Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Good news on the fitness front

Whoever turns out to be the elite cricket performance director at Derbyshire CCC next summer - and we should probably know about that for the New Year, if not for Christmas - they will be considerably assisted  by the news from the fitness suites at the County Ground.

First Jonathan Clare professes to be well on the way to full fitness and ready to resume his role as a wicket-taking bowler and dangerous batsman in the lower middle-order. Then Chesney Hughes announces that he is several weeks ahead in his return to fitness and has had a few hits in the nets.

It is heartening news. Neither was anywhere close to full fitness last summer, something that put us on the back foot. While Hughes was able to bat, any shoulder problem was sure to affect him to some extent and it stopped him from bowling at all. I don't think it made any real difference to the four-day game, where his bowling is used sparingly, but in one-day cricket his left-arm spin is a handy weapon and often slows the scoring rate or takes valuable wickets. I'm sure Wayne Madsen would have enjoyed having it at his disposal in the T20, at the very least.

As for Jon Clare, it was patently obvious that fitness was elusive last year. On the occasions that I saw him, his bowling was not even close to 75% of full pace, which is hardly surprising if his back hurt each time he bowled. At his best he is capable of being around the 85-90mph mark, which makes facing him a challenge, even before he starts nipping it around. Injuries notwithstanding, he took wickets in his sporadic appearances but couldn't bowl any lengthy spells, meaning that picking him as a third seamer was a risky venture.

At his best, Clare will come on after the early inroads made by Tony Palladino and Tim Groenewald and keep up the pressure. He will also score good runs at seven (he says he fancies batting six, but I'm not so sure at this stage) and has the ability to see a bad ball early and launch a counter-attack. As a good fielder anywhere, he is, in short, an all-round cricketer of considerable talent.

At a time when the national side looks set to be in transition, Clare has the greatest of incentives to get fit and get his career back on track. He has only to look to the example of Ben Stokes to see what is possible and the best years of his career should lie ahead of him.

If Wes Durston can return to the punishing form of 2012 and Scott Elstone can make the most of a second opportunity in the first-class game, we have four players of genuine, all-round talent to compete for places in the different competitions. While Elstone is better-known as a batsman, his displays for Dunstall and for the Second Eleven have suggested that his off-spin could be useful too. He's obviously aware of this, having highlighted the fact that he is working hard on his bowling in a recent interview.

With the addition of another batsman, I think our squad is well-equipped for 2014. Much will depend on the coaching set-up and we'll doubtless hear the news on that in the next few days.

Life is never dull at Derbyshire, that's for sure.

1 comment:

Marc said...

From a fitness angle this is a big season coming up for Clare. No matter how talented any player may be,they are not much use unless they are playing. I genuinely sympathise with him but at the same time,the club cannot afford the luxury of injury prone players and he really needs to shake this problem off. It,s not so long ago he missed an entire season and it was only during 2012 when he manged to stay fit for any length of time.

He can perhaps take inspiration from Footitt who is a similar age and seems to have cured his own demons. Clare is a very useful player,not quite a genuine all rounder,but a capable batsman and a reliable fielder. I hope it all works out for him as theoretically,he still has six or seven years of bowling left in him,maybe more. I suppose we can only wait and seeand hope for the best.