Thursday, 31 March 2011

Time to move on

Enlightenment rather than recrimination were apposite words used at the end of Mark Eklid’s account of last night’s AGM at the cricket club and this is the right time to reflect and to move on.

The threatened rebellion of the membership came to nothing as only one man spoke up. All those commenting about last night below the previous article and all of last week on IMWT had their chance to say something and did nothing. If something or someone bothers you – as the comments below suggest – the time and place to do something about it was last night. Sitting in front of a computer and moaning will change nothing, if change is what you want, while any issues with one person are always going to be there if the individual concerned is always elected unopposed. If you’re unhappy about things – and importantly think you can do better, then stand for election next year.

Anyway, now is the time for such talk to be consigned to history and for everyone to unite behind a new young chairman ahead of the season. The rights and wrongs of the past week or so will doubtless be debated for some time, but while it was poorly handled it is time to move on. In such situations there are often faults on both sides and for what it is worth I feel that the end result is as good as the county could have hoped for.

My final words on recent events are these. I have no issue with the committee whatsoever, as long as they allow talented employees – namely Keith Loring and John Morris - the opportunity to do their jobs unhindered. Maybe there has been some confusion along the way and that was always the intention, but a quick response to the Derby Telegraph’s interview with Don Amott could have defused the situation much more quickly than has been the case.

I am also a believer in the Chairman calling the shots and the committee AS A WHOLE reporting to him. There should be no sub-committees, as in such circumstances do allegations of subterfuge start to germinate. In my experience of over twenty years in committees, they work best when 100% transparent.

I am especially encouraged by the words of Chris Grant after his meteoric rise to Chairman. As I wrote last week, he was the standout candidate to replace Don Amott, himself thankfully restored to the committee, and is already saying things that should reassure those, including myself, who had concerns about the club’s future direction. Discussions are underway about an extension to the contracts of both Keith Loring and John Morris which is encouraging to hear. Regular readers will know that I am a great admirer of the work of both men and Keith Loring should ideally head our commercial direction for a long time to come.

As I wrote last week, some may feel we should wait to the end of the season before offering a new deal to John Morris. After all, last season was far from a success, although the team was somewhat hamstrung by the loss of almost all the seam bowlers. Steffan Jones and Tim Groenewald effectively carried that area last year, the former playing far more than was probably planned, given his coaching commitments.

I feel that Morris should now be given an extension to his contract and thereby secure a consistency of approach for the foreseeable future. He has worked tirelessly in his time at the club with a constantly evolving side and works under the handicap of knowing that it is almost always going to be that way. Morris has said that he can ‘sell opportunity’ at Derbyshire but simply doesn’t have the resources to hang on to players who make the most of such opportunity and are courted by other clubs. As the age of one-club men has long gone, more affluent suitors (if there are any in modern county cricket) will always be able to offer more than we can afford.

Morris presented a five-year plan to the committee, based on the work he is doing, the work in the Academy and the considerable scouting that goes on around the local leagues. Anyone who looks at the current Derbyshire squad will realise that it is a young one and now needs time to develop. Young players like Borrington, Redfern, Hughes, Needham, Clare, Whiteley, Sheikh, Knight, Slater and Poynton could easily emerge as county cricketers of talent, especially now we have a structure in place below the first team squad, with Andrew Harris set to work with the young players as they leave Karl Krikken’s ‘nest.’ They will all progress at different paces of course and some may fall by the wayside, but it is a long time since we have had a clutch of young players of that potential. It would be stupid to rock the boat and adversely impact on their development by bringing in someone new, while the likelihood of their being given earlier opportunity is advanced by the Head of Cricket having greater job security than the six months that it is at present.

We need to remember that most of these lads are under 23 and nowhere even close to their peak. Players like Paul Borrington and Dan Redfern seem to have been around for years, yet are still only 22 and 20 respectively. Likewise I read of this being a crucial season for Jake Needham, and the off-spinner is only 24.

It is spinners I feel especially sorry for with the ECB age incentive payments, as it is widely recognised that they don’t reach their peak until their thirties. Look at the best spinners in the country over the past few years – Robert Croft, Shaun Udal and Graeme Swann. All reached their peak after their thirtieth birthday. It is unrealistic to expect the craft to be mastered earlier, but the pre-season signs are that Jake is coming along pretty well.

So from me it is no more moans and time to look forward to a new season. Along the way we will have our share of bad days – it wouldn’t be a Derbyshire cricket season without them – but we’ll enjoy the good ones all the more because of that and I hope that everyone will now get behind the lads and hope for the best – starting next week!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pre-season prospects - the Championship

Just over a week to go until Derbyshire start their 2011 Championship campaign and fans, like those of all counties, will be looking at the prospects of their favourites and dreaming.

As for me, I am quietly confident that the county can put the off-field stuff behind them and produce a steady campaign. I'll not predict the spectacular as I've been there before and regretted it (about 25 times!) but I think that John Morris has put together a good squad that should produce some solid cricket, especially in the four-day format.

I've written before that we have a number of wicket-taking bowlers and that is the case. Footitt, Groenewald, Palladino, Turner and Clare all have good reputations in this area, if not so much at always keeping things quiet in the one-day form of the game. How many play will, of course, depend on the wicket and the improvement the winter has brought in Jake Needham. Atif Sheikh may also come to the fore and we should not lack for bowling strength this year. They've all worked hard with Steffan Jones and the fitness coach over the winter and should reap rewards for that hard work.

I think we all like to see a balanced attack and the presence of Jon Clare means that we can effectively field an all-rounder at eight. Greg Smith's role will also be important and I'm intrigued as to how his season will pan out. Is he a batsman who bowls spin, or a batsman who bowls medium pace? Or is he a bowler who does a bit of batting? The demands of the current game make it very difficult for a player to excel in all areas and Smith's game suffered last year from having to do, or trying to do too much. Will speculation over his future affect him, positively or negatively? Few would deny that at his best he is a fine player. If he can produce regularly, we're likely to do well.

I don't see him batting higher than five or six though, which gives him a decent chance, while Wes Durston could do a little of the spin duties if he cements a place in the batting line-up.

If anything, the batting is perhaps the most likely cause for concern. I'd be fairly confident of good runs from Wayne Madsen, but his likely opening partners are likely to be either Paul Borrington or Chesney Hughes at the start of the season and both have things to prove. Can Bozza combine occupation of the crease with punishment of the bad ball to keep the score moving? Can Chesney overcome second season syndrome when bowlers will know him better? He is a fine talent, but all cricketers have their good and bad times. Good starts make such a difference to teams and if we can get a settled pairing it would bode well.

Then there's the rest. Garry Park went back last year, but is surely too good a player to stay struggling, while Wes Durston needs to score the runs we have seen in one day cricket in the Championship, where an average in the early 20's from a man of his experience (and ability) is under-achieving.

There are other questions. Can Matt Lineker emerge from the local leagues and score heavily in the first-class game. Put another way and taking things in stages, can he force his way into the team first? Most of all, can Dan Redfern show us that the best young batsman to emerge in Derbyshire cricket since Kim Barnett is alive and well, ready to score the runs that his talent suggests?

In the words of the old song, there are more questions than answers and how many of the players prove themselves will dictate our fortunes for 2011.

