Saturday, 31 March 2012

Championship prospects - 2012

The 2011 season was one of encouraging progress - on and off the field - for Derbyshire County Cricket Club. It is perhaps natural to expect, especially if you are a dyed in the wool, fully paid up member of the county negativity squad, that this summer will see a step backwards. That has, after all, been par for the course over the past thirty years.

As the antithesis of the negative faction, I suppose it is natural for me to expect this season to be one of continued progress, but when I say that, it is not without genuine justification. For the first time in many years, Derbyshire seem to have the right team together both on and off the pitch.

Off it, Karl Krikken is a top qualified coach who has the additional benefit of being a good man-manager who has worked with many of the squad since they were young boys. He knows what they can do and they trust him to a man. Such reciprocal trust is important and ensures a good spirit in the camp. Krikken has also recruited his coaching staff well, with local heroes AJ Harris and Kevin Dean working with the bowlers and David Houghton returning to do the same with the county batsmen. All are good men, but the international reputation of Houghton as a batting coach par excellence augurs well  for a young batting collective that in quantity is among the best in our long history. Redfern, Borrington, Whiteley, Hughes, Lineker, Siddique and Slater are all players of genuine talent and if Houghton can help all to realise their talent the future is less rosy than vibrant red...

On the field, those young batsmen above, with the added expertise of Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston have the ability to post good scores in the long game, scored at a rate that allows the bowlers time to do their work. The first choice batting line-up is one that will occupy the thoughts of Karl Krikken and fans will all have their opinion. They shouldn't lack for runs, though, especially with a middle/lower order that includes Clare, Wainwright and Poynton.

Realistically, we need at least two of the young players to enjoy rewarding campaigns. Whiteley will be better known this summer, but has the raw talent to overcome second season syndrome, a sound technique coupled with brutal power once set. Redfern looks a player of the highest class at the crease and a first century will surely open the floodgates for a highly talented young man. Hughes had his travails against spin last year, but remains a remarkable young talent  who will enjoy a long career. Borrington and Lineker need to translate prolific league form to the county game but showed enough in limited opportunities last year to suggest they can make it.

We shouldn't leave the batting without mentioning two excellent overseas signings. Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja should be capable of 1300-1500 runs between them and with Durston and Madsen capable of reaching four figures I have few concerns over a batting line up with plenty of options.

The switch from the Tiflex ball may or may not affect the penetrative abilities of our seam attack, but I would back ours against any in the division given comparable conditions. With seam, swing and pace among them there should be something for most wickets, while as I pointed out the other night we have more spin resources than for some time. We won't see too much of young tyros Knight and Burgoyne this summer, but fans will watch their international exploits with considerable interest; both have major parts to play in the county's future fortunes and have glittering careers ahead of them.

Mark Footitt's pre-season form is encouraging and few sides will fancy facing him or Mark Turner as the wickets dry out from June onwards. Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald will always get wickets and Jon Clare is potentially an international all-rounder if he stays fit. Ally Evans is another who appears to have the knack of wickets, even from bad balls.

There are question marks. Can Madsen sustain his batting form with the cares of captaincy? Can Tom Poynton maintain his high standard through a long season? Can Wainwright prove to be the spinner we have lacked since Robin Peterson's departure? I think that the answer to all three is "yes" and a strong season is in store.

 IF the wickets are right - in other words, produce results - we get our breaks with the weather and injuries and hold our catches I think Derbyshire are capable of a top three championship placing. With a strong team ethic and a competitive spirit we have a lot going for us.

A good start would be handy, but I can genuinely see a promotion challenge in four-day cricket. A happy squad playing aggressive cricket could shock a few people this summer.

As for the opposition - that's for another day...


Marc said...

I also look to the season with optimism. Certainly more than any previous season in my memory. I think the batting,at least on paper,has enough about it to score the sort of runs needed to mount a promotion challenge.

It will be important for Madsen and Durston in particular,to lead the way and set an example others may follow.

As most on here will know,i still have doubts about the seam department. Numerically we are thin on the ground and any long term injuries could have dire consequences for our ambitions. We are sailing very close to the wind on this and we need a slice of luck to overcome what i believe has been a bit of an error of judgement by Mr Krikken. We shall see.

Spin wise,we are well catered for and i look forward to Wainwright proving a better all rounder than the bloke now at Essex.

We need a solid start and if we get that,there is no reason we can,t enjoy a decent season. Good luck to all concerned.

Anonymous said...

If matters are judged by results, then to achieve progress from last year's achievements, Derbyshire will need to either qualify from the group stages of a one-day competition or be in with a chance of promotion in the last round of Championship matches.

This is a feat they have not managed for quite some time and I feel that the real key will be the management's ability to get the team to play without fear. This is not a call for wreckless cricket, but a call for the team to produce at the crunch times and not wither away. I really hope that Wayne Madsen can lead the way in this respect.


Anonymous said...

I agree that a best case scenario is a promotion challenge. I fear that will require everything to go our way. On the batting front we need at least two of the youngsters to really kick on and produce 1,000 run type seasons. We also need Madsen to increase his average significantly from last year whilst coping with the captaincy.
I agree with what seems to be the prevailng view that we are a seamer light. I think towards the end of the season this could really damage our chances. In the modern game I think it's just asking too much for the limited numbers we have to make it through the season unscathed. I predict we will be down to bare bones and academy players at some stage this season. Ultimately a 4th place finish is where our see us ending up, but with a lot of luck and an extra recruit or two that could be better...

Despite living in Oxford I hope to make it up to Derby on Thursday. Roll on the summer!

Spireite Tim