Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Midweek musings

I can't say that I'm surprised to see that Essex are considering withdrawing permission for their big name players to participate in this year's IPL.

Why would they be happy to lose Bopara, Shah and ten Doeschate for the formative stage of the season? Take three players of that stature out of any side in the country and they would struggle, or at best would not be as competitive. Nottinghamshire blocked the participation of Michael Lumb, Samit Patel and Alex Hales and they have every right to do so. That old adage "he who pays the piper calls the tune" has never seemed more apposite.

If players want the security that a county contract offers, that's fine. If instead they wish to become nomads, traveling the globe for the next handy pay cheque while reneging on that county deal, it doesn't get my vote. Out of season, if it is cleared with the county club, fair enough, but not when it impacts on their success on and off the pitch.

I think it is high time that a stand was made against the IPL. There are some aspects that I like and enjoy, but when it affects the game around the globe and increasingly calls the shots I find it hard to buy into it. The massive money in the IPL is an obvious lure and perhaps the time will come when players make a choice. Yet players come and go, contracts disappear and good players, a number of who would enrich the county game, sit on a bench watching, rather than participating in the action.

It's mad. Good for Nottimghamshire, good for Essex says Peakfan.

Case in point? Shivnarine Chanderpaul is currently in Bangladesh and a member of the Sylhet Royals squad, though yet to play a game. Why would you not play someone of his quality, even in a format that is his weaker suit? I don't see Derbyshire doing that in mid-season...

Mind you, they are top of the league, which either speaks volumes for them or the standard of opposition.

If you didn't see it, there's a good interview with  Chanderpaul in today's Derby Telegraph, where he makes all the noises that we would hope for from an overseas star. It is still hard to believe that we will be watching the maestro in Derbyshire colours for the next couple of summers, but we have another 69 days to get used to the idea.

Finally tonight, a couple of items of news from Australia, where David Hussey is announced as Nottinghamshire's job-share overseas star for the eighth summer. He has been a wonderful servant to our neighbours and will doubtless contribute his share of runs this summer.

And good luck to Usman Khawaja, who has been called up to the Australian one-day squad for the next two one-day games, after Dave Warner broke his thumb. There's a certain irony in Khawaja, a fine long format player, coming into a shorter form of the game, albeit one in which he has a decent domestic record.

I am sure that all Derbyshire fans wish him well.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Monday Musings

The countdown timer is approaching the seventy day mark. Hard as it has been to believe over the past week or so, when the rain has battered down and the snow has fallen in spectacular depths, we're just over a couple of months from the season.

I've already started my playing preparations. I got a brand new thigh pad from ebay for 99p plus postage (the velcro on the old one had a nasty habit of coming undone, leaving me a little exposed...) and a pair of batting gloves for very little more. Just need to get my bat re-gripped at Owzat-Cricket on my trip back home next month and I'm pretty much sorted for pre-season nets, which are only a month away.

Which will mean, of course, that I'm only about 29 years of fitness behind the Derbyshire squad, a mere trifle. Still, as long as I can chase a ball to the boundary and still jog back to my position in the field I think I'll be fine. Just as long as I don't have to do it for every ball of an over...

There's not too much news on the county circuit right now. An Essex fan took exception to last week's comments about Rob Quiney, but somewhat missed the point before lapsing into somewhat stereotypical anti-Derbyshire comments. Quiney is a decent cricketer, but is an average of 35 at the age of 30 anything to get unduly excited about? It is the same as that achieved by Jon Moss, who was a thoroughly decent, workmanlike but unspectacular player for us a few years back. Few would put him in the top tier of our overseas stars and I suspect the same fate may befall the new Essex man.

He may prove me wrong, of course and prove to be this summer's surprise package, but early season wickets in England have caused problems for many a top batsman in the past - Alviro Petersen last summer being a prime example. A long, dry summer may see Quiney in his element, but I'm not sure such weather is a natural consequence of the travails of this winter.

