Thursday, 30 June 2011

Glamorgan v Derbyshire

Nowt like coming in from a lovely day on the beach to find the boys have won by six wickets!

Full marks all round for a fine team effort, with Martin Guptill and Ross Whiteley sharing an important stand when it mattered.

I feel a celebration sangria coming on tonight. What I´ll be like if we beat Nottinghamshire on Friday I don´t know...

Great stuff. Now for evening meal and the end of a perfect day. Must be a song in that somewhere...

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 2

In what is pleasantly starting to sound like a broken record, that was another good day's cricket by Derbyshire. The icing on the cake would have been the dismissal before stumps of South African star Alviro Petersen, but he's a good player and there is no disgrace in having to work for his wicket.

Derbyshire would have been pleased with their total and there were solid contributions down the order. I thought today was the day for Dan Redfern to get that elusive first century, but he can be proud of his efforts this season. He is ten short of 500 runs and currently averages a respectable 35.

Then it was time for the bowlers and while Tim Groenewald again made early inroads, it was Jon Clare who stole the show with five wickets for the first time this season. The youngster has had a little stick from some areas, but we need to remember that he has had two years of injury problems that need psychological as much as physical recovery time. A shoulder injury is difficult for a bowler and, as I've written before, there is a nagging doubt in the back of your mind that if you put everything into it, everything could go again. He's now got 18 Championship wickets at 27 and has bowled well in spells in the shorter forms. While his batting has yet to return to the promise of his first season, Clare is young enough to come again and have a lot to offer Derbyshire cricket.

As for the rest of this game, I'd be surprised if we enforced the follow on, even if we were in a position to do so. Rather I think tomorrow will be a case of moving 450 on - ideally - before declaring after tea and allowing time to get them out again on the last day.

That's my thoughts, but to be honest, this time tomorrow I'm expecting to be sipping an ice cold San Miguel at a beach bar in a quiet stretch of the Costa Brava, chilling nicely after our first leisurely meal in Spain. I will be checking the score beforehand though and hoping for good news to start our holiday.

I'll be blogging when I have the chance in the next 10-12 days - so don't desert me now!

See you soon.

Jones announces retirement

So Steffan Jones has announced he will retire at the end of the season. Surely no one is surprised by that? Faced with two offers, one of which woulod allow you to play as long as you felt able and coach for up to three years, or one where you could effectively work for the next 25, everyone would reach the same decision?

I know I would.

There's time for a full appraisal of Steff's contribution to Derbyshire cricket later in the season. For now, let's just enjoy a whole-hearted bowler of considerable talent while we can.

Getting to the T20 knockout would be a great way to sign off Steff. Finals day would be a bit special...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Glamorgan v Derbyshire day 1

Wes Durston's first Championship century for Derbyshire was the highlight of a first day that we can be pretty pleased with on the whole.

219-4 was a decent bit of batting on a truncated day, with good support coming from Wayne Madsen and Dan Redfern, who is still there at the close, unbeaten on 48. I hope he gets his head down again tomorrow and gets the maiden century that his improved form this summer so richly deserves.

The side was as I had suggested last night and with Ross Whiteley with him at the crease, Redfern will be in familiar company first thing tomorrow. If, as I suggested last night, we can go on to get over 350 we would be in a good position - assuming we back it up with disciplined bowling of course.

It was a day to say hello again to Graham Wagg, who must have some regrets over leaving the County Ground. A batting average of 23 and a bowling one of 50 was not what the player or club hoped for after a considerable outlay. While Wagg remains a player of ability, he is also prone to bad days, which have been a little too common this year. 14 wickets in eight matches is as negligible return.

Another former Derbyshire player, Ant Botha, has circulated the other 17 counties regarding his availability after an inconclusive mid-season appraisal with Ashley Giles at Warwickshire. At 34 Botha will be lucky to get another deal and is another who left for pastures new and found that the grass was not green at all on the other side of the fence. With the advent of Tom Knight, the potential of Peter Burgoyne and the possibility that Jake Needham could re-emerge next season after coaching with Jack Birkenshaw, I doubt Derbyshire will want him back. If anyone can rediscover Needham's mojo, Austin Powers style, it will be Birkenshaw, a very canny spinner in his day and acknowledged as a fine coach of slow bowlers.

Finally tonight and on the subject of young players, I'd like to highlight an excellent comment made last night by notoveryet, which ran as follows - he was commenting on yesterday's win

"Hmm, might set us up nicely for a fall back to earth on Friday. The ease of Notts win against Lancs today puts our tie with them in perspective. They are a truly formidable t20 team, in sharp contrast to their recent CC form, which has started some of my Notts supporter friends twitching about whether they are might be heading for relegation.

I think they are probably still a little too strong for this to be a real danger, but there is a real weakness and failure at Notts. It's exemplified by the fact that we have as many players in the England under 19 squad as they have. Notts have built their strategy on importing players, and in the meantime their development of their own players has dried up. I suspect that a Derbyshire side of their current home-grown players would see off the equivalent of Notts with comfort.

Peakfan's comment a few weeks ago about the make-up of WI Cavaliers (Usman Afzaal, Alex Tudor and Saqlain Mushtaq) demonstrates the weakness rather than the strength of Notts Premier League cricket, that it isn't producing potential future county and test players, but recycling the has-beens and never-weres from first class cricket.

This is the trap that Derbyshire have fallen into over the last few years. Think about how excited we are every year when we see who we've signed from other counties, and how the discussions about about next year always focus on who we can sign from elsewhere.

This was a survival necessity between about 1998 and 2006 because of the atrophy in our scouting and coaching set-up and the haemorrhage of talent. Since then, it has become a yearly narcotic injection. It makes us feel good for a time but ultimately doesn't deal with our underlying problem. It also drains our resources, and prevents us from developing our own solutions.

This is why I think the new direction has to be right. We can't compete in the market with Notts and their ilk, but ultimately their approach takes them into a cul-de-sac where they either have to carry on spending larger and larger amounts (Surrey for example) or have to risk short-term failure by developing their own (Hampshire and Yorkshire for example).

We only have one real option, and that's the one we're taking."

I totally agree with him. With regard to Friday, I think we will do very well to get something from the game against a team that I see as one of the best two in the format (with Somerset). If we do it will be a remarkable performance but we would still need to win other games that are winnable but we could just as easily lose (e.g Worcestershire).

Sooner or later, the ECB need to face facts. Either the big counties need to set up their own academies and stop using their wealth to poach those of others, or we need to introduce a transfer system of some kind that recompenses the county who spend years developing a player, only to lose him to another that has an inferior coaching infrastructure and more money.

See you tomorrow - then its holiday time!

Wainwright in on loan

Derbyshire have signed Yorkshire all-rounder David Wainwright on loan for a month with effect from this coming Saturday.

The signing will cover the absence of Tom Knight with England Under 19s and ensure that we retain the services of a young spin bowler of talent.

With Adil Rashid and Azeem Rafiq, Wainwright makes up a trio of spinners of ability in Yorkshire's ranks. The others are now ahead of him in the pecking order and Wainwright will be aware that Rafiq found great benefit in his loan spell at the County Ground.

A steady orthodox slow left arm bowler, Wainwright is also a batsman of some ability, boasting a first-class average of 35 with two centuries. I am sure he will do a good job, although the signing suggests that Jake Needham will have to work hard over the winter to get into the first eleven frame for another season.

With 77 first class wickets at 35 each, Wainwright also boasts twenty T20 wickets and a run rate of only seven an over in his career record. At 26 he has the experience to know his game and will be a good and worthy replacement for Knight.

Top marks to the club for moving quickly to bring him in on loan.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Glamorgan v Derbyshire preview

After a heartening few days in the T20, it is back to business in the Championship tomorrow as we head down to Wales for a match against Glamorgan. I just hope we have enough players to make the journey and that we've not had half our boys offered a deal by Warwickshire after today's win. Ashley's after players, you know...

When you look at the terrific bowling by young tyros Hughes and Knight the recent performances are especially heartening, as is the manner in which Ross Whiteley has gone about his business at number six. He has a long way to go, but I am very hopeful that Whiteley will make the number six berth his own, as a batsman who can bowl a few overs or as a genuine all-rounder.

It was surprising but good to see Garry Park play today and I assume that he will be replaced by Dan Redfern tomorrow, allowing him time to recover before the big game against Nottinghamshire next weekend. I would see the following Derbyshire side:

Madsen, Guptill, Durston, Hughes, Redfern, Whiteley, Sutton, Clare, Groenewald, Knight, Palladino.

There may be consideration for a return by Jake Needham, who could well be in the travelling party, though his playing may be dependent on the fitness of Jon Clare, who only bowled two overs today.

As for Glamorgan, Graham Wagg is fit to play against us and takes his place in the following 12:

AN Petersen (captain), GP Rees, WD Bragg, MJ Powell, BJ Wright, J Allenby, MA Wallace (wicket-keeper), JAR Harris, GG Wagg, RDB Croft, DA Cosker and WT Owen.

The presence of Croft and Cosker suggests that the ball will turn and whoever wins the toss is likely to bat, then hope to score 350-plus. We go into the game after back-to-back T20 wins and some very impressive cricket and shouldn't fear anyone.

These are encouraging days with some good standards. Keep them going boys.

Derbyshire v Warwickshire T20

Another (division one) scalp bites the dust...

After a professional bowling and fielding performance where no one went for 30 runs in their four overs, Derbyshire completed a fine win with a ball to go in the nineteenth over.