Two final points about the Championship campaign. We have two gifted overseas batsmen coming in. Will they take to English domestic cricket like a duck to water, or struggle on wickets that often offer more assistance than they are used to? Their respective abilities again suggest they can and will do, but until the action starts we won't know. Martin Guptill is likely to enjoy later season wickets, but key to our success will be the way that Usman Khawaja adapts his game to early season English wickets. If he does, we should be flying.

Finally the new skipper. I'm thrilled we have a good, solid wicket-keeper who just happens to be a good, solid batsman. He's also a man who sets a standard and will expect them to be met every day. Luke Sutton was the first bit of business this close season and may turn out to be the most important.

If we start solidly, keep working at our game and get the rub of the green we could be in the promotion mix. Whether we do better than that will be down to enough people with reputations to build ending the season with their names enhanced. I don't know how it will go, but it should be a lot of fun in finding out!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

95 votes...

86 think the wrong person (or persons) left the Derbyshire committee.

That's 90% of a decent-sized sample. Reflects fairly accurately what people are thinking in my humble opinion....

Look forward to hearing your thoughts on the AGM. Make sure you mail me at the usual address.

World's worst comedians...

Years ago, when I was a kid, my Dad told me that cricket was the best game in the world, ruined by a lot of the people who run it.

Over the years he's mentioned that a time or two and especially in the past week as the internal wranglings at Derbyshire have rumbled on. Today comes news that Don Amott is happy to stand again for the committee (a position I suggested he left with too great a haste) but that there was opposition to him standing for chairman 'from within the club.'

Oh really? That Don should walk back on to the committee IF people turn up to vote for him should be straightforward and is pleasing. That there was opposition to him standing once more for chairman speaks volumes (unfavourably) for those concerned who are presumably set to do a little empire building. Looks like there's a few want that gravy train to keep on rolling...

The other night I had an e mail asking why I was 'leading' a rebellion against the committee. From 300 miles away? Do they think I'm William Wallace?

I'm not. I'm stating my opinion and if people agree with it, that's fine. If they don't, that's equally fine as its a free country. The current poll suggests that most people are with me on this one, however.

With Don out of the way, the coast will be clear for one of the three stooges to take over, which in my opinion would be a joke. Alternatively, they could nominate Chris Grant for the role which would be slightly preferable, if only for the fact that he carries little baggage at this stage.

I will say only this. If he listens closely to the three people who resulted in Don Amott's departure, we'll be going nowhere fast.

And if I was going to that meeting tomorrow night I would still be proposing a vote of no confidence.

That's just my opinion of course...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Defeat closes Caribbean sojourn

Derbyshire lost their last tour game in Barbados by seven wickets.

We were bowled out for 185, with Paul Borrington top scoring with 66.

In reply, Warwickshire won the game with  almost eight of their 40 overs in hand, Darren Maddy scoring an unbeaten century to complete an outstanding tour.

As I've said before, I wouldn't read too much into things at this stage. Its what happens back here, starting in April, that matters.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Young 'uns to the fore

Good to read in the Telegraph this morning such encouraging news on the performances of Ross Whiteley and Tom Knight in Barbados.

I’ve seen Whiteley a time or two and have seen him bowl quite beautifully in what could best be described as the ‘Kevin Dean’ style. Yet I’ve been even more impressed by his clean hitting, which made me think of another young Derbyshire cricketer in Ian Blackwell.

At 22 Whiteley has time on his side and it alone will decide whether he becomes a genuine all-rounder, a batsman who can bowl a few overs or a bowler who can give the ball a real tonk. He has several impressive hitting feats to his name in the Premier League for Chesterfield, including an unbeaten 204 for them last August from just 117 balls. That innings included no fewer than eighteen sixes and eighteen fours!

As well as his cameo in last weekend’s final against Warwickshire, on the tour Whiteley played two innings for composite sides - 68 not out off 47 balls with three fours and five sixes and 45 off 26 balls with eight fours and a six. Such statistics suggest a young player who is getting to grips with his game and has the confidence to go for his shots. It is a potent mix and I will watch his progress with considerable interest.

As for Tom Knight I have yet to see him bowl but have heard enough good reports from good judges to suggest he could be a real find for the club. At 17 he has loads of time on his side and will need to continue to work hard, but figures of 3-18 in eight overs are impressive by any standards.

He took enough wickets in the Second XI last summer to set people talking and the slow left armer could be another to watch.

Meanwhile Tom Poynton has made good runs in Barbados on the back of his Australian trip. He is another for the future, although logically is going to find it hard to break into the side when the first team keeper is also the captain. If he works hard with Luke Sutton in the next couple of seasons, we will not need to look too far for the heir to the County Ground gloves.

Encouraging stuff.

Final thoughts on a dire week

What happened in Derbyshire cricket this week daddy? We started it with a place in a T20 final in Barbados son, and then it went down hill from there.

There still appears to be massive confusion about what is happening with regard to the imminent elections and the club should really be making a statement sometime soon. As far as I’m concerned the elections are well and truly screwed and with the depth of feeling that I’m seeing in e mails, on IMWT and in the poll I would not be at all surprised if a vote of no confidence in the committee was proposed at the AGM. That it would lead to a period of uncertainty is likely, but at least one of those concerned has seen this sort of thing before. Read IMWT’s link to the Amott departure and see what I mean…

This, of course, is dependent on people being brave enough to say what they’re doing on a computer in front of a meeting. Its not courage in the real sense, the Helmland province sense if you will, but some find it hard to do that kind of thing and what happens from here is dependent on people being willing to do so.

If you’re a regular reader of this site you’ll know that I am a supporter of the club and as such will defend it where at all possible, but I’m finding that very difficult in the light of recent events. I have always tried to be even-handed in criticism and constructive where at all possible, but I’ll tell you areas where I have major issues with recent events and where the actions of those involved have given me serious cause for concern:

1 We’ve heard Don’s story but we’ve still not heard a peep from the three villains of the piece to say that he got it all wrong. Why is this? Quite likely because he didn’t.

2 If there is any truth whatsoever that committee members wanted a say in team selection, they should go. Quite simply it has nothing to do with them. We pay someone to do that and any variant will take us back to the days when England teams were picked by panels who had poor knowledge and were too parochial. There's not a coach worthy of the name would take that - would you?

3 For me, the actions of the tricky trio were an ill-thought, knee-jerk reaction to a situation that really wasn’t there. The two people who mattered – the Chairman and Chief Executive - were in control of last year’s loss, had put procedures in place to reverse it this year and should have been left alone to carry on with what they have thus far done very well.

4 These discussions should have been on a full committee basis, not just what seems to be three conspirators and a chairman. Whether it was a sub-committee or not,  this is the impression given and the track record of one of those concerned, as highlighted in recent historical press accounts on IMWT, only fuels that argument.

5 The reality is that any committee should be representative of the views of the membership and should do just that in their actions. If they had a mandate from the membership to address the financial situation that would be a different matter. They didn’t, as there was no vote, so we now have three committee members saying that a second paid employee – the Chief Executive – is effectively wrong in his summation of our financial state.

The Derby Telegraph earlier in the week said

“An emergency committee meeting is to be called soon to gauge reaction to Amott's resignation. After that, the club has to face its members at the AGM on March 30, when there could be some awkward questions to address.”