More later in the week.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

From Distant Lands to Derbyshire 9: Adrian Kuiper

He wasn't the biggest name to sign for Derbyshire. He didn't leave a protracted legacy over several summers. He wasn't an especially good three-day player. But Adrian Kuiper won Derbyshire the Sunday League in 1990 in his only season at the club, which is a pretty impressive contribution.

Kim Barnett had been on the receiving end in South Africa, watching and bowling as Kuiper hammered a 49-ball century for South Africa in the winter of 1989-90. Such a rate was astonishing at that time and the Derbyshire skipper saw him as a key part of one-day plans for the following summer. It was a very shrewd piece of work.

Had Kuiper been in his prime today, he would be a multi-millionaire cricketer, travelling the globe to play in the T20 competitions. Younger readers who didn't have the pleasure of seeing him live should think Kieron Pollard or Chris Gayle, but perhaps with a little more common sense applied in the ball to hit. Over twenty summers after his spell at the club, he remains the biggest hitter of a cricket ball that I have seen in our colours. Given any variation in width or length, Kuiper would bury the ball into the farthest reaches of stands, or over them.

The great thing about him was that he appeared to need little time to get his eye in. In that summer, he seemed at one with the pace of the pitch, the movement of the ball and size of the boundaries from the moment he went in. On several occasions he had to cut loose immediately, as we had fallen behind the clock, yet he rarely failed to deliver, required run rates of little consequence to him.

It is all the more remarkable that in an eighteen-year career he only made five one-day centuries, but there were 35 fifties and Kuiper specialised in the short, sharp, brutal assault, thirty or forty runs in a few overs that turned games on their head.

Examples? That summer in the Refuge Assurance League he averaged over 40, with an unbeaten 53 from just 24 balls crucial in a winning start at Hove. A more sedate unbeaten 62 from 82 balls saw a win at Northampton and there were breezy thirties and forties against Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire. There were important, match-winning unbeaten twenties in a couple of games, while his effort at Taunton has passed into legend.

Chasing 258 to win in 40 overs, Kim Barnett and John Morris led the chase with a stand of 200, yet the last ball arrived with Kuiper and Chris Adams needing one to win and Adrian Jones bowling. Adams prepared for a sprint and potential dive as the bowler ran in and set off as soon as Kuiper hit the ball. He got down to the striker's end to find the South African removing his gloves, having hammered the ball over mid-wicket for six.

Another crucial fifty came in the final game against Essex, one that we needed to win to take the title. Footage of this can be seen on the club's 140 years DVD, with Kuiper atoning for two earlier dropped catches with 50 from 31 balls, following it up with a brutal 74 from just 45 deliveries against Nottinghamshire in the cup semi-final that followed a bizarrely run competition that summer.

One could argue that Kuiper's scores were nothing THAT special and that the feats of John Morris, Chris Adams, Kim Barnett and Peter Bowler were equally important, but he was exactly the player we needed in a good batting side. A finisher, someone who didn't panic when the run chase was on.

He bowled useful medium pace too and was joint top wicket-taker in the Sunday League that summer. An offer was tabled for him to return as sole overseas player in 1991, having shared the role with Ian Bishop in 1990. Kuiper didn't fancy the grind of the county circuit, having averaged only 23 in his 17 Championship innings and a quiet, modest man left Derbyshire cricket forever.

Like a good few others, the South African return from the international wilderness came too late for him, though there were glimpses of what might have been. He took 26 from an over by Australia's fast and nasty Craig McDermott in 1994, then an unbeaten 61 off England that sealed a win for his side.

Not the best overseas player we've had then, but exactly the right man at the right time. We'd have to pay a lot for a peak form Adrian Kuiper in the modern T20, that's for sure.

But it would be money well spent, there's no denying that.

New look

Blogger have moved over to a range of new "dynamic" templates, which has led to a new look.
It took up more of my Sunday than I had hoped might be the case, but I don't think it looks too bad now, apart from a required tweak here and there.

I'd be keen to hear your thoughts on it though, anything that works and things that don't and whether you like the new look and colour scheme.

Replies to the usual e mail address, or simply post your comments below!

