Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Park departure sad but inevitable
Few counties and certainly not Derbyshire can afford such a luxury but for me Park is another casualty of the ECB regulations. At 29 and with a first-class average of 34, his first-class career has been far from a disgrace and many worse players have enjoyed longer careers at the county.
Yet players of that age (and older) must now make major contributions to their sides, to justify the loss of income that playing a younger player would bring. There have been occasions in the past couple of seasons that a prime form Park would have been useful to Derbyshire, but last year he had a niggling and debilitating injury and this year has found his best form elusive.
If Derbyshire are to progress as a club, we need to ensure that every penny on the playing side goes on players who are making a major contribution. There will be patience and understanding shown towards young players, but once they hit 26 the pressure will be on to perform regularly - as Wes Durston continues to do, to use but one example.
It is also why Vikram Solanki looks set to leave Worcestershire and David Sales is set for a departure from Northamptonshire at 34. Both are fine players, but Solanki has found form elusive on a major contract and Sales has ongoing issues with his knees, a problem that seems unlikely to improve. Ten years ago, such players would be on the circuit until they were 40, but as James Dalrymple and Usman Afzaal found, counties will not pay top dollar for anything less than top level performance.
Whether Park is the only departure this summer only time will tell, but most of the players signed long-term deals over the winter and there are only a few other possibles. Yet we need to strengthen, especially if we move up to the top division. I have clear ideas about who we could bring in, both in the overseas role and as staff players of quality, but that's for another day.
For now it is about Garry Park. I never met him but understand him to be a charming man, committed to his cricket. He would have enjoyed the fact that his last competitive match for Derbyshire was against a team featuring his brother and would be disappointed that injuries limited his effectiveness over his last two seasons at the county.
When he first joined us from Durham, his gritty batting was a feature of a debut season that saw him pass a thousand runs. In one day games he was more of a utility player, using deft strokes, nurdles and ramps to score valuable runs, though often when the game was a lost cause in a poor one-day side. He bowled useful medium pace that could be very hard to get away, in much the same way that Alex Hughes has found a path into the side this summer as a younger model.
Had he never scored a run, nor taken a wicket, however, Park will be remembered for his fielding. Over 45 summers of Derbyshire watching I have seen some fine fielders, with people like Derek Morgan, Harry Cartwright, Peter Kirsten, Chris Adams and Martin Guptill to the fore. Yet Park was perhaps the best of them all.
A low centre of gravity saw him quickly to the ball and beautiful balance saw him ready to throw seemingly quicker than anyone else in the side. He was quick over the ground and usually held catches with an aplomb that can only be shown by the very best in their sphere. He was good anywhere, but excelled at point where he prowled on his toes, always ready for the ball coming his way. Clive Lloyd, Colin Bland and Jonty Rhodes would be your World XI v Mars picks for that position - but Park wasn't too far behind, with a wonderful pair of hands.
In a poll of first-class cricketers a year or so back, Park gained several nominations as the best fielder in the country, tribute to a great deal of work. He might have preferred a few more runs and might have enjoyed greater opportunity over his last couple of seasons, but such recognition by his peers will be something to look back on with fondness in future years.
What the future holds for Garry Park I don't know. His departure is still to be confirmed by the club, but since it is on his Twitter feed that will only be a matter of time. What we now have to do is ensure that whoever comes in makes a better all-round contribution than the man going out.
I will tell you something though. He won't be a better fielder. I can tell you that now.
Many thanks for your efforts Garry - and sincere best wishes for the future, wherever it takes you.