Martin Guptill led from the front with a brilliant 72 including six sixes, but it was a professional chase in which everyone contributed. The innings was finished off by Garry Park (who wasn't expected to play) and Ross 'Bradman' Whiteley, who now boasts a T20 average of  66.

The reasons for Derbyshire's form aren't hard to find. The lowest average in the top six is 25, with Park 44, Madsen 37 and Guptill 34. As for the bowlers, Knight and Hughes are bowling their overs for less than seven runs each; Clare and Groenewald for less than eight.

It is impressive stuff and they are very much in the shake up with six games to go. Where it finishes is anyone's guess, but there's no disputing that this is an improving side rejuvenated by young players and with an overseas player who is well worth the admission fee.

Plenty to play back to the Championship in Wales tomorrow.

More later.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Book review - A Long Half Hour by Stephen Chalke

The latest book that I've been sent for a review was always likely to be a pleasure, as I have been a fan of the author since his first book came out.

Stephen Chalke's Runs in the Memory is, without doubt, one of the finest cricket books ever written and his easy style makes it one that you can go back to time and again. The basic premise is so simple you wonder why no one did it before - take a sample of cricketers who played in the 1950s and let them talk to you about their favourite match. Mix in a liberal splash of laugh out loud anecdotes, together with stories that were in the press of the day and it is a recipe for a wonderful book. Within its pages is the legendary Derbyshire v Hampshire game that was completed in a day, the events told from the players' perspective.

Several others have followed in the intervening period, all of them written beautifully and doing great credit to their subject. I am a big fan of oral histories anyway, having read the wonderful volumes on the First World War produced by Lyn MacDonald after her chats with veterans over a number of years. One only wishes that Stephen Chalke had started writing twenty years earlier, so he could have done similar volumes on the game in the 1930s and '40s.

A Long Half Hour comprises extended articles on six of the players who made the earlier books so entertaining. Understandably there is some duplication, but the players concerned - "Bomber" Wells, Geoff Edrich, Eric Hill, Dickie Dodds, Ken Biddulph and Arthur Milton  - are brought to life by the author's writing.

A danger in this sort of book is that it descends into hero-worship, but Stephen Chalke presents the individual and is unafraid to mention the fallibilities and foibles that we all have. We find that Arthur Milton needed a challenge to play really well and that Geoff Edrich was not a fan of Cyril Washbrook. The trust of the players in the author is evident from what they tell him, confident that it will appear in the manner intended. Every page has fresh revelations and wonderful anecdotes, with the best perhaps being that on "Bomber" Wells, a character so large that he might well have been invented.

Boundary catches taken with one hand while having a cup of tea, the player tricked into using a bat filled with compressed sawdust and the captain who was unaware of his 'stand and deliver' bowling style. He walked in from mid-off for the first ball of the over, walked back to his position and walked in again, in time for the third ball! Wells retired with 999 first-class wickets, quite proud that while a good few had reached a thousand, no one else had pulled up one short. Then, after he retired, a statistician found he 'only' had 998...

Wonderful stuff and the stories keep coming throughout 128 pages of pleasure. The era is brought to life within its pages and the game seems in many ways different to the modern one, almost certainly the better for it.

A Long Half Hour by Stephen Chalke is published by Fairfield Books and is priced £9.50 on Amazon.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Recognition for Rowe

Twenty-eight years after leading a rebel tour to South Africa, Lawrence Rowe has apologised to the people of Jamaica and the pavilion at Sabina Park has been named after him.

Rowe, a long-time resident of the United States, was back in Jamaica for the ceremony, an act of redemption that is, perhaps long overdue. The statistics don't tell the full story about the West Indian, a most delightful batsman who had one season with Derbyshire in 1974. He had so much time to play his shots that you wondered how he could ever get out, yet that is what he managed to do for us, time after time. He oozed class, but never made it tell in our colours.

On his debut against Sussex at a freezing County Ground,  as far removed from Jamaica as you could be, Rowe stroked a delightful 94 against an attack including John Snow and Tony Greig. He looked set to follow a prolific winter, in which he had scored 302 against England at Bridgetown, with a barrel load of runs in the county game.

I saw him several times that summer, sixteen years old and desperate for a sporting hero. I'd listened to the radio during the winter of 1973-74, as commentators waxed lyrical about his strokeplay. Dad and I just grinned at one another, envisaging Rowe leading a Derbyshire resurgence. We saw him play some of the most delightful cameos, thirties and forties of charm and elegance, then were frustrated as he continually gave it away. Rowe often whistled as he batted - nerves, confidence or an affectation? If the latter, it needed backing up with runs. If the former, maybe it was a factor in under-achievement.

Later that May, in a televised game against Gloucestershire played at Bristol, he eased his way to 71 runs, playing every shot in the book in what amounted to a batting masterclass. Deft late-cuts, a square cut like a rapier, a cover drive of genuine elegance, a hook for six when Brian Brain dropped one short. "His defensive technique is the best I've seen on a West Indian" said Dad, who had seen all of their greats. He toyed with David Graveney, before playing around a straight one and departing in a most disappointing manner. It was as if he'd had enough, like watching a world-class tenor fluff the high C at the end of the aria then sing the end of it in the wrong key.

We went on to lose the game, Brian Bolus bringing in the field when our hosts needed four off the last ball. Dad berated the skipper for about two weeks and still brings it up at least twice a year...

We listened to the cricket scores on the radio and it was always the same. "Lawrence Rowe made a stylish 38/45/56/72" - whatever. Yet he never bettered that debut score. We saw him against Yorkshire at Chesterfield, again in the John Player League and he opened with Tony Borrington, easing a four past mid-on and then another with a text book cover drive, the front knee bending, the follow through held for the cameras. He was class, C-L-A-S-S. The Yorkies were going to be put to the sword, then suddenly he was gone, run out, the bowler knocking Borrington's firmly-struck drive onto the stumps at the non-striker's end as he backed up too far. There was a draught across Queens Park from the heads being shaken...

So why didn't it work out for Lawrence Rowe? He was unlucky with niggling injuries, though there were suggestions in some quarters of hypochondria. John Wright's autobiography records a team mate telling him of Rowe undergoing a fitness test in the nets, batting on a wicket that was pretty poor. He never missed a ball, looked miles better than anyone else and then professed himself unfit, to general incredulity. He suffered badly from hayfever, which didn't help, while a knee injury hampered him to some extent. "Eye trouble" kept raising its head from people you spoke to and his later career was blighted by serious astigmatism in his leading left eye, something that couldn't be satisfactorily treated with glasses. It explained a lot and it may well have been that there were times he just didn't pick the ball up. Others reported that he feared failure and disappointing people, saying the pressure just built up inside him.

He signed off with 26 against Northamptonshire at Derby, another innings that promised much but ended in disappointment. If we had known more about the seriousness of the eye problem we might have been more understanding, but Rowe was a talent largely unfulfilled. A century in World Series Cricket, 175 against a fit and flying Lillee and Thomson, is still regarded as one of the finest innings played in Australia. There was another brilliant century in South Africa on the rebel tour too, but the good days for Lawrence Rowe became more sporadic. His career finished with a Test average of 43 and a first-class one of 38.

For a man who, when he batted, looked even better than Viv Richards it was not enough. It just shows that all the talent in the world still needs a little luck. With a decent left eye he could have been one of the all-time greats.

Worcestershire v Derbyshire

Two games unbeaten then...

Tonight's forecast always looked a little iffy, so it was no surprise to see the game rained off very quickly.

Two points would have been handy, but with Sunday's forecast looking a belter, there should be a fine crowd to see us play Warwickshire. If we win that one we could be second in the league, somewhat ironic in the light of the recent gnashing of teeth after the home game against tonight's opponents.

If you can manage along, get behind the lads and make it an afternoon to remember!

Elsewhere in cricket tonight, further confirmation that my assertion on Charl Langeveldt's star being in decline was correct. Langers bowled two overs for 31 for Kent against Middlesex, figures that would have been hard to believe a couple of years back. As I wrote recently, anyone can take a hammering in this game when a batsman's eye is in, though Langeveldt has been among the best in this form of the game. His ability to bowl the quicker ball is going though and he's now easier to get at as a result. He's going for just under ten an over this year, a long way from the standards of his pomp.

Have a good weekend!

PS Early warning that I'm off to the sunny climes of Spain on Wednesday, where we'll be for around two weeks. I will blog from time to time while I'm away, but not with the current regularity. Lots of long walks, leisurely meals and restful days in store, hopefully in temperatures far removed to here in recent days...

Congratulations to Burgoyne and Knight

Burgoyne and Knight may currently sound more like solicitors or estate agents but given time the two names could possibly become synonymous with Derbyshire cricket. At 17, for them both to be selected for their country's Under-19 side is an impressive achievement, albeit one that is richly deserved.

Knight is already seen as a player with a real talent, having bowled in several T20 fixtures without looking at all fazed by the razamatazz and the big names up against him. He has bowled straight and with tight lines, effectively telling batsmen to have a go but to bear in mind that if they miss they are in trouble. It is early days for him, but the potential is obvious.

Burgoyne is less well known but has turned in a string of fine displays for both Denby and the Derbyshire Academy, as well as making his mark on the Second Eleven. He is a powerful hitter of a ball and an off spinner who apparently gives the ball a tweak. Whether he follows Knight into the first eleven this year is debatable, but at his current rate of progress he could emerge in the middle order next year.