If the people involved in this scenario hold an emergency meeting and come up with any other conclusion than that the weight of opinion is firmly against them, they are too blinkered to be holding office. Likewise if the membership tolerate their actions and say nowt at the AGM then they deserve everything they get in the future.

If John Morris has presented a five-year plan it suggests he is prepared for a long haul. With Amott as chairman and Loring as Chief Executive we had nothing to worry about. Having lost one, there is a risk that another could feel it is not worth the hassle and the third would be increasingly isolated.

I think there is still an opportunity to persuade Don Amott to return, but a condition of that would almost certainly be that three others, whose actions have been out of order, resign for it to happen. If they cannot see that, in order to flourish in this economic climate, the club needs Amott at the helm far more than it needs them, they are doing a club they purport to support a grave disservice.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Can you help?

I've had an e mail from a Derbyshire fan asking if I knew whether Cliff Gladwin's sports shop in Chesterfield was opened after his testimonial in the early 1950's or after he retired in 1958.

I remember going in there a few times but much later, being far too young (ahem...) to recall the 1950s from any perspective but milk and rusks.

If you know the answer, please mail me at the usual address that you'll find down the left hand side of this page.



One word to describe 'Parore's posts on IMWT today.


In the words of a top comic, it's deja vu all over again...

Various points

No major news to report today. That doesn’t appear to mean that people are any easier with the recent events at the County Ground, certainly not judging by the volume of e-mails I have received.

People aren’t happy and the AGM promises to be a feisty affair to say the least. I guess it will be a hot ticket and I hope people take the opportunity to ask all the questions that they’re asking me and don’t turn bashful.

Just one thing about the blog comments – please avoid personal insults and litigation-worthy statements. I will remove anything of that nature that I see as its my site and me that gets the grief if someone is unhappy. I’m always happy to see your comments – but don’t get personal about people, please.

Derbyshire struggled with the bat in Barbados yesterday, though I’m honestly not fussed at this stage. The nearest I could relate to how they must feel right now is perhaps going back to work after six months away from your desk. Even after a fortnight’s holiday the first few days can be hard going, so players need to iron out techniques and dust the cobwebs off their strokeplay.

By and large the bowlers have done pretty well and Jake Needham is making a strong case for regular involvement with both runs and wickets. I hope that Jake’s winter in South Africa with Phil Russell has worked, as he would give us a useful variant in all forms of the game.

Tony Palladino looks handy too at this early stage, while most of the batsmen have got some runs so far. Paul Borrington and Wayne Madsen both did well yesterday. The latter we know all about and he is a key member of the side, but this is a big year for Bozza. We know he has a good technique and can stick in there, but he also has to be prepared to play his shots when the chance arises. He and Dan Redfern both need to get through the ‘nice thirty’ syndrome that affects them and play innings of greater substance.

I remember reading Mark Butcher explaining how he took some time to realise how he was getting out at a similar stage with monotonous and frustrating regularity. The penny eventually dropped that he was concentrating hard and ensuring that his feet were moving and he was watching the ball until he got to twenty. Then he mentally relaxed and thought he was OK, resulting in his giving it away far too quickly. Once he acquired the ability to switch on and off his concentration between overs and wasn’t so mentally tired, he started to score with the frequency that made him an England regular.

It’s the same for wicket-keepers. Luke Sutton has spoken of the demands on him as wicket-keeper and captain and said that you learn to relax between overs or you are mentally ‘gone’ before the end of the day. We saw that with Lee Goddard last year and none of us can really appreciate the mental demands, the concentration required to bat for hours against people trying to make a ball do tricks. Batting on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon is one thing, but again, batting for six hours when your livelihood depends on it requires a completely different skill and mind set.

I’ll be interested to see how Matt Lineker gets on this season. Over recent years he has been remarkably prolific in the Derbyshire leagues, but if he’s to translate that to the first-class game he will need to work harder than ever before. Every jump in standard makes the game harder, obviously, and batsmen will get fewer bad balls to put away. Bowlers will find they’ve less margin for error and fielders need to be on their toes all the time.

Even I found that. My club side once got promoted in four successive seasons, partly through league reorganisations. We suddenly found ourselves playing against some seriously good players who could bowl quickly and spin it a lot. Some of the fun went at that point. Facing a West Indian quickie on a park pitch where the ball exploded like a grenade was no laughing matter. My mental preparation became one of making a mental note to check my life insurance policy when I got home…

That’s why the World Cup minnows have largely struggled. Players can, if they’re good enough, raise their game for occasional one-offs, but only the best will survive over the long haul. That’s why Ireland did better than most, as they had around eight players with decent first-class experience. Its also why Kevin O’Brien failed after his day of glory against England. The combination of faulty technique and mental tiredness, coupled with the weight of expectation did for him.

For me, these issues are the problem with the ECB payments for playing age-bracket players. Some players acquire these skills fairly quickly, others later and some not at all. The history of the game is littered with late developers who became very good cricketers, but if we’re to effectively say “you’ve reached 23 without the necessary skillset – goodbye” we could miss out on a generation of talent.

Given the financial issues in the current game, few will get second chances and that’s quite sad.

In closing and on a lighter note, I read today that there were just 15 paying customers at the Kenya v Bangladesh World Cup game.

And we reckoned last year’s T20 attendances were disappointing?

PS I see Nottinghamshire have jetted out for the pre-season opener against the MCC. As ECB spokesman Fred Flintstone put it: “the pitches at Lords just now don’t allow for a good game of cricket, but those in Abu Dhabi do…”

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

On the pitch

On a cheerier note, it was good to see Derbyshire’s bowlers doing well against Hampshire in the Caribbean. Honours very much even on a day where they finished 320-9 and wickets for Messrs Needham (3) Smith (3) and Palladino (2).

Derbyshire will bat tomorrow and give people some much needed time in the middle.

The players will doubtless be frustrated that the cricket has been disrupted by rain, but they’ve still got far more from the past week than they would have in the indoor nets at Derby.

Closing on an inadvertent piece of humour, I was amused to read that Mitchell Johnson intends to target the ribs of Virender Sehwag in the imminent World Cup quarter final as “he doesn’t like it.”

Not many batsmen do, but based on his performances in the Ashes and the erratic nature of his bowling, he’s as likely to tickle the ribs of second slip as those of the mercurial Indian. While Brett Lee has lost his edge of pace but still bowls the right lines and the occasional quick ball, Johnson and Shaun Tait are still too erratic to be truly dangerous. While they will take wickets, they can also be very expensive.

I’m reminded of ex-Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire bowler Peter Hacker, who was capable of taking big wickets but could also go for plenty. An over could see two down either side of the wicket, an outrageous long hop and a belter that had the batsman in trouble every so often.

But not often enough.

India to win that one for me and I’ve still seen nothing to alter my pre-tournament assertion that either they or South Africa will be the eventual winners.

More thoughts on a bad situation

Something that has really stunned me in the last couple of days has been the depth of positive feeling towards Don Amott since he announced his resignation. I knew Don was well liked but I’m sure that even he must have been overwhelmed by the response of supporters to his departure.

