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.