I'm sure we will all watch their performances with interest and wish them luck. It augurs well for their futures - and that of the county.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Worcestershire v Derbyshire preview T20

I'm not sure why, but it is noticeable that there are far less comments on posts after a win by the county than when we lose.

Maybe too many people are more used to losing, so like to get their moans in early, but check back over the last few pages and see what I mean. OK, perhaps more are attuned to our habit of, in the words of an old line dance classic, one step forward and two steps back, but surely people were impressed by last night?

We'll see after Friday's game. Revenge over a Worcestershire side we should have hammered at Derby is vital. Last night took us back into the pack for play-off positions and the boys batted well, bowled steadily and fielded superbly.

That eight overs were bowled by lads with an average age of eighteen and a half was most impressive. While Tom Knight is likely to go further with his bowling, Chesney's slow left arm 'darts' are a potent weapon. At one point last night he bowled a ball off three paces quicker than most seamers, giving a new dimension to the term 'quicker ball'. Knight, in contrast mixed his pace well but always attacked the stumps. He bowled a canny length and the batsmen had neither width to let their arms go nor leverage to get under the ball for boundaries. It was sensible, clever and heartening stuff.

It is a decent side for this format, though we are heavily reliant on one the top four making runs. It is to their credit that they have done so thus far and the batting unit, with the exception of that awful night last week at Derby, looks a decent one.

What makes a difference, of course, is fielding and there are some brilliant performers in the side. I mentioned Guptill, Madsen and Park last night, but it was a fine team effort last night, one that must be replicated tomorrow. What is especially heartening is the return to the team and form of Garry Park. He has endured a difficult year or so, but is for me beyond compare as a fielder. His speed over the ground, fast arm and secure hands make him easily the best I have seen in my time of following Derbyshire. People like Derek Morgan, Chris Adams and Phil de Freitas were fine fielders, but none had the all round brilliance of Park. As it was once worth the entrance money to see Bob Taylor keep wicket, so it is with Park in the field.

I hope that the runs continue to come and we see him in the county colours for some time. While the new blueprint may put a question mark against his long term future, as things stand he will always be in my one day side, irrespective of how many runs he scores or wickets he takes. In twenty years time, I guarantee that you will tell people that you saw Garry Park field, just the same as people talk about Jonty Rhodes, or those of a certain age recall Colin Bland. While those two remain the benchmark, I can't think of anyone better than Park in the modern game.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Yorkshire v Derbyshire T20

A fine performance by Derbyshire tonight saw them move back into the mix for the tournament.

Despite a shocking start, in which Wes Durston sold Martin Guptill down the river then played around a quick one from Ajmal Shahzad, Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen brought the innings back on track. It was not until the advent of Garry Park that the scoring rate lifted, however, the latter playing some brilliantly improvised strokes mixed with trademark running between the wickets.

As Luke Sutton said at the end, there are few better players for such situations than Madsen and we again has reason to be thankful for the common sense he showed. I can pay him no greater tribute than suggesting that his ability to time his shots so there are twos reminds me of Dean Jones, still the best one-day batsman of my experience.

When Park went after one improvisation too many, Ross Whiteley came in to play some fine shots, a blistering cover drive and a straight hit for six being the standouts. 150 was way beyond my expectations at ten overs and was tribute to some terrific cricket.

This continued in the field, with the skipper pulling off a fine stumping off a Wes Durston legside wide, then fine fielding and clever bowling combined to put the brakes on Yorkshire. I don't think the commentators gave enough credit to Hughes and Knight, both young players, for their clever bowling and subtle variations. The fielding was brilliant, with Guptill, Madsen and Park outstanding. Between them they saved the difference between the two teams on the boundary in an inspired display. The only mistake I recall in a tigerish display was the drop by Ross Whiteley, but anyone who has played cricket has dropped one of those and it happens.

The end result was decided by a fine penultimate over by Tim Groenewald and despite some brave blows by Gary Balance, Steffan Jones had too much in his locker to provide a shock ending.

It was a good effort by the Derbyshire side. For what its worth, I would like to see Garry Park move up to three where his improvisation could be of added value in the powerplay. Chesney is a fine young player, but is currently a better player of seam than spin. With increasing use of spinners to open the bowling, he tends to go for the big one with mixed results at the expense of working it around. Switching the two of them could be mutually beneficial. A minor point, perhaps, but constructive comment on a night when Derbyshire showed they can be a good side when they are all firing.

Good effort lads. Something similar at Worcester on Friday would set us up very nicely for Leek on Sunday.

Yorkshire v Derbyshire preview

Sorry about the absence of a blog yesterday, but the combination of my son's birthday and being offered (and accepting) a new job combined to take up most of my time. As days go, yesterday was up there with the best of them.

Tonight Derbyshire must show that if they want to be up there with the best they can cut it when it matters. In any game of cricket there are key moments and how your side does at those times largely dictates results. When we played and beat Yorkshire in the Pro 40 earlier in the season we batted well, bowled sensibly and were brilliant in the field. Only by doing that can we expect to win matches. Two out of three ain't bad, to quote Meatloaf, but what he omitted to say is that you win very few cricket matches unless you do well in all of them.

No news as yet of the teams, although Yorkshire have announced that Tim Bresnan is unfit - bad news for them, good for us. Azeem Rafiq should play against us and they have some talented players. Having said that, so do we. I don't see any changes in the batting, as they have all done well and apart from a blip against Worcestershire can't really be faulted. What we need is the bowlers to step up to the mark again. There may well be consideration over whether Jon Clare stays in the side or is perhaps replaced by Tony Palladino, but I don't see many other changes.

We need a win here. Things are still tight and top four places are there for anyone to take, but if we lose this one and then go down to Warwickshire I will be prepared to announce the end of our T20 interest this season.

I hope that's not necessary though.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Monday musings

Well that last piece got you talking! Thanks for all your comments, even those that didn't agree with me...

There's plenty of opinions and that's what its all about. As someone posted last week, ask everyone who reads this blog to pick their first choice team and you'd get plenty to choose from. At the end of the day, we're all Derbyshire fans and simply want the best for our club. Some are just less patient/tolerant (delete as appropriate).

Anyway, no news today on the county front so time for some comment on Warwickshire's proposed poaching of James Taylor from Leicestershire. That is what it amounts to, with Uncle Ashley supposedly offering a player in exchange to soften the blow of him leaving mid-contract. What is this, Cash Converters?
Taylor is a contracted player and as such should be left to play at the county until he enters the final year of that deal. Then, as we've seen with Tim Groenewald and Greg Smith, he is free to explore his options before seeing if his club can match what is on the table elsewhere.

I am increasingly of the opinion, with this following close on the heels of the Nottinghamshire nonsense (good name for a T20 side, that...) reinforces my opinion that the ECB should get their act together and slap a few people rather hard. One assumes that Ashley Giles in his wholly unfair twin role as county coach and England selector will be having a conversation with James Taylor along these lines sometime soon:

AG - Come and play for me, my son and I will give you international status and recognition beyond your wildest dreams. I'm a selector you know. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink...say no more...
JT - Like you did for that nice man Rikki Clarke?
AG - Exactly like, you know what I mean. I told Rikki I would make him an England player again and it will happen. OK, in Old England benefit matches, twenty years from now. You'll have grown up by then. What are you now? 14?
JT - I'm 21. Weren't you going to make Boyd Rankin an international?
AG - And I did. He was at the World Cup you know...
JT - With Ireland...
AG - See? Told you, stick with the King of Spain and I'll see you right. Guaranteed England Lions tours till you're 35. Or 5'4". Whichever is the sooner. Now, sign on the dotted line. I need to go and speak to Rikki Clarke urgently.
JT - Are you going to tell him I'm signing?
AG - No, I'm going to tell him he's off to Leicester in part exchange for you.
JT - But what about getting him into the England set up?
AG - Think on lad! England train at Loughborough don't they? How much closer can I get him to the England setup than Leicester? Wait...what do you mean you'll stop where you are?

I jest. But then again it is a joke. Giles should be an England selector or a county coach. Definitely not both.

In closing tonight, congratulations to Howard Dytham for his ECB award. Have a look at the Derbyshire Cricket Board website to see the fantastic work that is going on with youngsters. Some of these have already started to come through and there are signs that youngsters such as Alex Hughes, Peter Burgoyne and Greg Cork could be among the next batch to emerge.

Well done Howard!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

It must be his fault then...

So 'Jim' posting below the last article suggests that I sit on the fence. Hmmm... I can only assume that he's not read much of the blog as I don't think too many people would concur. I won't flatter myself in thinking that people will always agree with what I write, but I don't think I've ever resorted to a Mavis Barlow, Coronation Street "Ooooh...I don't know."

'Jim' presumably doesn't like the fact that I defend the club's stance in only having one overseas player. Now that's fair enough to a point, but it ignores a few harsh realities.

Like the fact that the club had no idea, until it happened, that Usman Khawaja (pictured) would be called up to an Australian training camp at very short notice. Had they known that, early plans could have been put in place for a replacement, because you don't just sign a player, see him jump on a plane and walk into the dressing room. There are many visa and registration details to complete, all the formalities of anyone going to another country to work for a period of time. That's after you've discussed the niceties of the deal with his agent. If you've ever had to do that sort of thing, you know how time-consuming it can be. If you haven't, trust me.