It is unprecedented in my following of local sport. A succession of Derby County chairmen were tolerated but not especially liked. Some were detested, to be quite honest and none attracted the depth of feeling that recent events have shown. In cricket circles Will Taylor kept the county club afloat for decades but probably never 'felt the love' expressed for our most recent chairman.

I’ve had a remarkable number of e mails and the recurring theme is “How do we get him back?” The simple retort, of course is whether he would wish to, certainly if the people he disagreed with are still involved.I still struggle to get my head around why the opinion of three people, even in senior roles, carries weight within a committee of fifteen unless too many just go with the flow. A committee is exactly that and everyone’s vote is (or should be) equal. Over the years at both hockey and cricket clubs I have been treasurer, secretary, match secretary, team captain and ordinary member and I have never known any variant to that.

Did Don jump ship too quickly without thinking it through? There were enough other people on the committee for the three amigos to be comfortably outvoted on their Baldrick-style cunning plans, unless of course they had played a flanker and got support for those plans without consulting Don. I find that very hard to believe, but you never know.

As someone mailed me last night, is our greater need (and I realise this is blunt) for an accountant, a chap who worked with the Co-op and someone who takes photographs, or a man who puts his own money into the organisation on a regular basis and offers interest-free loans when required? I realise this is perhaps unfair and that the people concerned do other things for the club, but in the current economic climate, as the Derby Telegraph points out today, Derbyshire need – really need - Don Amott.

It is not just about his money. It is his personality and easy way with people, always useful when you’re trying to persuade them to part with money. He is an imposing and impressive figurehead for the club and that never does any harm either. He’s unafraid to call it as it is too and has a great working relationship with both Keith Loring and John Morris.

This is another of my concerns. Don mentioned that John Morris came to them with a five-year plan and wanted to give John a one-year contract extension now. If an aspect of that plan was to bring in more youngsters, even at the expense of a few results here and there, then that would have been the right thing to do. I can understand a reluctance not to do that in some people after last year’s disappointments, but in Morris’ shoes I would be more likely to pack my side with experienced men and give myself a better chance of results and a contract extension, even if it cost the club a little more money. Inexperience has been the reason behind Derby County’s decline – there’s not enough people on the pitch who have been in the tough situations.

Now Don has told the world that the three committee members wanted to have a say in team selection WITHOUT consulting the Head of Cricket, there is sure to be an atmosphere of mistrust. How they go about rebuilding a relationship is paramount to where we go from here. Had Don Amott resigned as Chairman but stayed on the Committee he would have been in a position to oppose such plans, but my concerns now are that we have a well-paid man in charge of cricket who is potentially going to be told what to do by people who know nothing about it.

But not for long, would be my guess. As I said on Radio Derby last night, I have massive respect for John Morris as a former player, a coach and a man. I admire his honesty and his passion for Derbyshire cricket and I can’t see him being told what to do by mere amateurs – I wouldn’t, in his shoes.

IF – and we’ve still not heard the side of the three people concerned – there is truth in what Don Amott says, then those people should do the honourable thing and resign themselves. As I have said before, committee members are elected to represent the membership on matters pertaining to the club. They are not there to empire-build, form clandestine alliances and feather their own nests and sense of importance.

There’s an old saying that you don’t buy a dog and bark yourself. Neither do you appoint a man with good reputation as Head of Cricket and tell him how to do his job. If Don’s comments are true, we may soon have a team photograph taken by someone who sets the timer on the camera before going into it himself, resplendent in a club tracksuit…

You'll gather I'm not impressed.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

So what is going on?

“That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into…”

Maybe Oliver Hardy knew more about the nonsense that has once again returned to Derbyshire cricket behind the scenes than he was letting on, but there can be little doubt that this is an unholy mess to be in on the verge of a new cricket season.

Now you pay your money and take your choice in so far as who you believe in this sorry episode and to be fair we have thus far only heard one side of the tale. Only committee members will know the true story, but so far as it goes, I think at this stage that we have shot ourselves in the foot once again and I’ll tell you why.

Only a few short weeks ago, Keith Loring, a man widely respected within the game for his financial acumen, was assuring supporters that we are well set for the future, despite a poor financial return for the past twelve months. Now all but one county have reported a trading loss, so we are far from alone in having a poor year in admittedly mitigating circumstances.

The ECB money, a not inconsiderable £300K that we will get later in the year for upgrading the ground, together with a rationalisation of playing staff that has seen the costs reduced already was a step in the right direction. Indeed, Loring was predicting a return to the positive balances to which we have become accustomed next year, as the result of this work and the ever improving income generation strands, especially from the new marquee.

The irony in all this, of course, is that Don Amott, with Keith Loring (and Tom Sears before him) has presided over Derbyshire’s best run of financial returns in their history. Why wouldn’t he? The man has built up a highly impressive business empire and has been both a major sponsor and benefactor to the club, something akin to £120,000 at present, according to Mark Eklid in the Derby Telegraph.

With respect to Phil Kirby, David Griffin and Malcolm Nicholas, who are they trying to kid in telling Don Amott how to run a business? I know little about them, but if they are trying to muscle in on the work that Amott and Loring have done then they are doing no one any favours. Anyone who can turn a little club like ours into a viable business model has to have a lot going for them. I have regarded Amott and Loring as a ‘dream team’ in so far as the running of a club is concerned and I am both saddened and angered at this turn of events.

It is the knock ons that concern me most. What about our business partners, many of them arisen through the inter-personal skills and contacts of Don Amott and Keith Loring? Will they still wish to be involved? Will Loring stay? If people who should know better start to stick their oar into the work of people of rare talent, we are on a very slippery slope indeed and they had better have a good plan B in hand.

I am especially concerned by suggestions that those named wanted an involvement in team affairs. By this, I assume that they want to tell John Morris that he has to pick a ‘financially viable’ team that will maximise our age-related income from the ECB but not necessarily be our strongest. I might be wrong, but that doesn’t sound like the road to success to me, especially for someone in the last year of a contract.

I would not expect John Morris to tolerate any interference in his selections and nor would I in his situation. He is paid to do a job and should be allowed to do so. He is a professional, he knows his job inside out, he knows the system and the way that it works. The others involved are, like me and I guess you, simply amateurs. We pick our fantasy teams and support the club but have no real idea of how the balance sheet and the pressures of constructing a competitive team works in reality. That is why most people with common sense are happy to leave it to the experts. Would you go to your doctor, tell him what’s wrong and ask him to sign the prescription you had self-diagnosed? Would you get a new boiler installed and tell the guy how to do it? Of course not.

The three people named above should be hanging their heads in shame tonight. There was little, if anything, wrong with Derbyshire cricket and most fans were anticipating a season of good, competitive cricket. Sure, a little more money would have been handy and might have led to our recruiting established names rather than ones with reputations to build. Yet the advent of Chris Grant, the reorganisation of the coaching staff and the winter recruitment, allied to the existing acumen of Don Amott and the off-field wizardry of the commercial team, suggested that better times lay ahead.

I suspect the repercussions of this will go on for some time. I certainly hope that the existing membership let the ‘players’ behind this scenario know that they have done the club a disservice. As committee members they have a duty to represent the fans, few of who would have either wanted or anticipated this turn of events. I could understand this more if it was a full committee decision, not the work of three men. What I'd like to know is whose idea it was. Will someone be big enough to stand up and admit it was them?

