Friday, 18 March 2011

Something for the weekend

A glorious sunny day today made me think longingly of the imminent season and Mark Eklid’s piece from Derbyshire’s pre-season tour in the Derby Telegraph made me think that a cricket journalist’s lot, unlike the policeman’s in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, is far from an unhappy one.

There are encouraging signs from the tour and the work ethic from it and the pre-season training seems impressive. If that alone won matches we could look forward with confidence and I remain convinced that Derbyshire have a captain who will demand improved performance and be unafraid to tell it like it is if those demands are not met. He will also pouch most things that come his way, not necessarily a comment one could make with confidence last year.

That our squad is young and relatively inexperienced is undeniable. There will be times when that inexperience finds us wanting, but at other, hopefully more frequent times it will see us play an aggressive game without fear. The side is full of players with a point to prove and only the most defeatist among the support would deny that it is not without talent.

That inexperience extends to the overseas players too, neither of who have yet established a big name reputation. Again though, both Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill have considerable potential and few bowlers here will know where to bowl and not bowl to them.

If, as Luke Sutton says, we are going to play an attacking form of the game then it will be a pleasant change from some sides I’ve seen over the years. At times I’ve seen our stall set out from day one to avoid defeat, albeit when our resources were so thin that little else seemed possible.

Regular readers will know I’m naturally an optimist. There will be no forecast of trophies from me, but I look at our batting and think we have the talent to score plenty of runs and at our bowling and see wicket-taking potential. We also have some naturally athletic fielders, some of them among the best in the country. If that all comes off, winning a few games is a logical consequence.

I’m encouraged by this morning’s piece on Jonathan Clare, that suggests he is fully restored to fitness. As the article says (and I’ve made the point before) we need Clare at number eight to lengthen the batting. Assuming Steffan Jones plays mainly one day games and devotes more time to coaching, he is the only one of our seamers with the proven ability to play a big innings. Tim Groenewald can bat a bit, but Messrs Footitt, Sheikh, Turner and Palladino have little in the way of track record in this area.

Such contributions would be a bonus of course and their main role will be to work through the opposition batting, something I think they might do pretty well as long as we have some wickets offering them a better than even chance of success.

The tour starts in earnest tomorrow with a twenty over bash against Essex. I’ll not be beating myself up if we lose, as the major aim is good experience in the middle, but winning is always a good habit to get into.

More about that over the weekend. For now, have a good 'un.

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