Had Chris Grant got someone to say 'yes' on the day he heard about Khawaja's departure, that player would probably be set to appear from next week, given the timescale. Someone mailed me to suggest he should have had someone lined up for that eventuality. Why would he? That's like having a hire car on constant standby in case yours breaks down. It is unrealistic, to say the least.

I have criticised the club plenty of times in the past - check back if you don't believe me - but what else could they have done? So Leicestershire signed Razzaq in the nick of time - the work on that signing was going on for weeks because they knew they had a vacancy. Simple as that.

The big thing is, what can you realistically expect to get? Some of the bigger names have come to T20 for figures around £80K to £100K for 16 matches, with the semi-finals and finals if they have done the business to be paid for on top of that. That is £5-7K per match, a handsome reward, but not when those big names have just spent six weeks in India in the IPL and have picked up between £30K and £60K per match.

I know that enquiries were made for several players who might have made a big difference, but they weren't interested. The money on offer was not inconsiderable, but when you've been away from your family for six weeks and made a lot of money, is another, less lucrative offer to keep you away for another month really something you would want?

We could then have gone down to the next level. Picked up a Travis Birt, Jon Moss, Chris Harris, Mohammad Kaif if you like. Would they have made a difference? For all the fact that we had Loots Bosman and Charl Langeveldt last season, did they win us many games? A Chris Gayle would, but he's hardly going to bother his shirt for five grand a game. He knows that after his IPL exploits this year he is guaranteed a million next time around.

There were plenty of moans about last year's campaign with those two experienced international cricketers, because there are no guarantees in this game. Middlesex spent a fortune on Dave Warner and Adam Gilchrist, huge names in the format - and did what? Warner had a highest score of 43 from 15 innings and Gilchrist had one decent knock. The previously mentioned Abdul Razzaq had a highest of 44 for Hampshire in 15 attempts...

Keep in mind too that we had two thousand people at the Lancashire game when there was everything to play for. Even if they all paid £16 (which they didn't) that's £32K income to cover all the other costs, including the notional additional overseas player. Sorry to set off my train of thought rolling down this track, but the T20 cash cow is needing urgent veterinary treatment. Have a look at the latest offering by the excellent George Dobell on Cricinfo and see what I mean:

Yes, a second overseas player would have made a difference. That's a no-brainer, but to criticise the club in this instance is just silly. There are too many extraneous factors beyond their control and people need to try and understand that.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Derbyshire v Leicestershire

I think that this was one of those games where they had two quality overseas players and we had one.

We made a decent score and we bowled reasonably well, with only Jon Clare and Steffan Jones taking punishment, but the end of it all was another defeat. Two points behind fourth place with a game in hand means we still have a chance to progress, but only if we start turning a few of these close finishes our way.

Solid batting tonight without anyone really cutting loose, but MacDonald and Razzaq were always going to be key wickets and they scored the runs that mattered before Taylor's late flourish.

I'm sure some will again suggest that we should have signed a second overseas player to level the playing field, but it wasn't for the lack of trying. Realistically, such a player would have taken the place of Whiteley or Knight and neither lad let us down tonight.

First Knight...

Good news in the three-year deal for 17 year old slow left arm bowler Tom Knight, the first to reap the benefit of the club's youth blueprint.

It is just reward for some encouraging early performances by the bowler, with the contract starting from next year and running until 2014.

I thoroughly expect to hear of a few more in the next couple of weeks or so.

Steff's dilemma

The Derby Telegraph yesterday carried an article referring to the big dilemma facing Steffan Jones.

Derbyshire have put a three-year contract on the table for him, allowing him to play as long as he is able and remain an assistant coach. Meanwhile, Wellington School in Somerset have offered him a role as head of cricket, fitness and conditioning, as well as being an ambassador for the school, a role he would doubtless do well.

Steff will make a decision within the week and it is doubtless a tough one. To be honest, much as he is a vital part of our setup, if I were him I would take the school role. Take a look at the video on the link below and ask yourself - would you turn it down?

A three-year deal is a fair one and I think Jones could make a very good coach. Yet with the school convenient for family and, one assumes a place for his daughter there at the right time, it is a gilt-edged opportunity for him for as long as he wanted. He is eminently qualified for the role and would be perfect in it.

A no-brainer for me. I'd have to accept it and if Steffan does so I hope everyone wishes a fine man and loyal servant the best and there are no silly accusations of disloyalty.

He fully deserves the opportunity and whatever his decision, I wish him well.

Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview

With the injuries Northamptonshire are suffering, we would perhaps have fancied our chances last night, but itwas not to be as heavy rain ruled out any play.

Tonight Derbyshire can get themselves back into the mix with a win over local rivals Leicestershire, a game that will prove tricky for us, especially if we don't improve on the batting against Worcestershire.

Our visitors have a couple of dangerous allrounders in Razzaq and MacDonald, while the rest of their batting line up carries enough weight to post good totals. It will be down to our bowlers to keep things tight and then needs greater professionalism from batsmen who are much better than they looked in front of the television cameras. Anyone who saw us against Yorkshire in the Pro 40 and then the other night must have thought our batsmen had dopplegangers, sadly bereft of the talent of the genuine article. Tonight is a chance to address that.

A win tonight puts us right back in the mix. We're second bottom but only three points behind second place with a game in hand. We will want to improve on last year, when Will Jefferson took the game away from us at Queens Park with a sparkling innings. Josh Cobb has been in fine form recently and this will be a tough game, make no mistake.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Post mortem on defeat

It was a shame that, after a number of impressive performances in recent weeks that Derbyshire chose their latest TV appearance to go back to old habits last night.

I actually switched the commentary off as you could almost hear the ‘tut, tut’ in the commentator’s voices and they came out with comments that were borderline patronising at times.

We’re better than that and once again the fact remains that we have to be at 100% in every game to succeed or to at least compete. Whether we eased off mentally, having beaten ‘big fish’ like Durham, Yorkshire and Warwickshire already and run Lancashire very close, I don’t know. The fact remains that in the context of T20 last night’s target was a relative breeze and we made a right cobblers of it.

Last night I was a little harsh on Ross Whiteley to suggest he was among those who gave it away, when the youngster was one of the better batsmen and at least played a couple of impressive strokes. Wes Durston went to the only ball that really turned and his dismissal sowed seeds of doubt in the minds of others. Martin Guptill chipped an easy leg stump four to deep square leg, Garry Park top edged a sweep and Chesney had the sort of night that highlighted his inexperience.

The big West Indian seemed to adopt a ‘four or bust’ attitude last night, not really the route to success in such conditions, while his running gave a bad name to frantic. The skipper was sold down the river and Hughes almost did the same to Garry Park. He’s a young talented lad and he’ll learn, but his inexperience showed last night.

We just needed a little savvy, the sort that Sutton might have provided. Madsen looked like he’d sussed things too, before playing for turn that didn’t happen. It was disappointing stuff and we need to put it out of our system and regroup before tomorrow night in what is still a very open section. Qualification is there for the taking for any team that can string some results together and that could be us as much as anyone else.

I’d have to say though that the wicket disappointed me. With the club’s new-look facilities there in front of the nations’s cricket audience and a potential local following there to be impressed, the evening produced only two sixes (from memory) and a handful of boundaries. Strokeplay, while not hazardous, was not straightforward either. Those who have seen the club’s impressive attempts at selling the competition and tuned in to see if it would be worth their while will have been mystified at the lack of the accepted T20 ‘action’.

Having said that, it was a good game of cricket with sadly the wrong result and not enough sixes for those for whom cricket isn’t otherwise cricket. It may have been a ‘blip’, such as that experienced by Somerset the other evening. What we now need to do is bounce back against Northamptonshire tomorrow night. Like Worcestershire they have their share of good players; like Worcestershire I wouldn’t say they were man for man any better than us on paper.

The thing is, we need to prove that tomorrow on grass. I said earlier in the week that two wins from the next three games would set us up quite nicely. We’ve thrown one away and now need to address that tomorrow.

Come on though guys. One defeat. No need to get TOO worked up at this stage.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Derbyshire v Worcestershire

Dear me...

At halfway we looked like we'd done a good day's work, but turning wicket notwithstanding, that was a poor batting performance.

Martin Guptill, Garry Park, Ross Whiteley and Chesney Hughes gave it away, while Ches sold the skipper down the river with appalling calling. Durston got a good one and Madsen was out-thought for once.

We just seemed to lack a bit of common sense, the sort that Madsen suggested he'd provide by playing with soft hands and pushing twos, but Derbyshire dropped from recent lofty standards tonight.

There was excellent bowling from Tom Knight, but we should have been celebrating a win tonight, no doubt about it.

Full credit to Worcestershire, but the nation saw our fallibilities tonight.

Sadly, so did we.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Derbyshire v Worcestershire preview

I'd guess that our side is likely to be unchanged tomorrow for the visit of Worcestershire in the T20.

Having done well so far, what we don't want to do is take our foot off the gas against supposedly lesser lights. The visitors have some dangerous players in Moeen Ali, Shakib al-Hasan, Vikram Solanki and Alex Kervezee.

Then again, our top four are looking good in this competition and fans of a certain age will be looking at Messrs Durston, Guptill, Hughes and Madsen with the same thoughts we had of Barnett, Bowler, Morris and Adams a few years back. Early days yet to make such comparisons perhaps, but the way that four play their shots is a nice throwback. I just hope we see the current four together in club colours longer than the original variety...

My biggest problem tomorrow is having to work till 7. I'll not get in until nearly 8.30pm at the earliest, so will miss the first innings. Hopefully its good news when I make it home.