Thanks in advance to those who take time to reply.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Something for the weekend

I was surprised to wake up this morning and read that Wayne White is now a Lancashire player.

I had heard rumours that he was unhappy at Leicestershire, but that was hardly surprising after the season they had last summer. White was a good player in a poor side, which can be enough for players who enjoy being a big fish in a small pond, but was unlikely to be so for a player who is fast becoming a genuine all-rounder with justifiable ambitions. Sure, he bowls a fair few bad balls and can be expensive, but he has the ability to bowl the wicket-taking deliveries too.

Likewise, with the bat he can hang in there and fight the rearguard actions, something he has had to do regularly, but can play some attacking innings when the situation demands. He is, in short, a dangerous and improving cricketer, as 600-plus runs at 29 and 43 wickets at the same last summer amply illustrates.

So, as I was asked in an e mail today, should we have tried to sign him? To which my answer is 'no' and here's why.

First, the playing budget is spent. You don't add Chanderpaul, Godleman and Johnson to a squad, as well as offering improved deals to key young players and expect to sign White too. Remember, we need money in the pot for the second overseas role for the T20 and we're hardly among the most affluent counties.

Second, I'm not sure, for all his talents, if White is yet a player who will do well in the top tier. He is good, but not yet outstanding, at both disciplines.In another couple of years he could be, but I'm unsure as to how he would fit into the current Derbyshire side.

Good as he is, could you see him breaking into the current top six? I can't. Similarly, is he a better seamer than Palladino, Groenewald or Clare? Again, I don't think so. If he isn't an automatic choice, I'm not sure that a move would have been worthwhile, as established county professionals don't come cheap. Nor can we pay the going rate for such a player and have him in the seconds for much of the time, even if he was prepared to do that, which seems unlikely

So why Lancashire? Well, they wanted him, could afford him and are fairly convenient from a travel perspective. He'll be close enough to his friends and family, while my guess is that he will prove a key component of a Lancashire side that I think will win the second division in a canter after last season's traumas.

They have a lot of good young players and I would suggest that White will be the long-term replacement for Glen Chappell, a player who has given superb service to the red rose county.

It is yet another sign of the development of the Derbyshire side though. Had White been available last winter, when we were preparing for a division two campaign, I'd have had him like a shot. Yet the development of Ross Whiteley, the all-round importance of David Wainwright and the talent of our main seam bowlers has been heartening to see.

I have every confidence that Wayne White will thrive at Old Trafford and hope he does so. I have even greater confidence that our vibrant young side will acquit themselves well and that the two sides will renew hostilities in 2014.

In division one.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Like father, like son?

Here's an interesting story. I mentioned him last week as being a player of some potential. Now he's set for a first-class debut at 16...

Definitely one to watch!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Midweek Musings

 Sorry there was no blog last night but Mrs P and I turned back the clock last night with a visit to the Glasgow Concert Hall and the Celtic Connections Festival to see one of our favourite bands, The Mavericks. We were in there when they first burst on the scene in the early '90s and it was great to see them, as good as ever, last night. A great time was had by all and if they come to a town or city near you later in the year I'd strongly urge you to go along for a potent mix of Cuban rhythms, country, Tex-Mex, Zydeco and classic retro music. Great stuff.

Still, this is a cricket blog and there's been a few titbits of news around over the last few days. It was great to read on the club site that Wayne Madsen will be leading coaching courses for young cricketers between the ages of six and eleven next month. Very thoughtfully, it even starts on Mrs P's birthday and until I saw the age breakdown toyed with the idea of an unusual  birthday gift...

Joking apart, it is a laudable idea and one that should be a success. Even as you get older there's something immensely satisfying about a 'proper' cricketer praising your game. I still remember the buzz I got from our then Australian professional praising my successive boundaries in a tight finish a few years back. Exposing talented and/or keen youngsters to quality coaches at an early stage can only be beneficial in the long term, either from a playing or supporting perspective. Nor could there be a better man to represent the club than Madsen, a man of talent, humility, humour and charm - handy traits when working with youngsters!

