My annual holiday with the family always comes in the middle of the T20. That's not because I regard the chances of Derbyshire success as being marginally better than that of my winning the Miss World contest, but based on the price of flights.
We need more experience in this side before we can look forward to being a competitive outfit. Savvy bowlers of greater experience will work out all but the very best of young tyros and we need some of ours to get more matchplay experience in the pressure situations. Thinking back through my years of playing cricket, I found it fairly easy to stay in against even county standard and top club bowlers, but forcing runs was more difficult. It is much the same for our current crop of talent, the County Championship being a slightly easier source of accumulated runs than the limited overs stuff, where fields are set to stop them doing just that.
On what I have seen so far, our bowlers have got the T20 bowling worked out pretty well and we need only to give them a few more runs to play with. We have yet to see Tom Knight, who in another summer will surely play a greater part, while Turner and Groenewald have done well with the new ball. Jon Clare hasn't been seen, nor Tony Palladino, but I don't think our bowling is really an issue.
What we lack is a consistent fast scorer at the top of the innings. Perhaps "consistent" and "T20" aren't synonymous, as the format is not especially conducive to consistency, but for another summer we really need an established player at the top of the order. A Guptill, Hussey, Kallis, de Villiers, Sharma or Taylor would make a massive difference if any could be persuaded to play. They score their runs at good pace and in so doing take the pressure off younger players. Given that we came close to persuading Gayle to play this summer, perhaps it isn't unrealistic to lure someone of similar calibre to the County Ground for 2013, even though the calendar becomes ever more congested.
That isn't meant as criticism of Usman Khawaja, who is a very fine player, but he has little T20 experience and in my opinion should not have been expected, as overseas star, to carry the brunt of team batting expectation in the competition. He has, after all, only one half century in the format and an average of just 18, hardly the stats to suggest bringing someone from the other side of the world.
Khawaja comes with a point to prove to Australian selectors this summer, one I fully expect him to make in the County Championship, but I have said all along that he is not a T20 player. In that he is in good company, as the likes of Marcus North, Chris Rogers, Simon Katich and Phil Jaques aren't either. Experience has made some of these better than they once were, but none would be thought of as more than adequate players over the short form.
Conversely, I shared everyone's enthusiasm on the signing of Rana Naved, a proven performer in this type of cricket, but on what I have seen he has lost that crucial yard of pace that makes a difference. It happens to all bowlers, of course and most of you will recall the difference between the two years that Charl Langeveldt played at the county. In the first year he was probably the best bowler in the competition, with well-disguised variations and the ability to bowl that quicker ball when required. Next time around he couldn't do that and batsmen were able to milk him around more easily for runs.
Maybe Naved will prove me wrong in the remaining matches (though I won't flatter myself that he reads this blog...) but he doesn't appear to me to have the edge that he once had, even in this past winter's Big Bash. Mind you, time waits for none of us - where I once came in off fifteen paces, I now make do quite happily with three...
I don't expect us to qualify from this group as it is one of the toughest, but I do expect to watch us from afar making teams work for wins. We did that last night and with another twenty runs could well have won. Maybe this winter's recruitment for the T20 will secure the services of the player, or players, who could do that.
For now, my friends, farewell. I'll be popping in from time to time, but please continue to post your comments.
I'll be resuming normal service around July 9, in all likelihood several pounds heavier...
Thanks for your continued support and I will see you soon!