If we keep the intensity and commitment going, it will be. Nothing less will do though.

Time to complain...

As regular readers will know, I’m not shy of expressing an opinion on this blog, so here goes with tonight’s special.

In my opinion, Nottinghamshire have got away unbelievably lightly in being fined only £600 for fielding an unregistered player against us last week. That the player in question, the redoubtable Australian David Hussey, made a game-winning contribution of 60 runs, a run out and a wicket further highlights that our local neighbours seem to have played a ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card.

A very quick Google search reveals many cases in various sports, including cricket, where a side who have done something similar have been docked points for the infringement. Some have been both fined AND docked points. Indeed, Yorkshire lost the points, ironically in a game against Nottinghamshire, for fielding the then ineligible Azeem Rafiq in 2008.

In some of these cases the player concerned didn’t even make a telling contribution to the game in question, he simply stepped onto the field when he wasn’t entitled to as the club had not followed proper registration procedures. While I totally accept that it was an oversight by Nottinghamshire, rules are rules. Either a player is registered, or he isn't. There's no scenario whereby they 'almost' registered him, or did so 'a bit' that I am aware of...

I'd be surprised, no, disappointed if Derbyshire didn't appeal on this one. In addition to his runs, Hussey dismissed Wes Durston (our top scorer) and ran out Luke Sutton in that match, a sizeable contribution. For Nottinghamshire to say that they regret it is understandable. That it was an administrative oversight for a player who was otherwise eligible is unfortunate and probably correct. The reality is still that a player who was not properly registered to do so won a match for his side.

Following on so quickly from the farce of the Rikki Wessels signing it fuels, rightly or wrongly, the idea that there are double standards in the game. How Wessels is cleared to play for Nottinghamshire yet cannot play for Northamptonshire is a joke. Line it up any way you like, but cricketers shouldn't qualify for entrepreneur visas. Strange how our neighbours always come out smelling of roses...

The fact that their chairman, Peter Wright, is also the chairman of the ECB cricket committee is an unfortunate coincidence. So too is the fact that this committee has sought to clamp down on overseas players in the English game. A classic case of 'do as I say, not as I do' eh? A man like Iain O'Brien, unfairly treated if ever anyone was, must feel like weeping when he sees such shenanigans going on not too far from his home.

This isn't a case of sour grapes. as that's not my style. Rather, it is a case of fairness. If O'Brien, with an English wife isn't eligible to ply his trade here, then Wessels shouldn't be. You can read more about the Wessels farce in George Dobell's excellent piece on Cricinfo at:

A player who is registered is able to play in a match, one who isn't shouldn't be able to. I'd like to think that our northern neighbours of the White Rose might have something to say about the Hussey situation too.

As for Nottinghamshire, they should be embarrassed. I know I would be.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Monday musings

A quarter of the way through our T20 campaign and the major positive has been the solid batting thus far, with our top order looking very impressive.

Martin Guptill has started to get going and is a naturally fast scorer, while Wes Durston, Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen have all looked in good form. Madsen’s scoring rate is exceptional and his ability to work the ball into gaps, run hard and improvise is priceless in this form of the game.

By the same token, Garry Park has also contributed and there has been no real opportunity for Greg Smith to do so prior to his current injury. This is indicative of an improved side, as most of you will recall Smith being our opening batsman of a few years back in the T20. With the likes of Ross Whiteley and Jon Clare able to come in lower down and score quickly, the batting shouldn’t be an issue too many times. I can remember plenty of seasons over the years when you couldn’t say that with any degree of confidence…

What has particularly impressed me has been the way that we’ve not panicked and kept the run rate ticking over. Yesterday was a case in point. 60 at the halfway stage in previous years may have been a precursor to big shots and a decline, but 100 from the last ten overs was indicative of a well-timed innings in tricky conditions.

I don’t know how much attention we paid to the IPL but the Chennai Super Kings won that tournament by ensuring they had wickets in hand for an assault in the last five overs. The capacity to put a score out of reach increases considerably if you have batsmen, rather than tail-enders at the crease. With the exception of the Nottinghamshire game, when their attack found the right lengths to bowl with unerring skill, our batsmen have done very well so far.

It makes you wonder what would have happened if we’d been able to hang on to Usman Khawaja as someone else named above would have missed out. For that reason alone, the club’s decision not to bring in a replacement has been a sound one. More accurately, from what the chairman said the club were unable to sign someone and I think our targets would have been overseas bowlers. As I’ve said before though, the IPL has skewed the market and the type of player we may have been looking at – maybe a Vettori, Steyn or Brett Lee – would be difficult to lure with the size of the offers in the English game. Why would you want a digestive biscuit after you've had gateau?

Good though it would have been to have someone like that on board, we’ve seen Tom Knight given an early opportunity and do very well. At his age I was playing for my school first eleven and finding that hard work at times! The seventeen-year old has bowled tidily and taken the scalps of Adam Voges and Ian Blackwell so far, pretty decent scalps I’m sure you’ll agree. This follows on from his first game against Leeds/Bradford UCCE where he took seven wickets and everything about him suggests that he has a bright future if he continues to listen to the right people and work at his game.

The other spinners, Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes have also done well and bowling around ten overs of spin has proved a good tactic so far. The seamers have all had their moments, good and bad, with Steffan Jones continuing to bowl beautifully. After a long career I would contend that his years at Derbyshire have been the best for Steff. He has always been a willing workhorse but at Derbyshire he has been appreciated, something that didn’t always happen earlier in his career.

The only problem is that at some point even this most willing and skilled of workhorses must bow to the inevitable and we will need someone to fill the gap.

On the upside, on present form that will be around 2015…

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Durham v Derbyshire T20

You've got to give it to the boys right now, they're playing some good cricket.

169-5 at Durham today would have taken some chasing down, something that Ross Whiteley obviously felt when he tweeted to the world at the end of our innings. At halfway in our innings I wasn't too sure, despite a fine start by Martin Guptill, but he, Chesney Hughes and Wayne Madsen took the score to a level that was going to take some getting. 103 from the last 9.3 overs was an impressive effort.

We'll never know, but full marks to the players. Special mention to Wayne Madsen whose improvisation in the final overs is giving another dimension to the side. We seem to have taken a leaf from the book of the better teams in the IPL, in aiming for ten an over from the start and ensuring that there are wickets in hand for a final assault on the bowling in the last five overs.

We've now played three good sides and been far from disgraced. Although we are second bottom we're only two points from third and have some of the supposedly weaker sides to play and a game in hand. If we retain the current focus and professionalism we won't be too far away at the end of it all.

One thing I think is needed is an overhaul of the points system and I agree with a contributor to the Falcons Forum the other night. That you get the same one point for a rained off match as you do for a hard-earned tie is silly, while I still maintain that if scores are level the side losing fewer wickets should be declared the winner. Remember Lords, 1981?

If I was organising this competition I would change the points system to 4 points for a win, 2 for a tie and 1 for a no result. I'd also award a bonus point for any side that reaches 200, which is an impressive feat, but insert something in the rules that ensured boundaries were a minimum size. Otherwise you'd have teams setting fifty yard boundaries to rack up bonus points every match...

Next up is Worcestershire at home on Wednesday, followed by Northamptonshire away on Friday and Leicestershire at home on Saturday. A couple of wins from those games and we'll be very much in the mix.

Keep it going lads. This is impressive stuff.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Derbyshire club history DVD - review

The difficulty in a project of this nature, especially for a small club like Derbyshire, is fairly obvious.

The lack of film footage before 1981 effectively means that the visual input of the club's first 110 years has perforce to be a case of scanning across old postcards and cigarette cards. Plenty of pre-1939 cricket footage exists, but Derbyshire players feature in very little of it. If we'd only had a Grace, Hammond, Hobbs, Rhodes or Verity...

There are brief snippets of George Pope and Cliff Gladwin bowling for England among the Pathe news archive that can be viewed on the web, but the commercial use of such footage is very expensive and was no doubt a factor in its omission from the finished DVD. For anyone who loves to watch old cricket footage, I'd recommend their website, which can be found at:

Sadly, no footage survives of Derbyshire's 1969 Gillette Cup Final appearance, which I watched on TV, nor of the earlier semi-final against Sussex at Chesterfield, which was also televised. The earliest footage is of the 1981 final against Northamptonshire and it is from that point that the DVD kicks into gear.

There could have been a few less 'talking heads', with some looking less comfortable in front of a camera than others. They could perhaps have been voice-overs for increased footage of more recent matches, but this is a minor quibble. It would also have benefited with some BBC footage of Alan Ward, Mike Hendrick and Dominic Cork bowling for England at different times and Eddie Barlow for the Rest of the World against us in 1970, but costs again possibly legislated against it. The only error I spotted was when the fine 1957 season was being discussed and the accompanying picture was of the side from ten years earlier, with Bill Copson, Denis Smith and Stan Worthington taking the field with their team mates. The only thing I didn't like was the jazzy music, which didn't work for me. Just my opinion...

Despite the fact that the disc was delayed until season 141, those involved have done a laudable job. If you've never undertaken this sort of project there is a lot of work involved and the club now has a digital record of a history that, while not overly successful, has seen many great characters take the field in the county colours.

Full credit to the commercial team at the club for their efforts. Within obvious budgetary constraints they have done a good job and can be proud of the finished product.

It might be me but...

Does anyone else really dislike the new-look Derby Telegraph?

