this year’s books may not make the most encouraging reading.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Tuesday thoughts

Thought I'd just stop by to say hello and let you know that I'm still around.

Like most people around these parts, I've been struck by the dreaded flu/cold bug that is doing the rounds in recent days, which has put my writing a little onto the back burner.

Hopefully things will be back to normal soon, but in between times there's little to report on really.

Glamorgan look like they have made an interesting signing in the talented young Richard Levi, the latest South African with a UK passport. No doubt Alviro Petersen had something to do with that one and his arrival should offset to some extent the loss of various players in the winter cull.

Meanwhile Hampshire look like fielding three Kolpaks this year, with Friedel de Wet and Johann Myburgh joining Neil McKenzie in their ranks. If nothing else, it should take the pressure of Derbyshire's supposed array of Kolpaks, even if none of them actually are.With Imran Tahir a newly qualified South African as overseas player, the Saffer influence down Southampton way this year should be considerable. If they all fire they should be the team to beat.

It was good to see Usman Khawaja voted Sheffield Shield player of the year in Australia and confirms that John Morris has done extraordinarily well to sign him. Whether he settles in and scores heavily or not, no one can say that Derbyshire and Morris have not shown ambition in the signing. Nor indeed in the talented Martin Guptill, who only needs to get through this careless stage in his innings to be a batsman of the highest class. There's not too much between a scorer of nice 40s and 50s and a really prolific player and Guptill is comfortably young enough to reach the top rank of international batsmen. From what I've seen he has all the shots and just needs to show a little more selectivity in their use to become a top drawer player.

Anyway, 58 days to go, or just under two months. Its been a long cold winter, but we're getting closer now!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Gladwin is Grand...

There’s only one contender for the G-Man.

I’ll admit that Peter Gibbs was one of the more aesthetically pleasing batsmen of my formative years as a fan, seeming to have more time than most and possessing a glorious cover drive. Indeed, his classic style was at odds with the more functional methods of some contemporaries, but as a cricketer and contributor to the county’s fortunes he was light years behind my number one, Cliff Gladwin. Looks like the club site and I are on a roll...

Curiously, Gladwin’s father Joe played with Tom Forrester, my ‘F’ of choice, but the boy’s talents far exceeded those of the father. He made his first class debut in 1939 prior to the Second World War, but had to wait long years until hostilities ended and he was able to resume his first-class career. He was thirty when cricket resumed in 1946, but took a hundred wickets that season and did so with metronomic regularity for the remainder of his career.

Although a solidly built man, he was light on his feet and had a short run up, followed by an easy action that meant he could bowl long spells. This can be seen on the Pathe news site by following this link:

Gladwin can be seen bowling at two minutes fifteen seconds, playing against New Zealand in 1949.

His record speaks for itself and year in, year out he bowled with control and hostility. There was no real pace, but Gladwin’s late swing saw many fall victims in his leg-trap, where he was well supported by Donald Carr, Alan Revill and Derek Morgan. 1653 first-class victims at eighteen each is testimony to his consistency and sustained hostility and no batsman in the 1950’s fancied coming to Derby or Chesterfield. Various accounts tell of injuries ruling players out when faced with Cliff and Les Jackson on a green top – and that was before the game!

One of the best accounts of Derbyshire watching in the 1950’s was published in the Derby Telegraph some time ago and was written by someone called ‘S.Williams’ Part of this description can be seen below:

"The County Ground at Derby in the 1950s was a dump in the real sense of the word, a place of gentle decay.

The ramshackle former racecourse buildings were often home to no more than a few dozen spectators because, when the weather was unkind, watching – and, no doubt, playing – at the County Ground was not for the faint-hearted.

The wind came whipping off the old racecourse, straight from the Urals it seemed, cutting through you like a knife. The facilities were awful: toilets that have been described as French Colonial; catering which made the worst that the old British Railways could offer look like a Savoy Grill buffet. Finding shelter from wind and rain meant huddling at the back of the Grandstand while keeping one eye on the toilet habits of dozens of pigeons cooing happily in the cavernous roof. Once settled on a fine day, though, I had eyes only for my hero.

It is exactly 50 years since I last saw him in action. His run-up began easily – no stuttering start like so many of his profession – and gathered graceful speed until his body moved into that classic arc and his broad shoulders propelled the ball on its way.

Quite simply, Cliff Gladwin was one of the finest cricketers that I have ever seen. Whenever Gladwin was on the field, something was always likely to happen, whether it was shattering the stumps, clouting a few late runs to frustrate the opposition, or running somebody out. In short, Gladwin was an entertainer, a character to help brighten up those austere years after the Second World War."

Gladwin played eight Test matches, taking 15 wickets at 38, figures that suggest he was just short of the highest class. Yet his greatest moment came in South Africa in 1948-49, when he scored a leg-bye off the last ball of the Durban Test to win the game.