Look at how this club has been stabilised under Don Amott. How the financial issues have been largely addressed, how the County Ground has changed for the better, how cricket has returned to Chesterfield. Think of his entertaining chats in the commentary box on Radio Derby, when he was by a distance the strongest component.

With the forthcoming committee elections in tatters, maybe this is the time for a vote of no confidence. I can think of three people who could perhaps do the honourable thing and resign in between times and there will be others who would be prepared to stand, to represent their fellow members and to let people who know what they are doing get on with it, supporting them as and when required.

Phil Kirby, Dave Griffin and Malcolm Nicholas may well currently be committee members and office holders. But Derbyshire fans? If they are, they have a damn funny way of showing it and until we hear their side I will take some persuading otherwise.

As for fans, I've had a record amount of texts and e mails today, so I've reintroduced the poll. Let's see what you, the people that these guys represent, think about the situation.

Interesting reading no doubt...

Monday, 21 March 2011

Don Amott - update

I've been asked to do an interview about Don Amott's departure tomorrow morning on Radio Derby.

At this stage I know no more than that it will be sometime between 7am and 9am.

If that's too early, I'm sure you can get it later on BBC i player if you're interested!

The tour thus far

In short, pretty good.

We have won two matches and lost one in conditions that favoured the side winning the toss. Most of the players have had a run out so far and most have made a positive contribution. You can't ask for more in pre-season matches.

Sure, we lost a final last night but in the grand scheme of things that wasn't so important. Dan Redfern and Ross Whitely made good contributions, while throughout the tournament, particularly with the bat, Jon Clare was a revelation. He biffed conclusive boundaries in the first match, gave late impetus in the second and smashed a brisk fifty in the third. All were impressive and valuable contributions, suggesting that he is close to being back to his best. We'll all hope for that, as a fully fit Clare has international potential.

The side in the final was well short of our T20 strongest. There was no Madsen, Groenewald or Footitt, no Khawaja or Guptill. Yet they posted a decent total and made a good game of it when at 40-5 some might have thought them dead and buried.

Like all teams, in the coming season Derbyshire will possibly delight and infuriate in equal measure. I've seen enough winning positions blown in recent years to realise that goes with the territory. Yet the last couple of days have suggested there might be more positive ones than we have been used to.

I'm looking forward to seeing if that is the case.

Don Amott - an appreciation

I think there is a natural assumption for people, aware of the track record Derbyshire cricket has for discord, strife and Macchiavellian intrigue behind the scenes, to put two and two together and come up with five, six or even seven in the light of Don Amott's resignation as Chairman of the club.

Some are sure to see this as being the result of another power struggle beind the scenes. It could be, of course, and I know no more than anyone else about the machinations at committee level. My best guess is that Don has decided it is time to step aside for personal reasons - neither he nor his wife have enjoyed the best of health in recent months - or that he has stepped aside to allow Chris Grant free rein as heir apparent to the role.

Mr Grant has come into the club and paid for Tom Poynton to go to Australia this winter and contributed half of the cost for the current Barbados trip. I'll be honest, if I had the money and was asked to put money into a club I would want to do so from a position of strength within that organisation where I was best placed to influence affairs on and off pitch. Maybe that is a condition of Mr Grant's continued involvement - maybe Don Amott has stepped aside to allow him a free run at the role, rather than seeing divided loyalties compromise a vote at the forthcoming committee elections.

As I say, I don't know. But what I do know is that Derbyshire cricket owes a huge debt of gratitude to Don Amott. He has provided genuine leadership since 2005 and has always been a man of great dignity and affability. He has always had time to speak to people, has been approachable at all times and has been a steady hand on the tiller. There is no coincidence that Derbyshire's improved financial position in recent seasons has coincided with Amott's tenure, allied to Keith Loring coming in as Chief Executive.

His financial acumen is there for all to see, having built up a nationally known business with its heartbeat within the county. His friendship with John Morris is well known and some will now start rumours of changes at that level too. I'm not so sure. Morris' contract is up at the end of the season and whoever takes over from Don Amott would be silly to do anything before then. The signs are that Morris has again recruited soundly this winter in difficult times and the club may enjoy an improved summer. September will be the time to judge that and to judge John Morris, not before.

As for Don Amott, there is no question that he has been a massive asset to Derbyshire cricket. Whatever the reasons behind his departure, the club are sure to miss him immensely. On behalf of all fans of the county, I'd like to say a big thank you to him for his efforts and hope that we still see him on a regular basis at the County Ground, Chesterfield and beyond.

Derbyshire lose

Derbyshire were beaten by Warwickshire in the final of the T20 last night in Barbados, after posting a useful 140-7 in their innings, recovering from 40-5 at one stage.

Jon Clare hit four sixes in a 32-ball fifty and had good support from Dan Redfern and Ross Whitely, but conditions became increasingly difficult as dew fell following heavy rain. With the ball increasingly resembling a bar of soap, Warwickshire ran out victors by eight wickets.

It was a young Derbyshire side in the final, with no Madsen, Groenewald or Footitt, but the players can be proud of their efforts over the first few days of what will be a long season.

More later, but on this evidence we will battle this year.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Derbyshire 137 in their 20 overs. UWI 75-3 in 13 overs (63 to win in 7)
UWI star batsman Nekoli Paris is still in, so very open at present


79-5 now. Two wickets for Wes Durston who also scored 50


Favourable comments about Luke Sutton's captaincy as Derbyshire win comfortably!

Yorkshire or Warwickshire in the final later on tonight!


Derbyshire have drawn the University of the West Indies in the semi finals of the 20 over competition having beaten Essex yesterday.

The game starts around now (1pm UK time) and the loser will play in the Plate Final at 8pm our time, with the winner playing the final which starts at 23.30pm

Yorkshire and Warwickshire contest the other semi final.

First win

Essex 104-6 in rain reduced 14 overs v Derbyshire

Derbyshire won off the last ball!  As reported on IMWT, so far it's Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Univ of West Indies in today's Finals Day.

On his Twitter feed, Luke Sutton reports Derbyshire as 'pumped' after the win and that the semi final takes place this morning.

More news as it breaks.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Saturday news

Maybe it is my innate sense of parochialism, but I think Robin Peterson owes a debt to Derbyshire for his current good form.

In this World Cup Peterson has looked a good cricketer - as he did for most of last season. While he found a full English season hard going, I think the responsibility of being a senior player in a young team has been good for him. His country now appear to have covered their weaknesses as a side with the advent of Peterson and Imran Tahir as spinners of quality. Both have done well in this tournament and, with the assistance of Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Lotse Tsotsobe give the Saffers an attack for all seasons.

Peterson has contributed with bat and ball and gives the side better balance than Johan Botha (a decent off spinner) while being a better bowler than Rolof van der Merwe. He's also a better batsman and fielder than Paul Harris and could just have cemented his place in their national side for some time to come.

Of course, playing on the sub-continent has helped too, but Robbo looks a good cricketer at the moment and I still think that his country or India will come out on top at the end of it all. Mind you, the tournament has been way too long and to only now be getting to the business end of it is just silly. I'm all for encouraging associate nations but there have been too many dead matches and mismatches for me.