It's like a scene from a film where a man takes the love of his life into a dress shop and, when she can't decide which colour she'd like, says with a swell of excitement "We'll take them all!"

Too many colours, too busy, too messy. Comment pieces interfiled with articles - not good. To see if it was just me, I showed it to our web team at work the other day. I'd tell you what they said, but I'm aware that this blog might be read by minors...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Derbyshire v Durham T20

Three games gone and for two days we can perhaps call ourselves the Binary Boys. 1 1 1...

I was out tonight and was grateful for the regular text updates (cheers mate!) which saw me find a quiet area when the last over came around. Sweaty palm time, but Steffan held his nerve and our campaign was truly up and running in the T20.

We'd made a great start by the time I went out and the pairing of Martin Guptill and Wes Durston did well. Chesney's cameo ended too quickly, but Madsen must have batted quite beautifully in the closing stages, accompanied by Garry Park, who is having a decent tournament.

There was more steady bowling from our spin trio who were all in the wickets. Tom Knight (called Tom Clarke on Cricinfo...) took another big wicket in Ian Blackwell and at the end of the night that was a terrific win.

We need to do it again on Sunday of course, but that has to go down as an excellent win.

Well done boys!

More thoughts on the blueprint

I'm surprised that some people cannot see the 'ground breaking' aspect of Chris Grant's blueprint for Derbyshire cricket's future.

For one thing, for the first time the club, through the chairman, has nailed its colours to the mast about its future direction. We WILL play nine English qualified players in every match from 2013. That's not 'when it suits us'  - it is a commitment to support young local players to come through the ranks and have opportunity at their club. As Mr Grant says, playing them for one game to cover injury and then dropping them is not going to happen.

For another, young players being offered three-year contracts will find that it is compulsory for them and an integral part of their contract to gain coaching qualifications - I understand up to level 3 - and are then required to give up to 20 hours coaching time in the mini academy or age groups during the winter. These   courses will be funded by the Professional Cricketer's Association. The players will not be paid extra for this but no other county has done this on a contractual basis.

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid my coaching came from a keen PE teacher or old Sam, the grizzled longstop at the local club who 'once played for the Club and Ground you know'. I can only imagine what it would be like for a 13 year old wicketkeeper having Tom Poynton to work with you. Or having Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley, Paul Borrington and others helping you with your game - even knowing your name! It has to be a move in the right direction, and from the personal development perspective gives the players a useful qualification for after their playing days.

You will be well aware that I rated what John Morris did at Derbyshire. I maintain we had better players at the end of his tenure than we did at the start, but the reality of the situation is that we finished bottom of the Championship last year and lost £190,000. We professed to have a youth policy but still signed overseas players and cast-offs from other counties. That will no longer happen. Our future will depend on young players who, in the right environment and with a vastly improved structure, will have an opportunity to flourish.

For me this, together with the introduction of performance appraisals, is pretty innovative. Maybe, as someone said to me in an e mail this afternoon, some were looking for Usain Bolt to show us how to run between the wickets, or Chris Backley to show the fielders how to throw. I think the blueprint, quite frankly, is the best, most invigorating thing I've seen in cricket for years. That it has happened at our club is staggering.

I am delighted to see Dave Houghton coming in for batting coaching. Regular readers will know that I was less impressed with Houghton as a cricket supremo, as he had no real structure, brought in some odd players and released our best one. To be fair, Michael di Venuto was probably released because of back trouble at that time, but Houghton should have waited to see if surgery sorted it, rather than replacing him with the not even half as good Travis Birt.

As a batting coach he has a world class reputation and the ability to strip things down to basics and improve players, something he is credited with around the world. Who knows, we may see Shane Warne in to work with Tom Knight, Jake Needham and others, while Allan Donald is mentioned as a potential bowling coach for sessions. Given that Donald has made a bowler of Boyd Rankin, I reckon he must be a little useful...

In all this innovation, with improved contracts for the players dependent on their performances, Chris Grant has still freed up enough money to double the pot we have available for the right overseas player, a position he is already working tirelessly to fill.

After 44 years as a fan, perhaps for the first time we have a structure that makes sense from top to bottom and a logical route for any young player we spot to make it to the first team of their local side. The potential is considerable and one would imagine, if all these local lads get into the senior side their pals may well be along in greater numbers than is currently the case to lend support.

I'm delighted. Carlsberg doesn't make cricket chairmen, but the signs are that if they did, he might well live in Swarkestone...

For your convenience - Chris Grant's blueprint on the blog

For a whole host of reasons, I believe it is crucial that the club formally adopt this strategy. From a financial perspective, it makes massive sense.

The ECB actively encourages counties through its Performance Related Fee Payment (PRFP) structure to develop and play young England qualified players. If we play two under-22s who are qualified to play for England in a County Championship game, we receive £2,000 for each of them in every game they play.

On the basis of our current likely first choice 11 for both the Championship and CB40 competition, we are losing out on roughly £100,000 a season in PFRP payments, which is not that different to the total amount we generate from our entire membership subscriptions.

Added to this, there is the kudos and pride to be derived when one of our own players progresses to the England Lions or on to the full national side, as I am confident in time they will.

Overall, I believe that it is a "no brainer" to adopt this as the key plank of our future cricket strategy.

We need to let our members know that we are confident enough to back our youngsters and then give the young players the time and support to succeed, though they will, of course, need to earn their places in the side on merit.

Playing them for one game and dropping them if they fail is a definite no.

The message to the outside world needs to be to encourage support for this "Busby Babes" strategy. Clearly, some of the youngsters will not make it but I'm sure that more will than won't.

It will be the club's policy to field nine England qualified players in every game in 2013 but I must underline that this would not preclude us retaining the services of some of our best current players, like Chesney Hughes, Wayne Madsen and Greg Smith, as they are all likely to be England qualified by that time.

A defined young player pathway

At present, when an academy player graduates and is offered his first professional contract, there is no structured career development plan at Derbyshire for the individual concerned.

He joins the professional staff and, in essence, he sinks or swims on his own.

While the world of professional sport is a tough one, there needs to be a "route map" with support for the young professional, both within cricket and beyond it.

The Professional Cricketers Association has recently established courses for new professionals that deal with all aspects of becoming a professional cricketer. We need to embrace these.

It is absolutely crucial to ensure that our youngsters feel that by playing for Derbyshire, they are part of something special, where they are rewarded on a par with their peers at the other counties and have a greater level of support and opportunity.

PCA/ECB recommended minimum salaries

THREE-YEAR contracts for young players – where deemed appropriate – will become the norm but with strong safeguards against complacency built in through the use of an annual performance appraisal process.

We need to properly reward our young players and this doesn't happen now. The PCA and ECB have agreed recommended minimum salary scales and I am embarrassed to say that we currently pay a number of our young players considerably below these levels.

The PCA scales will form the basis of our new salary structure for younger players but there will also be scope through annual player appraisals for young players to earn more than these levels of pay as they break into the first team, as Chesney Hughes and Jon Clare both have, for example.

It is also crucial to ensure that our players develop off the field and in return for issuing new contracts to young players with, in some cases, reasonably significant uplifts to salaries, it is also intended to require all our young players to study for their cricket coaching qualifications.

It is also going to be written into new contracts that the players are required to spend a minimum of 20 hours of coaching time a year working with the mini academy and full academy players.

It will have a hugely positive impact on the members of the academy to think that they are being helped by current professionals and will also help build a "one club" ethos.

Karl Krikken and Luke Sutton's roles

Clearly, the departure of John and Andy means that we have the opportunity to replace one or both of them and we have already received a host of enquiries from individuals interested in taking on the role, both from this country and overseas.

In essence, it's a question of where to allocate scarce financial resources from our combined playing and coaching budget to generate the maximum return for Derbyshire CCC on the pitch.

I firmly believe that we should formalise Karl Krikken's appointment as the club's head coach for the next three years. Karl is a one-county man with 25 years of service at Derbyshire, is very well respected throughout the game and is an excellent coach, who already possesses his level four badge.

Karl has also worked with all of our young Academy graduates and is therefore uniquely placed to assess their development.

I think he and Luke Sutton are an excellent combination. Luke is an intelligent club captain and is well respected as a leader in the dressing room, with extensive connections throughout the game.

All the indications suggest that the combination is working well so far and, having spoken to both individuals, each is happy with the other's role. From a financial perspective, this is also a sensible option as both individuals are already on the payroll.

The role of Academy Director

I would like to formalise Howard Dytham's role as academy director.

Howard is a level four coach currently employed as executive manager at the Derbyshire Cricket Board, has worked for the DCB for over 12 years and is responsible, along with the other professional members of staff and key volunteers, for the delivery of the plan for recreational cricket across Derbyshire.

Coaching interaction

WHILE Karl, as head coach, would clearly spend the majority of his time with the first team, the coaches would interchange between the teams.

For example, from time to time, Howard Dytham would accompany the first team and Steffan Jones would work with the academy, with the aim of developing a more seamless and consistent approach across the club.

This would mean warm-up drills and the like could be consistent and should make for an easier transition for the players from mini academy to academy to second team and on to the first team.

Establish a specialist coaching fund

To augment the three key coaches, we intend to establish a dedicated pot of £25,000, managed by Karl Krikken, to fund specialist coaching where required.

David Houghton has an excellent reputation as a batting coach and has signalled his intention to do some coaching work for us, while if there is a chance to bring in someone like Allan Donald to work with our bowlers, we should take it.

The fund could also be used to send players abroad in the English winter, as was the case with Tom Poynton's attendance at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide this year.