South Africa blew the one-day series against New Zealand, imploding spectacularly when only needing 112 from 20 overs with nine wickets in hand. Even allowing for their side being a little inexperienced, that was a little poor, especially when five perished to run outs. Had that been a Derbyshire collapse, I'd suggest we would be less than impressed...

It has been a strange kind of tour for Martin Guptill, with a superb T20 century amid more low scores than he has been used to of late. I am sure he will return with a vengeance in England, but I am equally sure that Kane Williamson will thrive, after his experience at Gloucestershire. I think the latter is a very talented cricketer at 22, making a fine century today after taking four wickets with his useful off-spin last week. One to watch, beyond a doubt.

Prior to our signing Shivnarine Chanderpaul, I had regularly referred to the paucity of overseas talent available to counties for 2013 and an example came today, when Essex announced the signing of Victoria batsman Rob Quiney for most of the summer. I mean no disrespect to a player of some talent, but there was a time when an average of 36 (16 in T20) was unlikely to stir county interest. Nine runs in three Test innings were far from confirming he was ready for the next step and at thirty Quiney will have to be a serious late developer to prove his worth.

Yes, I know that average is comparable to Martin Guptill's, but the latter had proved himself at international level, across formats and at a much younger age before joining Derbyshire. Quiney may yet emulate him at county level, but I'd hazard a guess that their fans are somewhat underwhelmed tonight.

More from me later in the week. Hope the snow goes away sometime soon.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

From Distant Lands to Derbyshire 8: Ian Bishop

When the news broke that Michael Holding was retiring from the county game in 1989, one could almost imagine the parties that were being organised around the county circuit by top order batsmen. No more would they have to face a lightning-quick bowler on their visits to Derby and Chesterfield. Life was going to be good.

Then the news broke that Holding had helped to persuade Ian Bishop to replace him. Whispering Death had been replaced by Greased Lightning...

They alternated in 1989, the veteran passing on his wisdom to the new kid in town. He will doubtless have told him to pace himself, though there was little evidence of that as Bishop tore in. On the boundary, there were sage nods, whistles through pursed lips and chuckles as opposition batsmen hurried their strokes, ducked, dived and hoped to get off the strike.

If I'm honest, Bishop brought the raw, sustained pace that Holding would have had in his prime and was probably quicker than the Holding that we saw at Derbyshire, certainly over sustained spells. He had a long, straight run that led into a classical, sideways on action and the release of a ball at frightening speed. As back injuries interrupted his career, that early action became more chest on, but Bishop continued to swing and cut the ball, a potent combination with that blistering pace. Has any county had two fast bowlers of such reputation at the same time?

We saw him a few times in 1990 and he blew Yorkshire away at Chesterfield, taking seven wickets in the match against a side who simply didn't look comfortable against him. Much the same happened against Kent, the two openers removed in the blink of an eye, the tail blown away, courtesy of Karl Krikken and the slip cordon.  Against India in a one-day game, he only took one wicket but caused all sorts of trouble for Sachin Tendulkar, before the 17 year old got his footwork going and hit his first one-day century. Prior to that, the Indian's highest one-day score was just 36...

Yet he also displayed the naivety of youth in that game, perhaps continuing to bowl short on a lively track when there would have been greater merit in pitching it up and beating the hesitant forward defensive push for pace. Holding would have done, but you can't buy experience.

 1989 brought 41 wickets at 23, that 1990 season a further 59 at 19 in a season where Adrian Kuiper played the one-day matches with great success. Bishop, Devon Malcolm and Ole Mortensen gave Derbyshire a potency that few counties could handle and the three of them were a wonderful sight. Bishop was appreciated for his languid style, easy personality and a willingness to chat, all of which carried through to his subsequent broadcasting career. He could handle a bat too, a century against Yorkshire suggesting that as his career developed he may venture into the realms of all-rounder.

1991 saw the first major absence with back trouble and he hardly played. There were suggestions that he might not be back but he reappeared in 1992 and, with a remodelled action, cut a swathe through batting line ups with 64 wickets at just 17.