Meanwhile our opponents in Barbados tonight, Essex are set to announce the signing of Aussie Peter Siddle as overseas player for the first half of the summer. He's a fair player and if he stays fit should be a decent signing.

As pointed out on IMWT, Cricinfo have Derbyshire's staff as featuring Mitch Wilson, a bowler from Dorset. I assume this is a mistake as there's no mention of him on the club site. With such things do rumours start...wonder if I can spot any reference to our new Kolpak, Jacques Kallis...

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.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Midweek musings

Sorry about the absence of blogs since last weekend. Its not been through choice, but our internet has been down again and even now is moving with the alacrity of a one legged man on a concrete pogo stick.

As I write Derbyshire will be enjoying the rays in the Caribbean, at the start of a pre-season tour with several matches and that all-important outdoor practice. I have no doubts that this venture will get us off to a positive start, while affording new players a chance to get to know their team mates.

Meanwhile the club have backed retaining the current 16 match structure of the Championship, a view echoed by many others around the country. The logic of the alternative, where you play some teams twice and others once escapes me and the county game is, after all, the one that prepares players for the rigours of Test cricket. Administrators can't say that the Championship is preparing a top Test side for England then prune the only competition that gives them worthwhile practice.

Reducing the T20 and Pro 40 is definitely the way to go and I'm pleased to see the club's vote come down this way. Of course, it is ironic that it is the worst supported of the three forms, but what do you expect when most fixtures are played in midweek? If they tried something innovative, like having days three and four on a Saturday and Sunday more often, it might just give fresh impetus to the long format.

Reducing the T20 in particular is sure to be welcomed by players. While they enjoy the bigger crowds, few bowlers will enjoy having to put tired bodies through the mixer, diving to stop the ball, risking pulled and torn muscles along the way.

Nothing will increase crowds more than a winning Derbyshire side of course and I still think that the Championship is our best chance of success this season. I think we have bowlers who will take wickets, though I am less convinced at this stage of their ability to bowl tight. 4-60 in 10 overs in the Championship could be a match-winning performance, but could be less convincing in the shorter forms (especially from a four-over spell!)

Anyway, with the week dominated by Surrey's loss of £500K and Glamorgan announcing a deficit of  £366K, all of a sudden we appear to be the Rockefellers of the county game...

Friday, 11 March 2011

Something for the weekend

Double good news for Derbyshire fans in the past few days, with news that cricket will be played at Chesterfield for the next five years, followed by the announcement that Derek Morgan will be club President for the next two seasons.

The Chesterfield news comes on the back of the announcement of the fixture at Leek this year and reaffirms the club's commitment to take cricket around the catchment area where possible. We'll never be back at Buxton, Ilkeston or Heanor as the facilities simply aren't up to it, but at a time when several counties are concentrating their cricket on the county headquarters, Derbyshire's move is a refreshing one.

Of course, I'm biased and can think of nowhere I'd sooner watch Derbyshire than Chesterfield (except maybe Scarborough.) Despite that, I realise that they have to play at Derby for a range of reasons, not the least of which is that they haven't spent all that money doing the place up to take cricket elsewhere.

As for the news about Derek Morgan, it is an admirable choice as he was an admirable cricketer. Below is an article on him that I first wrote in August 2008 under the banner 'Derbyshire Legend'. This seems an apposite time to run it again:
Derek Morgan (standing rear left in this shot of the 1950s Derbyshire side) was perhaps the greatest British-born all-rounder to play for Derbyshire.

He had some good opposition for that role, with such luminaries as Les Townsend, George Pope, Stan Worthington, Geoff Miller and Graeme Welch all worthy and fine servants.

Yet Morgan's statistics speak for themselves. In a career that lasted from 1950 to 1969, he scored over 18,000 runs at an average of just under 25, took 1248 at 25 runs each and held 573 catches. He also captained the county with a good deal of common sense in a period when, during the late 1960's, we were not overly blessed with players of obvious class.

He was a functional rather than flashy player and few would have watched him and waxed lyrical, especially those who watched him bat. I saw him on several occasions and one never felt about him as you felt when watching a Peter Gibbs, a Chris Wilkins or a John Morris.

Yet Morgan had shots and on occasions showed them. They were often subjugated to the greater need, that of the team grinding out the runs to force a win. Fancy shots might get a few runs, but Morgan was astute enough to realise that a hard-fought 50 was more value than a flashy 20 and he often came up with the goods, especially against the quickest and most dangerous bowlers.

In the legendary game against Hampshire that started and finished in a day on a Burton "minefield", only one player made more than 19 in the match, Morgan's 46 in our second innings being an innings of unbelievable value and worth many a century in better conditions. You have to bear in mind that wickets in his era were mainly left open to the elements and batsmen were exposed to "sticky" tracks on which only those with good defensive techniques, considerable skill and a great deal of bravery could survive. He had all of these in abundance and on eight occasions passed a thousand runs in a season.

As a bowler he was both fortunate and unfortunate to play in the same side as Les Jackson and Cliff Gladwin. Fortunate because he learned from them the merits of line and length and keeping batsmen under pressure and also because, as he openly admitted, batsmen often took a chance against him when they'd barely had a loose ball from the opening pair. At the same time, there were occasions where he never got on because the legendary pairing ran through sides and had no need for back up. Early in his career he was a typically Derbyshire fast-medium, but as he got older he dropped his pace and moved it around. His mixture of late outswing, coupled with an ability to bowl off-cutters made for a potent mix and on 35 occasions he returned five wickets in an innings.

As a fielder, he was beyond compare in a generally sound fielding unit. Alan Revill and Donald Carr were brilliant close fielders, but Morgan, in the words of my Dad, "caught swallows". He could field anywhere with distinction, but as a backward short leg to Gladwin and Jackson he held half-chances and on occasions some that would not have been considered a chance to most.

His fielding was so good that he was England's 12th man on five occasions, yet he never gained selection for the national side. The presence of Trevor Bailey was the main problem, but Morgan, born in Middlesex, is another who may well have got the nod had he stayed down south with one of the more fashionable counties.

The other factor with Derek Morgan is his resilience. If one goes through the seasons that he played, he missed precious few matches and was as great an advert for the solid county professional as could have been wished for.

There have been bigger names in the club's history, ones who produced brilliance over a few seasons, but on a pound for pound basis, over a twenty-year career Derek Morgan can be compared with and can stand alongside anyone. They named a suite after him at the County Ground, which is a worthy tribute, but he is well deserving of that brief but all important three word accolade.

He could play.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

More on the finances

Last night I referred to Derbyshire’s annual financial statement and suggested that it had to be looked at in terms of a bigger picture, as highlighted by Keith Loring in the Derby Telegraph on February 18. A link to this excellent article is below:

As I said last night, while the figures are not great they are a long way from an unmitigated disaster and the club have quickly taken steps to address the situation. Indeed, the club site today highlights the great demand for the marquee in particular and in such ventures lies the future security of the club.

Compare it with what is happening in Kent. Yesterday’s Kent Messenger carried a sobering tale of their finances.

This includes the sobering lines:

“The club’s accounts for the year ending October 31, 2010, show an operating loss of just over £595,000, which is significantly better than the figure of more than £800,000 reported last year.