Hugh Morris from the ECB has also indicated that the National Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough is a resource that we can utilise more extensively.

New contracts for key players

While the main thrust of Derbyshire's future cricket strategy is to back our young home grown players, clearly this is a long-term plan.

It needs to be tempered by the fact that the club have some excellent established players whose presence is crucial both for their contribution on the field and their role in bringing on the younger players.

I will be sitting down with every player on the senior staff after the Twenty20 group stages and new contracts on enhanced terms will be offered to those key individuals where their financial demands accord with the club's evaluation of their worth.

But I will not endorse chasing players to retain them where I believe the market price is wrong and would lead to resentment and instability amongst the other players.

Landmark player signing

Implementing all our key recommendations will still leave Derbyshire with virtually double the budget of recent years with which to sign a landmark player for 2012 and beyond.

Making the right signing and someone who will buy into the club's overall strategy will be crucial but the resources will be available for a landmark recruit.

It is surely not a coincidence that the recruitment of the likes of Eddie Barlow and Dean Jones in the past led to success on the field for Derbyshire.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Derbyshire v Durham preview

Tough game this and Durham annihilated Northamptonshire tonight.

Their batting line up looks very strong and with Plunkett, Onions and Collingwood, not to mention our old boy Ian Blackwell to bowl, they will take some beating.

To do so we'll need to raise our game, bowl better and keep our heads when batting. I expect to see the following side:

Durston, Guptill, Hughes, Madsen, Whiteley, Park, Sutton, Clare, Groenewald, Jones, Knight.

I'd quite like to see Ross Whiteley in for this competition and he's set for a place as Greg Smith has a shin injury. Good opportunity for the lad and I hope he does well, although Dan Redfern is also vying for a place.

More after the game tomorrow.

Thumbs up for the blueprint

As anyone who read last night's blog will probably expect, the Chairman's blueprint for Derbyshire cricket gets a massive thumbs up from me.

The highlight of the strategy is obviously the landmark new signing from 2012 and conjecture will be rife in the coming months over the identity of the player. I've discussed this previously and have now seen the names of Simon Katich and Marcus North, both former players at the club and out of central contract in Australia linked. I'm less sure about them than others I've mentioned. Katich has a great record, though only in longer forms of the game, while North, a worthy and talented player, would hardly be a marquee signing. He has, after all, pitched his tent (sorry!) in most counties over the years, as of course has Katich.

Player development pathways for home grown players and the introduction of a specialist coaching fund are to be applauded. Let's see young players of ability accelerated through the ranks and let us reward them with performance related salaries after their annual appraisals. A player who scores 1,000 runs should get the financial reward that goes with that milestone and not get the same as one who scrapes to 500 year on year.

The opening of contract negotiations with key players is to be applauded, though I am confident that Chris Grant will not be held to ransom in this process. Again, a player who returns good runs and/or wickets can expect a commensurate reward and rightly so, but the club has a limit that cannot and will not break the bank.

The permanent appointment of Karl Krikken as Head Coach working alongside captain Luke Sutton is great news for me. Krikk is as highly qualified as a coach can be, universally liked but not incapable of telling home truths when the need arises. With the club trusting in youth, who is better placed to take the reins than the man who has worked with many of them since they were the height of full-size pads? Derbyshire through and through, Krikk has my full support and I hope that everyone else does the same.

That Derbyshire will field a minimum of nine English qualified players from 2013 is sensible and will maximise ECB grants. Both Wayne Madsen and Chesney Hughes will be qualified then and this sends out a warning to Greg Smith. I am sure we would all like Smith to stay, but he needs to keep his demands within the realms of realism and get himself qualified. End of story, exactly as it should be.

Perhaps best of all is that negotiations will soon begin on long term contracts for several Academy graduates, which will include a blueprint for their development both as cricketers and as individuals. I fully expect to see Messrs Borrington, Redfern, Whiteley, Poynton, Knight, Sheikh and Slater signed up for a good few years and am delighted at the prospect. With exciting young talent behind them like Burgoyne, Hughes and Cork, these could be exciting years for Derbyshire cricket, most of the players home-reared and with a sense of loyalty that comes with developing with friends through the ranks.

Posters on last night's piece have urged caution with such a young squad. Of course. Only a fool would say that a young side will win everything in sight, but I would hope that fans would show greater understanding as young players - OUR young players develop into a team to be proud of. OUR team, local lads as far as possible. Karl Krikken and Luke Sutton are first class players and men who will set an example. Steffan Jones will presumably stay in the mix as a man with a level of fitness to aspire to as well, not to mention considerable nous in the art of bowling.

With the right man in there to highlight the importance of good habits, to show them what to do in the middle when it matters, this setup could herald the start of a successful era. Stick a Ponting, Kallis, Hussey or Collingwood in there and who knows? Young bodies and minds of talent and vitality alongside a modern legend could be pretty interesting. How much fun will it be to share in their development?

Remember too that these lads are good. You don't play age group cricket for your country, as many have done, and be rubbish. By definition, if you are one of the best eleven under 17, 18 or 21 players in the country, you are a very good player. It might take a little while to develop physically, emotionally and psychologically to compete with seasoned pros at first class level, but with the right support, coaching, mentors and incentives it will all be a steady, upward path, one well worth following. We've not set the world on fire with other approaches, so let's go for it and back it 100%.

Nice work Mr Grant. I'm very impressed.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Fantasy stuff

Here's a couple of posers for you in your (imaginary) job as Derbyshire's cricket supremo.

You are coming to the end of the season and have two 23 year old players. Both are technically very good and are strong mentally, though not powerful physically at this stage of their careers.

Player A has played 7 games, 11 innings, 133 runs average 12.09

Player B has played 26 games, 42 innings, 1109 runs average 29.97

Resources mean you have to sack one of them, but you can give a three-year contract to the other. Who do you sack? Player A, presumably?

Having sorted that one, next you have two 21 year old players to consider. Both are 'flair players' with a lot of natural ability that can see them perceived as a bit rash or careless at times.

Player A has played 58 games, 82 innings, 1606 runs average 22.30

Player B has played 39 games, 64 innings, 1740 runs average 29.00

Again, you have to sack one player and give the other a three-year contract. Once again, I would suggest on record you would sack player A.

Congratulations. In the first example above, you have just sacked Chris Rogers and given a three-year deal to Paul Borrington. In the second, you sacked Kim Barnett and gave Dan Redfern a three-year deal...

That's young cricketers for you and why I feel too many give them a raw deal. If you want more examples:

At the age of 24, Chris Adams was averaging 27
At the age of 22, John Morris was averaging 27
At the age of 23. Eddie Barlow was averaging 28
At the same age, Peter Bowler was averaging 25. So was Martin Guptill.
At the age of 24, Greg Smith was averaging 22
At the age of 22, one of our greatest batsmen, Denis Smith, was averaging just 13...

If you want to go outside the county, Graham Gooch averaged 24 when he was 23 and Mark Butcher 23 when he was 22. Yet still we moan about under-achievement!

Reading about Ross Whiteley's (pictured) knock for the Seconds yesterday (65 not out from 37 balls against a decent Lancashire attack with first team experience) heightened my feeling that he is potentially our most destructive young player since Ian Blackwell. At 22 his first team statistics are not overly impressive (17 average with the bat and just one wicket) but I have always been impressed by his clean hitting and feel his bowling can come on still further. He has a tendency to drop one down leg side regularly, but that's just a case of grooving the action a little more. He can swing it and with experience will gain in confidence.

Others, like Ben Slater, Hamza Siddique and Tom Poynton are showing enough flashes of talent to warrant genuine optimism, Poynton batting four and aggressively for the Seconds and keeping wicket with great style (and no little vocal talent!)

But you can't expect perpetual brilliance from kids. Why, Dean Jones only averaged 33 when he was 21, and Michael di Venuto 34 when he was 22. They were/are exceptional players, yet in average not massively ahead of Redfern and Borrington at a comparable stage.

It makes no sense whatsoever, on any level, to cut ties with young players of that age. They make money for the club on each appearance until they are 26 and if they've not done it by then, fair enough. Socially, emotionally, physically and technically few are really cutting it before 23 or 24 anyway. Playing cricket for your livelihood is massively different to playing with your mates at the weekend and when some of those on the boundary edge go into print saying you're a waste of space (or worse) it can't be easy. I've had bad days in my working life, but no one has ever gone onto a web site that evening and told the world about it. That's a crucial difference.

A contributor the other night suggested that the players were well rewarded. I understand that the young summer contract players at Derbyshire are on around £1,000 for playing in July and August, after their University commitments. Throw in their gear and its a good deal for a student - a world better than slaving away in a fast food outlet, but not exactly Rockefeller standard. Ross Whiteley is probably on less than £5K for his summer deal and will have earned that back for the club from his appearances this summer. Borrington and Redfern will probably be on less than £20K is my guess, but next year, with under 22s likely to attract £2,500 per game and under-26s earning the club £2,000 per appearance I expect both to feature heavily.

Returning to the early theme of this post, what would you do? Pay Greg Smith £70-80K to keep him at Derbyshire? We've already invested a lot of money in Smith and he's still technically an overseas player costing us more each time he plays. Critics would suggest he's only had two really good summers and that if he was going to re-sign he would have done so by now. They might also suggest that the player has used Derbyshire as a convenience, retaining his South African citizenship despite opportunities to qualify much more quickly.