He was an awesome sight and the ball would thud into the wicket-keeper's gloves almost before the batsman had got into position. Check out this footage of him bowling for the West Indies against England in 1990 and just picture him steaming in from the pavilion end at Chesterfield...

That 1992 summer was, sadly, the last we saw of Ian Bishop at Derbyshire, though his first-class career continued, with too many interruptions, until the winter of 1998-99. He retired, much earlier than should have been the case, at the age of 31 and has subsequently enjoyed a successful career in the media.

549 first-class wickets at 23, 196 more in one-day games. I have a feeling that Bishop could have gone down as one of the all-time greats had he been blessed with a more robust spine. Like Malcolm Marshall, he had a rare ability to find movement in both directions and to do so at a pace that could be matched by very few.

Put it this way. If you had Ian Bishop at one end and Michael Holding at the other, the chances are that the top six would be padded up, just in case...

A very, very fine bowler.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Something for the weekend

It was quite sad to read yesterday that Ian Blackwell had been released by Durham at the age of 34.

A chronic shoulder injury may end any hope of a continuation of his first-class career, although dwindling returns, an ongoing battle with his weight and his age are unlikely to do him any favours. 11,000 runs at 40 and nearly 400 wickets at 36 are statistics that a player can be proud of, but I still think that Blackwell will finish his career as a talent that was largely unfulfilled from the player who emerged from Derbyshire Second XI.

From his early days at Derbyshire it was patently obvious that Blackwell could hit a long ball. With Ross Whiteley and Phil de Freitas he remains one of the cleanest hitters I have seen in club colours, though one could never see Blackwell playing the back-to-the-wall innings that Whiteley gritted out - against his nature - on occasions last summer. It was also clear that his biggest problem was a lack of footwork. Like David Gower, when the wicket was true and his eye was in, he was a wonderful sight. Yet any lateral movement saw him come undone and a bat far from his body gave it away more times than it should have.

His move to Taunton and Somerset was a dream. The best batting track in the country, coupled with fairly short boundaries meant that Blackwell built a reputation as a one-day player of some standing, capable of niggardly spells and some brisk and savage knocks. Yet he was largely found out at higher level, with only one fifty in 29 one-day innings, along with an average of just 14 and 24 wickets. Maybe it was a lack of opportunity to build an innings, but there were accusations of carelessness, poor running and immobility in the field.

Between 2003 and 2005, Blackwell was one of the most punishing batsmen on the county circuit and at Taunton the sixes rained from his bat. He eventually moved to Durham, where he gave solid service without quite replicating that earlier form, tempering his game a little on the more sporting northern tracks and proving a key component of a fine side.

Last year he didn't appear for them after May, partially due to injury, but went on loan to Warwickshire, who declined to sign him on a permanent basis. With known problems with his shoulder, it is hard to see who might take a risk on him in the future, unless it was on a pay-as-you-play deal. He could be a T20 asset to someone, but not if he can't bowl or throw.

It is a shame. Whenever I think of Ian Blackwell, my mind goes back to August 1996, when a visit to Chesterfield with my wife and young son saw us head into Queens Park for a stroll. There was a Second XI game in progress (which didn't surprise my wife...) and we took a seat in the old wooden stands that ringed the boundary at the lake end.

My eyes were drawn to a then slim left hander who was hitting the ball a country mile in taking us from 221-8 to 382-9. A further fifty then came for the last wicket before a declaration, with Trevor Smith making three of them. The young player finished unbeaten on 132 and I chatted with the then coach, Alan Hill, who told me that the young player was Chesterfield's own Ian Blackwell.

Maybe he should have stayed longer at Derbyshire, but this was a poor dressing room for a young player and Blackwell sought fame and fortune elsewhere. I'm sure he's made a few bob from his career, but the fame which could have been his never quite materialised.

That's a shame, because at his best, Ian Blackwell has been a very good cricketer.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Further thoughts on the Academy

Admit it folks. When you read the list of new recruits to the Derbyshire Academy this morning, you felt a teeny-weeny bit of envy, didn't you?