It is also an improvement of around £100,000 on the operating loss for 2007/08 (but)…the club has budgeted for a £400,000 operating loss for 2010/11.”

Now I’m no business mogul but that doesn’t sound like a healthy run of figures to me. Any business that has lost around £2.5 million over four years is in difficulty and I’d be interested to see what Kent are paying to some of their big name players like Key, Jones, Tredwell, Denly and Van Jaarsveld. Far more than we can afford, I’m sure and I wouldn’t say that their last four years have seen unparalleled success, would you?

Derbyshire’s financial fortunes had an understandable ‘blip’ last season, but we have some steady hands on the tiller. It is our first loss for several years and the club are predicting a profit for the coming year, which is reassuring news. While some fans may want us to make big name signings and pay the salaries reportedly earned by Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom at Leicestershire and Yorkshire respectively, that is wildly unrealistic given our cricket budget.

John Morris, as I’ve written before, makes do with the smallest budget in county cricket. That he has a squad with so many young, talented cricketers is testimony to the work he has put in. If that talent, under the captaincy of Luke Sutton, plays the cricket that it is capable of, supporters should see some exciting cricket in the coming season.

And it’s just a month away…

Monday, 7 March 2011


Not much more that you can say than that, in the light of the budget figures sent out to members in advance of the AGM.

 £187K is a sizeable loss for a small club and is mainly down to a deficit of £44,000 in gate receipts and £30,000 in commercial income. In the current economic climate both figures are understandable of course. Last summer saw most county clubs suffer from poor weather and the lure of televised World Cup matches, while companies who may previously have been disposed to sponsor the county in various ways were themselves feeling the pinch.

The good news is that there has been an impressive rise in commercial income, while the previous statement from Keith Loring about the club's finances (see earlier blog post, February 19) has to be considered as part of a bigger, more encouraging picture. The signings of Robin Peterson, Loots Bosman and Charl Langeveldt last season were an attempt to make the side competitive. To some extent it succeeded, but it was at a cost and playing expenses were £130,000 higher than the previous year. Add in the fact that we lose ECB money whenever Wayne Madsen, Chesney Hughes and Greg Smith play in non-T20 matches and there is an obvious drain on resources should that state of affairs continue.

This season won't be as bad, of course. Peterson has gone, along with Graham Wagg, another of the highest earners. We've also released two senior bowlers in Ian Hunter and Tom Lungley and replaced them with younger, hopefully fitter and contributing players who may be less expensive in Mark Turner and Tony Palladino. There could well be major savings across the board in that little lot. Meanwhile the signings of Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill probably cost around what we were paying Chris Rogers.

As pointed out by a contributor on IMWT, today's figures illustrate why we couldn't offer Chris Rogers terms to match those on offer at Middlesex, while Graham Wagg's terms at Glamorgan were way outside Derbyshire's compass. Indeed, Wagg would need to turn in Sobers-like performances every week to justify those terms and will surely be expected to in Wales. The way things are going it could be his last big contract as few counties will be able to afford such offers without commensurate contributions on a regular basis.

Derbyshire can certainly ill-afford to carry staff members through injury and as the season progresses it will be interesting to see if team selection is based increasingly on fiscal issues than on performance. Last year Messrs Wagg, Lungley, Clare and Hunter played barely a season's worth of cricket between them and Morris will hope for improved fitness and luck from his new recruits.

While logic suggests that our top six to start the season could well be Madsen, Hughes, Khawaja, Park, Durston and Smith,  John Morris knows that the club would get no ECB money for any of them, as they are either too old or non-qualified. The pressure to play Daniel Redfern and Paul Borrington could build without doubt and much will depend on results as to the team selections as the season progresses. Nor will we get money for Matt Lineker as he is too old, but the prolific league player could still force his way in with weight of runs in the Seconds.

Logic suggests we go with our strongest side, of course and playing two youngsters would mean that two senior players on senior player salaries would be in the Seconds, something of a luxury we could ill-afford. In short, John Morris has an onerous task and responsibility and I just hope that Don Amott and Keith Loring give him carte blanche to play his strongest team as far as possible.

What it means, of course, is that the importance of Andrew Harris' role in bringing through youngsters is highlighted in ten feet-high neon lettering. If three or four members of your strongest side also happen to bring in ECB money it would be party time. In the medium term that is our likely strategy, but hopefully we now have a playing staff within budget.

If that staff can start to win a few matches, we could still be in a better position than many of our counterparts.

At least it's not millions...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Holding the man.

There’s a decision to be made among the ‘H’ category, albeit one that comes down to two players as far as I'm concerned.
Two opening batsmen are worthy of consideration, both of them players who sold their wickets dearly. Ian Hall was a dogged battler in the 1960s who got to the middle and worked to stay there. Not for him the flamboyant shots – he accumulated runs and was a workmanlike player.

As was Alan Hill, although ‘Bud’ became a key member of the side in the 1970s and 1980s as the ideal foil for John Wright. They made a good pairing, though Hill at times struggled to shake off the reputation that once saw him make a century in South Africa without a boundary. It was ironic that he subsequently was the first Derbyshire player to make a Sunday League century, tribute to his willingness to work at his game and Eddie Barlow’s encouragement to hit the ball. Hill was never a flashy player, but if you were selecting a Derbyshire side to save a game you would want him in there fighting for you. He was a very underrated player and I had a lot of time for him.

Then of course there is Arnold Hamer, the best batsman of a fairly average side in the 1950s and one who could play in whatever style the game and conditions demanded. His average of 31 in the first class game would probably be worth more on the covered tracks of today, but Hamer, worthy a player as he was, is eclipsed by two bowlers of distinction as far as I'm concerned.

The stature of the man in first place is illustrated by Mike Hendrick being ‘only’ second. Hendo was an outstanding bowler in the real Derbyshire tradition. The lineage that ran from Warren through Bestwick, the Popes, Copson, Gladwin, Jackson and Rhodes was safe with him. Not especially quick but hostile, no extravagant movement but enough to find the edge, Mike Hendrick was a class act.

Especially when he reached the international stage, some argued that he bowled too short, happier to keep the score down with short of a length bowling than to produce the probing outswinger that drew the batsman forward. Maybe that was so, but Mike Hendrick on a green top was hard to play and he grew up in a Derbyshire side that rarely had runs to play with. In the Championship you could usually bank on a few wickets, while in one day games he rarely got hit. You can ask for little more from a bowler and Hendrick was also a fine slip fielder, had a good arm in the deep and was an entertaining tail-end slogger in the old tradition.

It takes a special man to keep him from top spot, but Michael Holding was one of the all-time greats. Although his days of constant express pace were behind him when he joined us, he could still bowl an occasional ball of unfeasible velocity. David Lloyd tells the tale in his recent book about umpiring at Derby where the pitch was docile, yet Holding found the pace and bounce to produce a ball that removed the thumb guard from the glove of Northamptonshire batsman Robin Boyd-Moss and sent his thumb in several directions.

Occasionally he would turn back time and come off his full run, but Holding was an able lieutenant to the fledgling Kim Barnett. Always willing to come on when things were tough and the score mounting, he was close to the ideal overseas player. At times he seemed to get wickets by reputation, but whatever the length of his run, watching Holding was a joy for the connoisseur - unless you were 22 yards away.