Or do we accept that he's going and invest time, opportunity and much less money in Ross Whiteley, giving him a three-year deal and encouraging him to go out there, confident that his place is secure to play his natural game? During that time he will bring in money each time he steps onto the pitch. I'm genuinely confident that the lad could take that number six berth and make it his own, just as I am that Poynton will be a very good wicket-keeper batsman for Derbyshire for years when Luke Sutton takes a step back.

From a purely financial angle, playing Hughes, Redfern, Borrington, Knight/Needham, Whiteley and (maybe) Poynton next year would bring in enough money to finance a top overseas player. You could notionally go with this side

Madsen, Borrington, Hughes, Durston, Redfern, Whiteley, Sutton/Poynton, Clare, Groenewald, Palladino, Knight/Needham

You'll note that side includes Tim Groenewald, who I think will stay, and doesn't include an overseas player. The identity and skills of that person are as yet unknown, so there's no point putting someone in for the sake of it.

A young side? Yes, but improving. Last year we came bottom with an experienced one AND lost £180K. How we do with this one is open to conjecture, but we wouldn't do worse - and would at least balance the books.

For me, as Chris Grant is poised to unveil his plans to the Derbyshire committee, it is the way forward. Karl Krikken, responsible for the emergence of these youngsters, would play a major part in the future too, working alongside an overseas player/coach. He knows the players, they respect him to a man, there's experience and exciting talent side by side and this would prepare us for cricket in the long term, as a club run to an effective business model that would be one for others to emulate.

It's the way forward all right. The DERBYSHIRE way.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Monday musings

I’m well aware of the difference between even high quality league cricket like the Derbyshire Premier League and the first class game, but weekend events in the game between Chesterfield and Ticknall are worthy of note from a county perspective.

In that game Paul Borrington reeled off an apparently brilliant unbeaten 143, his fifth ton of a prolific summer for Ticknall which has given him an average of Bradmanesque proportions, a staggering 168 from just eight innings. His innings contained fourteen fours and four sixes, suggesting that the old accusation of a player unable to force the pace is no longer valid.

Borrington suffered the unluckiest of injuries pre-season that ruled him out of matches in which he might well have been expected to play. Now of course, the surfeit of T20 in the next month makes it unlikely he will force his way into the side until July at the earliest. Even the seconds are playing smack and giggle stuff all month, an environment hardly conducive to making a case for inclusion at a higher level.

But what then? Borrington is an opening batsman – a specialist position – and in his way are our most prolific batsman in Wayne Madsen and our overseas player, Martin Guptill. We could, of course move Madsen to number five, where he does so well in one-day games, but who do you drop? Hughes, Durston, Smith and Redfern have all done well so far and none of them deserve to miss out on current form.

When we are considering options for next season, however, I hope that the path of a young, locally reared player like Borrington isn’t blocked. Martin Guptill is a fine player with a growing reputation in the game, but the likelihood of him being here after this year is slim, given the congestion of the international calendar. Borrington, however, is potentially a Derbyshire player for the next ten years and it would be a shame to see him have to move elsewhere for greater opportunity after the years he has been at the club. We have, after all, seen Wayne White make a success of such a move, while I’m still minded of young off-spinner Bob Swindell who showed promise but had his path blocked by the signing of Venkat many moons ago.

Some will say that Borrington hasn’t made the most of opportunities thus far, which is fair, but he’s rarely had the chance to bat in his preferred position (some bloke called Rogers…) and needs more than a game or two here and there. My understanding is that his current contract is to the end of next season and it would be to everyone’s advantage if he had the opportunity to show what he can do between times.

In six years since his debut in 2005 he has just 42 first-class innings to his name, some of them for Loughborough UCCE. An average of a shade under 30 is no disgrace and the signs are that he is ready for an extended run that could just be the making of him. It may well not happen this season, but I'd certainly like to see him given the chance to make the position his own next year. In between times he can only keep scoring runs at every opportunity, work on his technique and enjoy a spell where it would appear he could get runs with Geoff Boycott's proverbial 'stick o' rhubarb'.

In a normal match such an innings as he played on Saturday would be a match-winner, but an extraordinary knock of 131 from 65 balls by James Pipe stole the show. Pipe’s innings contained 19 fours and 9 sixes, which means that he only ran one single before, with delightful irony, he was run out, presumably having forgotten he could do…

Such an innings, not his first of the season, highlights something we have missed over the past couple of seasons, a lower order player who can take the game away from the opposition in a short space of time. Luke Sutton is a fine cricketer who will give 100% at all times and is at least Pipe’s equal behind the timbers, but he is unlikely to turn a match with dazzling stroke play and the launching of a counter attack. He will always sell his wicket dearly though and has made an excellent contribution already this season.

In closing tonight, the T20 division is starting to take shape, with Lancashire top and Nottinghamshire second. That makes our tie on Friday night the more laudable, while the loss to Nottinghamshire was hardly something new. There are games coming up that are winnable and our campaign is far from over, irrespective of what happens against Durham in next weekend’s double-header. I maintain that we’re not too far away from winning games and I disagree that the lack of a second overseas role will cost us. Looking at who sides have brought in and what they have done so far, it is hard to argue with Chris Grant.

Our success will be more a case of what our overseas player does. If Martin Guptill plays a few major innings, rather than attractive twenties, we will win more matches than we lose, as he is a naturally quick scorer. If he doesn’t, I suspect that the win/loss ratio will be less favourable, simple as that. While Botha and Vaas at Northamptonshire, Voges and Hussey at Nottinghamshire and Van der Merwe at Somerset have done well, there’s a few under-achievers at present.

Let’s hope it stays that way when we play them.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Worth a read

Every now and again I get an exceptional comment from fans that is more than just a few words. It is good to bring these to wider notice at that time and such a comment came in last night from Notoveryet. You may or may not agree with the idea (I'd be interested to hear from you on that) but it is well thought out and  - well, I reproduce it below so you can see for youtself!

"Tonight was one of the few games that didn't clash with work commitments and close enough for me to get to. It brought back my comment a few nights ago - do we have the batting to chase 200?

The answer's yes but not every game, and I'm afraid that's what our T20 is going to look like. A dodgy stumping tonight didn't help us but our bowling was staggeringly naive at times. Notts bowlers were intrinsically no better than ours and a lot less experienced, but knew where to put the ball - full and straight - and had some subtlety and variety. Ours were too often in default mode - bang it in short and wide and hope for a wild slash.

This, for me, is the biggest indictment of John Morris' time. Our bowling has simply withered on the vine, dependent on varying quality of imports with no development or progress for our home grown talent. It's not surprising when we have had no bowling coach for two years, then bring in someone who can't do a lot of coaching when he's playing all of the time.

Let's face it, Derbyshire does not need a new head of cricket. Seven years of Morris / Houghton hasn't taken us very far, and in all honesty, it hasn't worked in a lot of other teams either. It's a great comfort blanket to have one man to blame or praise but has little else to commend it.

I hope that Chris Grant's idea is a team approach, in which several individuals combine their particular talents. This ensures continuity as people move on or change roles. Which brings me to my suggestion for a landmark signing - someone who knows the club inside out, lives locally, is doing a great job of supporting young talent at his present club, can still conjure occasional miracles as a player and captain, has never made any secret of his wish to finish his career with us, knows and gets on well with Krikken and Sutton, brings a high profile, and whose signing won't prevent us having a good overseas batsman.

I'm talking about Dominic Cork, obviously. A leadership team comprising him as the inspiration, mentor and on-field coach, Sutton as the planner and tactician, and Krikken as the co-ordinator, talent-spotter and technical coach. I think this will work.

Cork sounds as though he could be up for it as long as he doesn't want sole command and control. Earlier in the year, he tweeted "I always have a soft spot for Derbyshire. One day I would love to turn them into the Sussex of the north. Winners!!!!"

I know there is history that gets in the way, but perhaps a new chairman who isn't shackled by it and doesn't have the fragile egos of some of his committee that helped to drive Cork away could be the one to make it work.

At the very least, it's more likely to work, and cheaper, than bringing in an old overseas warhorse in the hope that they will do what Eddie Barlow did, but won't leave a structure behind that will bring long-term stability and progress."

The idea has much to commend it, as the correspondent points out. Cork knows the area and club and for those worried about old issues recurring I'd suggest that he is a far more mature, less confrontational player than the one who left Derbyshire for Lancashire. His son is currently in the academy and he has done a good job at Hampshire, still turning in decent figures after over twenty years in the game. It could, as pointed out, be affordable.

I only have three issues. One is that he may decide that his growing media career offers him the long-term security that he may wish, although much will depend on the strength of that desire to come back and turn us into a good side that can compete against the best on a regular basis.

The second is that the player/coach role may be attractive to the players I mentioned the other night and a good few more, but a standard overseas role for six months may not be a sufficiently attractive package. While they may be prepared to commit for something that gives them a start in a career after they stop playing, I'm not sure that big names would commit to six months of helter skelter for anything less.

The third is Cork's age. He'll be 40 at the start of August and the appointment couldn't realistically be seen, at least in any playing role, as anything but short term. To get more than one season out of him would be impressive, despite the fact that he still looks as fit as the proverbial butcher's dog. Time waits for no man, as the old saying goes.

Still, it is a worthy idea and that media role I referred to could see us attract more interest than has been the case for some time (the skipper's excellent newspaper blog notwithstanding).

Like I say, I'd welcome your comments. Thanks to Notoveryet for producing an excellent, thought-provoking piece.