I know I did. Back in the day when I could run around the covers and field pretty well, bowl decent medium pace and contribute some handy scores, I would have given anything to have played for Derbyshire at cricket. Even though the side I followed was pretty poor at that stage, I'd have loved to walk out at Derby or Chesterfield with them. The fact was that I was a decent player, but not spectacular, although that hasn't stopped me from enjoying the game in the middle over the following 40 years.

These lads are obviously different. There is something about their talent that makes them worthy of the club investing time and money into their development over the next year at least, possibly more. To get to that stage, you must be a bit special and they should all be very proud of their achievement in getting to this stage in a potential cricket career.

Of course, the real work starts now. They will all be well aware that they need to be even fitter, hone their skills even more, learn mental and physical skills that they don't even know about at this stage.

Right now they will all be buzzing with excitement and will be aspiring to emulate Whiteley, Redfern, Knight, Burgoyne, Borrington, Poynton and more. In ten years time one or more of them may be being talked about in the same breath as John Morris, Chris Adams, Mike Hendrick or Geoff Miller. Derbyshire legends all, produced from within and going on to become outstanding cricketers.

It's a big challenge, but why shouldn't it happen? The boys have access to top coaches, as well as the opportunity to learn from players who took their county into the top flight last summer. They will undoubtedly have the support of proud families who, like those of boys who have graduated already, will be ready and willing to ferry them here, there and everywhere to play, practice and train.

Some might not make it. But if one or two of them do, it will be another piece of a long-term, successful future for the county.

Good luck to all of them. I look forward to reading about them, watching them in action and reporting back...

New Academy Faces

As I suggested last week, the new Academy intake has been announced. There were some exciting young players in contention for Academy places this year and the intake announcement backs up that statement quite conclusively. So let's look at the new boys in a little more detail.

Rob Hemmings
Rob is a talented batsman from Audley CC in the Staffordshire league and in 2012 reached a thousand runs for the third successive summer. There was a breakthrough century for him, which was promptly followed by three more. One to watch.

Callum Brodrick
At just 14, Callum made the Dunstall senior side in the second half of the season. His Dad Steve has been a key member of the side for years, but hopes are high that Brodrick junior could go much further in the game, as a spinner of considerable talent who knows how to handle a bat.

Rahib Ali
Rahib has played his cricket at Rolls Royce for the past few summers and at 17 is a batsman of some ability. He has a wide range of strokes and could develop into a very good middle order batsman. An excellent fielder.

Harry Killoran
Harry plays his cricket at Chester Boughton Hall and was the Cheshire Youth Cricket Player of the Year in 2012. A 15 year-old off-spinner, he took 29 wickets at just 14 last summer for the Cheshire junior sides, while he also took four wickets for his club first eleven in the senior Cup Final as his club beat Hyde in a high-scoring encounter.

Perrijay Blair
"PJ" plays his cricket at Chesterfield and is a fast-medium bowler who can score good runs. Time will tell if he emerges as a genuine all-rounder, but he is unquestionably a young player with genuine potential for improvement.

Aaron Hibell
Aaron plays his cricket at Ticknall and is a talented left-handed all-rounder. He and Blair shared a superb ninth wicket stand of 131 for the ninth wicket against Leicestershire's Academy last summer, stealing an excellent one-wicket win for the side.

They join  Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor, Greg Cork, Mykylo Bird, Harvey Hosein, Greg Massingham and Will Davis in a young, but highly talented squad of players

I am sure that, like me, you all wish them well and look forward to further news of their continued development.

Get cracking, lads!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Scotland in Edinburgh

Sorry about the lateness of the blog tonight, but family commitments kept me out for most of the evening.

The big news of the day - personally - is that the game between Scotland and Derbyshire on May 26 will be played at Citylets Grange ground in Edinburgh, a familiar one to the club.

It was pretty much as I expected, to be honest. I didn't see Aberdeen as a viable option from a logistical angle, while the Scots have opted not to use Uddingston this year and instead return to Titwood in Glasgow for the second set of fixtures in the CB40.