He was usually good for some tailend clumping too, and had a safe pair of hands. John Wright once said that the opposition always seemed pleased to hear he was playing, as it meant that Holding, with who he shared overseas duties for a time, wasn’t.

I’ve written before of my reservations about a book that was written a couple of years back on one hundred Derbyshire cricket greats. Greatness can be defined in different ways, in a local, national or international context. However I try to define it, I can’t get anywhere near 50 from Derbyshire’s history.

Maybe I’m hard to please but ‘great’ is quite an accolade and is as over-used today as ‘legend.’ I could easily write a book on a hundred favourite Derbyshire cricketers, bringing in some characters along the way, but some of the names in the forementioned tome, and others in the same series for other counties, made me smile when I saw them.

Having said that, both Mike Hendrick and Michael Holding would be in that 50. On a local scale Hendrick was a great player and on a national scale a good one.

Holding? He was a giant of the game by any benchmark, so has to be number one. An all-time great? You bet.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Something for the weekend

Just over a month to go now and I’m sure that most of you are as excited as I am about the coming season.

This week came news that Derbyshire are to return to Leek, this time in the balmier days (at least in theory) of June. It is good to see the club making this commitment to a sizeable fan base in Staffordshire, a county that has also been the source of many players over the years. If they are blessed with decent weather I am sure that the fans will respond in a manner that makes it worthwhile.

To be fair to Keith Loring and the admin team, they don’t miss many tricks and must be the envy of many counties. If Leek can be made to pay for itself, it could be a regular venue in the coming years. Despite the logistical difficulties, taking the show on the road is a good way to show people that you care. While the larger part of the support is concentrated around Derby, games at Chesterfield and Leek let people know the club are aware of their interest. Maintaining that is paramount to continued success.

Speaking of which, it was nice to see “our” Martin Guptill playing another good knock against Kenya. While not an especially demanding attack, Guptill scored runs against them and remained unbeaten at the end. I have vivid memories of much vaunted players in our past who often gave it away against supposed lesser lights. I never saw Shahid Afridi or Michael Slater score many runs against Scotland for example, the type of team against which, with respect, they should have dominated.

Guptill’s talents have already been evident in this World Cup and the thought of him opening in the T20 is one that I relish. That he has all the shots is obvious, but he also has an impressive technique, which should see him do better than Loots Bosman did last year. He is, in short, a batsman, rather than a hitter and the latter tend to come off on only an occasional basis.

As exhibit A I give you Kevin O’Brien. While a decent player, little in his first-class career to date has suggested he was capable of doing what he did to England. Stints at Nottinghamshire and Middlesex suggested a player with only moderate ability, but the England match was his day and when that happens it is time to be joyful. Look at Loots Bosman at Headingley in the T20 last year, yet he seldom looked like replicating that afterwards, somewhat hamstrung by docile tracks, a knee injury and attacks that realised that if you gave him no width he had a limited array of shots.

On another day O’Brien’s heaves could have gone straight to a fielder instead of landing safely, or one of the catches would have been taken quite easily. On your day you have to capitalise on it, something O’Brien did in spades.

I would expect someone to pick him up for the T20 after his display, and good luck to the guy. The IPL could also be an option for him after an innings that captured the imagination. Such a display did Keiron Pollard no harm a couple of years back and given the way the game is going O’Brien could well have secured his future quite nicely, even if he never plays a County Championship match.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Tuesday thoughts

I’m not quite sure why newspapers are devoting so many column inches to the news that Surrey and England wicket-keeper Stephen Davies has announced that he is gay.

Such a revelation back in the 1950s or 60s, and certainly pre-war would have been astonishing, but surely such news in 2011 is not worthy of the coverage? While Davies is the first cricketer to ‘come out’ he is almost certainly not the first and nor will he be the last.

It really doesn’t matter and why should it? Any player should be judged on his contribution to the team and not by any other criterion and I wouldn’t be remotely bothered if the entire Derbyshire squad was gay – which they’re not, I should add…

My only concern now is that any non-selection of the player for representative honours isn’t automatically deemed a consequence of this revelation. It won’t, or shouldn’t be, but there are always those who jump on a bandwagon. I was once accused of being racist when I didn’t pick a player of ethnic background for a particular game. It was nonsense, and the reasons he wasn’t picked were that he was the weakest player of those available for a big game, was working and couldn’t make the start of the match and was the thirteenth player to confirm availability for a team of eleven.

Stephen Davies is to be applauded for his stance and I suspect and hope that he will get a better deal from spectators and supporters than a footballer might do in similar circumstances, certainly on message/bulletin boards. Steve James wrote today that the main problem may come in T20 matches, when spectators are a different breed to the regular cricket crowd. For everyone's sake, I hope that he is wrong and that people are understanding.

Speaking of message boards, the demise of 606 from the end of the football season will be met with few tears from my house. Regular readers will know that I’m less than impressed by its inability to differentiate between banter, banality and libellous comment. For too long it has been home to many a miscreant who is happy to spew vitriol in any direction he chooses from the ’anonymity’ of a computer. John Morris has suffered in the past, as have most managers and sports supremos, as everyone thinks they could do a far better job and tolerance of failure appears non-existent.

It's not my bag, baby. I’m all for open comment as long as it is fair and doesn’t overstep the mark. Criticism is acceptable, as long as it is even-handed and again, fair. 606 for too long has stepped gingerly on the boundary of legality, such as when a Northamptonshire follower suggested nefarious goings on when Essex beat us at Derby at the end of 2009. Similarly, there are people currently calling for the head of Nigel Clough who were prepared to deify the man before Christmas. As Gordon Strachan wrote in a newspaper up here a couple of weeks back, such people are probably the ones shaking his hand and impressing their mates with the tales of how they know him before going home and slating him.

It is unfair to tar all correspondents with the same brush and there have been and are some fair-minded and worthy contributors. Yet they have been swamped in a mire of mediocrity that seldom rises higher than ‘mine’s bigger/better/nicer than yours,’ coupled with humour that rarely rises higher than the playground.

As for how it will affect Derbyshire, the answer is very little. We have the excellent In Morris We Trust, which is open to all fans as long as their goal rises above character assassination and libel. You’re also welcome to comment on any of the articles on this blog by simply opening a free Google account.

In other news, Glamorgan have announced a loss of £366,000, while Leicestershire's attempt to sign Richie Berrington has failed after he opted to stay with the Scottish Saltires. I hope I'm wrong but I think the Scots all-rounder is in danger of missing the boat in his loyalty to his adopted homeland. Several sides wanted him for trials last year when he was in a hot streak of form, yet he put it off and ran out of steam. He is a player of talent, but is only going to flourish by making a commitment to play at a higher level.

In closing, and in answer to a regular contributor to comments, I haven't a clue when the membership cards will be out, but it will be before the season starts, so don't worry!

PS The World Cup? India v England apart it has been dull and once again organisers are sacrificing quality for quantity. The associate nations are like the minnows in the FA Cup. They can raise their game for one, maybe two matches, but over a long haul they'll be shown up for what they are - second class players.

Hopefully it will pick up when the real action starts