“Coometh the hour, coometh the man,” he had announced on arrival at the crease, and was as good as his word. He was 33 when he played the last of his Tests the following summer, but was one of the best bowlers in the country throughout the 1950s and could – perhaps should – have received greater recognition.

Whereas his partner in crime Les Jackson was philosophical about mistakes in the field, Gladwin could be fairly hard on team mates.

“Four for thirty-seven in nineteen overs…could have been four for thirty-three if that bugger had kept his legs together…” He knew his analysis TO THE RUN at the end of the innings and instilled in the young Harold Rhodes the need to make the batsman play everything and give nothing away. Rhodes, like Derek Morgan and Edwin Smith, often recounted how they got many wickets from batsmen taking a chance against them, having faced the opening pair for an hour or more with hardly a ball to score off.

He could be outspoken, but people will always accept someone doing that when their actions on the pitch justify it. Cliff Gladwin set a standard of parsimony that has seldom been exceeded and is rightly regarded as one of the club’s greatest ever players.

An easy choice for best G. What would we give for another of his ilk?

PS - the picture above shows Gladwin bowling for Derbyshire in his pomp, with the field set for a bowler in command of his game. The picture on the club site highlights what ruined many photographs of cricketers over the years - very few had any idea what they looked like as they let the ball go. When asked to pose as if about to bowl, many of the all-time greats looked like they were lobbing a hand grenade, while the batsmen could be even worse.

Just be thankful that no one ever took photographs of the mere mortals and distinctly average in action!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Jake the main man

There’s an interesting comment under yesterday’s post from ‘Needham 4 England’ where he expresses concern over the fact that Jake is the only spinner in the club, something that should have been addressed.

My quick and easy answer to that one is “How?”

If the author of the comment or anyone else can name one English-qualified spinner of talent who was available and we could have signed I might subscribe to the view, but I can’t think of one. David Wainwright at Yorkshire may have been an option, but decided to stay and fight for a place. To be fair, the lad had injury problems last year, partly the result of modifications to his action and is not that much more experienced than Needham.

There were a few early suggestions of Michael Munday from Somerset, but Wes Durston and Steffan Jones would know enough about him to make a decision fairly clear cut. Of course, he may not have wanted to move home, or may have asked for too much money, but if he had genuine talent we were well-placed to make a move.

Lancashire have three left-arm spinners but wanted to keep them all and they all wanted to stay. Apart from that, nothing. The Kolpak route was explored last year, but was costly and Robin Peterson no longer qualified for a visa, having returned to international cricket. The only other Kolpak options would have been Rolof van der Merwe, who spins it very little, or Nikita Miller who has been flattered by some good figures on dirt tracks in the Caribbean. Neither, for me, would have offered value for money nor the requisite returns. Remember, only South Africans and West Indians qualify for Kolpak status and only then if they’ve recently played international cricket. Zimbabwe do too, but its hardly a hotbed of spin wizardry, unless you rate the aging Ray Price, who had a stint at Worcestershire a few years back. Personally, I never forgave him for recording For the Good Times…

Then there’s the overseas role. Of the top spinners in the world game, all but Ajantha Mendis of Sri Lanka are in the IPL, while he has gone off the boil and has major international commitments this summer anyway.

I can accept criticism of people when it is deserved and will criticise as well in such a situation, but John Morris can no more spirit a spinner from the ether than anyone else can. I’m sure he would love a new Geoff Miller, but such players take time to develop.

Can Jake Needham be that man? We will go some way to finding out this summer. He will be the main man when conditions warrant spin, numero uno. He should play his fair share of one-day cricket too, when I think he’ll do well.

What I’d love to see is Jake bowl us to victory on a final afternoon with men around the bat. It is one thing bowling well to five men out on the ropes and keeping the score down. But there’s a different skillset and mindset in doing the same when you’ve four, maybe five team mates crouched around a batsman.

A spinner knows that if he bowls badly at such times his mates could get hurt and/or he could go for plenty. Only experience helps you to deal with these situations better and gives you the confidence to continue to toss the ball up and enable it to spin. To get the batsman driving and bowl him through the gate, or to get the nick onto the pad from the inside edge. To tempt the batsman down the track, beat him in the flight and let the keeper do the rest. This is what we want and need to see from Jake this year.

He will need plenty of bowling in the Seconds and encouragement to ‘rip’ it. The odd bad ball will be tolerated, as long as there’s enough good ones to test the opposition.

I think Jake has the ability to be our first choice spinner, should he wish, for the next 10-15 years. The coming season will show whether he has the mental toughness for the challenge, but for the sake of Derbyshire cricket I hope that he has.

PS Thanks to Sid for the news of Usman Khawaja's injury, which is a tweaked hamstring. In the annals of injuries sustained by prospective Derbyshire overseas players, that's like being smacked on the face by the beating wing of a butterfly...