It is a nice ground and I saw Daryll Cullinan make a delightful century for us there a good few years back, but Grange is fine. I can do it in just under an hour from my house and, with it being a Sunday fixture, don't need to take a day's leave to do so.

All things considered, it's a result. Here's to another one in due course...

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Talking point

Sarah Taylor is, according to reports in the national press, going to play some cricket for Sussex Second XI next summer.

Let's be clear on the facts here. The player is already, at 23, one of the greatest women cricketers in history. Goodness knows what kind of records she will have set by the time that she retires, because it is patently obvious that she is a shining beacon of the women's game. Her one-day and T20 batting records are excellent and it is fair to say that only her negligible experience of the longer format has thus far prevented her from major contributions.

By the same token, I am not sure about and not comfortable with the idea of male and female sports being combined. If any female cricketer was capable of making the step it would be Ms Taylor, but I have serious reservations. Playing good level club cricket is one thing - and I have played with and against plenty of women who have been decent or better over the years. But the differences in strength and power may prove to be insurmountable obstacles at a higher level, as they would be in most sports.

Back in the county game, Northamptonshire has announced a profit of nearly £23K, a good effort in a fairly wet summer. The financial management  at some of the smaller clubs (including Derbyshire) is an object lesson to all and is again one in the eye for those who seek to reduce the number of first-class counties.

Our title win last summer didn't do any harm either...

Over in Australia, Ross Whiteley has been doing a good job with the Adelaide Pirates, scoring runs and taking wickets. There was an unbeaten 124 against Southern Districts, together with a couple of wickets, while he was again in the runs last weekend. It is heartening as we approach a new season.

Dan Redfern has had a few more issues, with a highest score of just 38, but Whiteley's previous experience in the conditions has undoubtedly been a major factor in his success.

In closing tonight, thanks for your continuing mails and comments, which are always appreciated. There appears to be a lot of interest in the Peter Gibbs series, which is good to see.

More of that next week. More from me soon!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Monday musings

There's talk below yesterday's post about the best side to start the summer in the County Championship and I find it hard to disagree with those posting at this stage.

Assuming that all are fit and well, the likeliest starting XI for me is:


There is plenty in reserve in an albeit young squad. Perhaps the biggest question is the position in the order of numbers 7-9 and you could pretty much argue the case for any sequence.

It looks a good side and amid the euphoria of the Chanderpaul signing it is important to remember that any success we have this summer will be the result of the kind of team effort that we saw last summer. If we rely on Shiv alone to score runs then a season of struggle will ensue. I have no doubts he will get his fair share, but a feature of last year was the contribution to totals by everyone down the order.

I think our bowling is good enough to get sides out and if we show similar resilience with the bat we will have a decent campaign. Success will initially be to stay up, but there is enough talent in that side to do more than scrape through by the skin of our teeth.

Going back to Shivnarine Chanderpaul, some of you may not know that he has a son Tagenarine who is himself highly rated. At 16 the lad seems to be one of the brightest talents in the Caribbean and there's an interesting article on him in the Guyana Times from this weekend (I get it delivered...)

I don't know if Chanderpaul junior will be coming across to England this summer, but I've a suspicion that a few local club sides might fancy giving him a game if he did.

Mind you, he has a tough act to follow...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Weekend warmer

There was a lone hand played by Shivnarine Chanderpaul last night, making 53 from Guyana's 111-6 as they fell to heavy defeat against Trinidad and Tobago, the stand out side in Caribbean T20. I hope he gets better support from his Derbyshire team mates this summer, as the next highest score was just 14...

I thought I'd take twenty minutes out to answer a few of the recent questions that I've received, either on the blog or by e mail, so here goes.

Tom mailed me to ask how much I thought Derbyshire would have paid for our new overseas player. That's a hard one to start, but I'd guess well into six figures when such niceties as business class air flights, accommodation, a car and agent fees are factored into the equation. Given his full-season availability, I'd reckon that Chanderpaul will be the highest paid overseas player in England next summer, ahead of Graeme Smith at Surrey. However, what he is being paid is really no one's business, any more than what you or I take home each month.

