As the recent victory over a talented Hampshire side in a close pre-season finish showed, there is nothing wrong with Derbyshire as a one-day side. Over the last few seasons we have seen some performances of real brilliance, but the frustration has been how they have been hidden among a number that were sadly and familiarly mediocre.
The batting looks good for quick runs and a long order should ensure that collapses are less common than of recent vintage. There are some powerful hitters in the side and I could see Derbyshire doing steadily in the Pro 40, where a potential early lineup of Guptill, Hughes, Madsen, Durston, Redfern and Whiteley offers genuine promise and a useful mix of right and left handers to mess the bowlers' line. With Clare to follow and Wainwright and Poynton lower down, the batting should be both capable of setting and chasing targets.
The bowling? I'd expect spin to play a major role in our one-day sides, so Wainwright, Hughes and Durston will probably bowl around 50% of the overs. The other seamers will be rotated to allow for periods of rest and we must keep in mind that all of them will be a year older, wiser and, in some cases, hopefully more accurate than of yore.
Mark Footitt's recent performance in Barbados was indicative of a young player who has worked at his game and come up with a plan. If Footitt (and Mark Turner) can emerge this season as fitter, more grooved bowlers they will be a potent part of the game plan. Especially if Footitt, bowling fast round the wicket, can genuinely marry burning pace to greater accuracy. No one likes yorkers fired in at their feet at 90mph, but the margin for error is small and fans need to appreciate the high level of skill to do that, ball after ball.
I fully expect Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja to lead by example in the Pro 40 and to score heavily as batsmen of the very highest class. If they do, Derbyshire will be at the business end of things Were Guptill able to play a role in the T20 I would fancy our chances in progression through the group stage there too, especially as he would have been paired with the all round talent of Rana Naved, an outstanding player in the format. A boundary-clearing opener and aggressive all-rounder would have been the envy of most other sides.
I mean no disrespect to Usman Khawaja, a fine batsman and lovely bloke, in saying that he is not proven in T20. One fifty in the format thus far and a batting average of just 18 highlights that he has much to do to convince critics he can play the short form of the game. A front line batsman averaging only just over a run a ball in T20 is low and, with no sixes in his thirteen innings thus far he's not a player likely to take maximum advantage of the Powerplay.
Where Derbyshire bat him will be crucial. It could still work, as long as Khawaja goes out intent on keeping the score moving, rotating the strike and leaving the big hits to the bigger guns in the side while he provides the all-important ballast. Where he got out repeatedly in the recent Big Bash was in trying to force the score, sometimes unnecessarily.
I hope I am wrong about Khawaja and will be delighted to say so in due course should it be the case. IF he plays the right kind of game and the team have an appropriate gameplan we could make the knockout stages for the first time in too long. If not, we will be mid-table, irrespective of the efforts of Rana Naved.
With good tight bowling from the spinners, athletic fielding and sparky contributions down the order, Derbyshire COULD progress in the T20. I'm just less convinced than in other forms of the game right now.
I do expect us to be competitive though and in pressure situations the team spirit shown over the last twelve months or so could be the thing making a difference.
Not long till we find out now....