Thursday, 8 August 2013

Off field news a tonic for Derbyshire

Great news for Derbyshire today with confirmation that ECB grant funding will be £700K more than the previously intimated £1 million.

The money is ring-fenced for capital expenditure projects such as improved facilities for players, members, spectators and the media, as well as potential upgrades to wireless internet and floodlights.  Yet the club's Chief Executive, Simon Storey, confirmed the commitment to increasing the playing budget, which would bring us closer to parity with other counties - though likely still some distance from the big guns, even allowing for the salary cap of £1.9 million per total squad.

It hardly needs Einstein to work out that more money enables you to hire better players, but the improvements to the ground will increase our ability to lure them to the club, will improve our credibility and standing within the game and our long-term ability to host international or junior international fixtures. It is, in short, great news.

If they can get match funding from Derby City Council to cover some of the ongoing ground maintenance costs, it will free up money for the playing budget and take the club to a whole new level. That will not just be on the field, but also from a community involvement perspective, including a potential role in the healthy living agenda.

The club's Supervisory Board is one hundred per cent correct in holding fire on its plans in order to ensure that they use the money for the maximum benefit, presumably once they are fully aware of the Council's intentions.Such common sense is the reason why we now have such a Board, with professional people who have specialist talents to bring to the table. With no disrespects intended to past committee members, a modern, professional club needs the professional expertise of those at the helm of our club now.

It was also good to see Wayne Madsen today pay tribute to Dave Houghton's role in his batting success this summer. Houghton is an engaging man who knows cricket inside out, but it has been easy for some to lay the failure of our batsmen this summer at his door. He is, after all, our batting coach.

It is not as easy as that. Houghton in his first spell at the club had to work hard and show players the correct technique to play the game at first-class level, something that will have continued to a lesser extent in his current stay. Yet his greater role now is in highlighting the mental approach required to make a success of the game.

"Well, he's not been very good at it" the churlish will say, but Houghton can only do so much. For some the assimilation of his tuition will take much longer; some may not manage it at all, because they have 'topped out' at the previous level of the game. Madsen has gone on to the next level and so have many other good players around the globe, but Houghton cannot bat for them if they are finding the going tough.

I am sure that if I had the benefit of Dave Houghton's coaching for a week he would improve me as a batsman. I know that he wouldn't make me into a county player though, no matter what my commitment and how high my desire.

Much as Houghton helped Dan Redfern improve last year, he has undoubtedly aided Ben Slater and Peter Burgoyne this season. It is no coincidence that both spent time with him in Zimbabwe, while Redfern went to Australia where faults perhaps crept into his game. The margin between success and failure in cricket is very small and what we don't know is whether the natural aptitude of any of these young players, coupled with a top coaching set up, is enough to make them established county cricketers.

Some will fall by the wayside, but my guess is that if a few of them make it, they will owe a considerable debt to the expert tuition of Dave Houghton. The others will still be better players for his input, just not good enough for the county game.

That's the way of professional sport.

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