Monday, 9 July 2012

T(ottering) 20?

I'm well aware that the comments that follow are made from having followed this year's T20 competition largely from a distance of some 3,500 miles, but here goes anyway...

Aside from Derbyshire's lack-lustre campaign, it's not been very exciting, has it?

There has so far been only one century in the tournament and not that many performances worthy of note. Nottinghamshire look the best side by a distance, yet one should not be too surprised when a cursory look at their top six batsmen reveals Lumb, Taylor, Wessels, Voges, Patel and Read - a lot of experience of the type that, as I mentioned yesterday, Derbyshire lack. It is hardly surprising that our top-averaging batsmen in the competition were Messrs Park, Naved and Durston, players old enough to have worked out their game It is a statistic largely replicated elsewhere.

Derbyshire's problem was that only one of those three batted in the top five and the averages of Park and Naved were inflated by a few unbeaten innings when the match had generally gone. Maybe they should have batted higher and had a greater opportunity to influence things - it would be hard to argue a case to the contrary.

As regular readers will know, T20 is a long way from my favourite format, but I'll confess to having watched a lot of the recent IPL which is a million miles removed from the game played in this country. For one thing, the weather is much better and it is hard to get excited about cricket played in the conditions we found ourselves recently at Grace Road, when miners helmets would have been more use than batting ones in gloomy light. Similarly there is something wrong when 31-4 in 8 overs is beaten by 23-2 in 2.4, as happened yesterday at Northampton. Carnival cricket? Hmmm...not so sure about that.

Slow wickets have made batting awkward and the absence of big names has been a factor. Phil Hughes, Cameron White, Herschelle Gibbs and Shaun Marsh have all done OK for their respective sides, as did Razzaq at Leicester in a poor side that still managed to beat us twice. Yet a number of overseas recruits come into a sizeable "not worth the money" category. I have said before and will do so again - if an overseas player is not substantially better than what you already have, there is little point in bringing them over.

For what its worth, Derbyshire and a few other counties could have got as much from the short term signing of, for example, James Dalrymple, as they did from their overseas players this summer in the T20. Next year, with the ICC Trophy in England at the same time as the competition, overseas signings of quality will be very hard to find. Counties will either need to select players who have retired from the international scene, or wait to see who doesn't make the cut for their national squads.

Again though, there will be the perennial issue of IPL to contend with. The contracts of Indian players preclude them from playing, while the riches on offer to top names elsewhere mean that the county game isn't really a draw. At the same time, the demands of international cricket dictate that even those players who sign up cannot or will not fulfil their contracts. Can you imagine the moans from Derbyshire fans had we managed to sign Chris Gayle this year, only to see him return to the West Indies ranks? Richard Levi has been a qualified success for Somerset, yet has spent most of his time on aeroplanes, juggling his national and county commitments, so it is hardly a surprise.

Our T20 may be the longest-running in the world game but it has lost its lustre by factors beyond its control. Surrey are now suggesting that the tournament switches to be season-long, but I don't see this as viable. For one thing the players didn't want it, as they would be switching mind-set all the time, and for another I fail to see how overseas players could be flown in once a week or fortnight and expected to perform. The costs would be prohibitive and anyone who thinks you can just get off a plane and expect to perform is delusional, as Levi would confirm.

Likewise, calls for franchises are dead in the water as fans and adminstrators are understandably parochial and protective of their own interests. The reality is that our T20 game is going to remain a poor relation of the IPL and, unless the weather is better than it has been for this season, the competition's brightest moments will generally come when the floodlights are switched on.

How can Derbyshire improve? With greater experience, which takes time, and by having two overseas players who lead from the front. In previous summers we have had impressive contributions from the likes of Martin Guptill and Charl Langeveldt. Until the young squad gets the requisite experience, Messrs Krikken and Grant have the somewhat thankless task of recruiting two players of the right ability who aren't needed by their countries for the ICC trophy but have a desire to play the county game, as IPL hasn't wanted their talents either.

That will be a very, very select group and for the life of me I cannot think right now who will be in it.

Nor, for that matter, will anyone else be able to.


1 comment:

Marc said...

Overseas players for 20/20 next season will be an issue for sure,with counties chasing the few who will prove to be available.

As most will be aware,I remain unconvinced about the merits of signing a bowler. An all rounder,fine. Two batsmen,even better.

I also remain unconvinced that greater experience will lead to better batsmen. It could do,but only if the basic ingredients are present to start with. Whiteley and Durston are arguably the only batsmen we have who fulfill the criteria most would look for in a limited over batsman.

We do have one or two others who can hit the ball hard,such as Clare (who for me has been criminally under utilised as a batsman in T20) but the vast majority of our batsmen have serious flaws. Too many are nothing more than nurdlers and nudgers,possessing neither the power nor range of shots to genuinely succeed. In their case,greater experience will merely continue to underline the point.

The bowling has generally been acceptable,though our insistence on opening with pace,in the majority of games,has proved a tactical error of judgement,partially rectified when the horse had bolted. The seamers have generally been more expensive and less effective than the spinners,a lesson we were slow to learn.

In fairness to Krikken,he has been consistently let down by poor returns from those he has been faithful to. Quite a few of those who have thus far featured on a regular one day basis may find themselves with a month in the stiffs next season.

Until we can score consistently at around 8 an over (which would see us win more often than not) we will continue to struggle.