The bottom line is that if he scores 1,000-1,500 championship runs and a further 600-plus in one-day games, there will be few complaints. Talent costs money and there has to be a major difference between an average player and one of the very best. If his presence has a positive effect on the side, on fans and on business support it can only be money very well spent.

Below the last post, Mark asked who would have got a bigger reaction from me, had we signed him instead of Chanderpaul, a question that was more than adequately answered by Craig a few hours later. I had our new man in a fantasy list of three and to be honest, wouldn't swap him for any of the others.

I am a huge fan of Jacques Kallis and think Shane Watson is a fine player too. Yet the reality is that neither would be available for a full English season or anything close to it. Chanderpaul is available and will be spending the next two summers at Derbyshire. I love writing that...

Don got in touch, to ask, as I've seen mentioned elsewhere, whether I thought we should look at Dan Redfern as a potential opener this year. It's not that I don't think he could do it, but my answer is no, mate and here's why.

Billy Godleman didn't come to us from Essex to bat either middle-order or second team and I fully expect him to start the season in that role and have a good opportunity to rekindle his career. We know that Chanderpaul will bat four, as the skipper said so last week, so that leaves the rest to piece together.

I think Wayne Madsen would probably prefer batting at three, but so does Wes Durston and Madsen has greater experience and success as an opener. For me, the learning opportunities for the two young left-handers, Redfern and Whiteley, to bat at five and six with Chanderpaul are massive. Long-term, the value of him to them over these next two summers will be priceless.

A few people fail to realise just how different opening is to going in lower down. A hard ball, doing the most it is usually likely to do, a green track, a game plan to formulate and an innings to build are all pressures and need specific talents. If the openers don't do their stuff, Paul Borrington and Richard Johnson wait in the wings and will be the likely replacements in that order.

It will be a big year for Bozza, but I am sure that he will be hard at work in preparation for what opportunities may come his way.

Finally a question from Eric, asking when the Academy intake will be announced.

The awards night took place last week, but my guess is that the club have rightly kept the news back in a massive week. With the greatest of respect to everyone involved, following the news of that signing with anything is going to be lower key. I'm reminded of the story of Jerry Lee Lewis, who was vexed that Chuck Berry was following him on stage as headliner at a concert revue back in the day. Somewhat proving his point as being the star turn, he played a storming set, then set fire to his piano on the way off, passing Berry in the wings.

"Follow that, boy" he said.

I think we will see that news this week and I look forward to it. In keeping with the importance of these youngsters to our future, I'll be looking at the new recruits in a little detail

86 days to the season. It can't come soon enough for me.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Something for the weekend

In fifty years time, when people are looking back at the greatest weeks in Derbyshire County Cricket Club's history, the one just past has to be in the mix.

In almost five years of doing this blog, I've never known one remotely close to it. It may be that we will see its like again, but I'm not sure how right now. I cannot recall a signing that has met with such universal acclaim, enthusiasm and downright excitement.

It was nice to see Chris Grant acknowledge the support on his Twitter feed this evening, name checking both the Forum and this blog in doing so. The 'feel good' factor at the club will last for some time and the excitement level is only going to crank up as the season approaches.

Shiv must hope for better tracks than the one that was 'enjoyed' in Port of Spain last night, as his native Guyana played Barbados in the Caribbean T20. Opening the batting, he top-scored for his side with 23 as they were bowled out for 108 in just 19 overs.

It turned out to be the game's top score, as Barbados subsided to 66 all out. His innings followed 38 in his side's first game and they are unbeaten after two games. Repetition of that this coming summer will not go amiss...

Back in Derby, Mr Grant explained the 'calculated risk' in the level of spending this close season. This effectively needs incremental revenue increase of around £250,000. Under any other administration this would be a cause for concern, but I have complete faith in Messrs Grant and Storey, aided and abetted by an unrivalled backroom team, to attain that figure.

It is to their credit that they got us into the black once again last summer for the sixth time in seven summers and the news is a nice way to close the perfect week.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

The morning after...

Thanks to all of you who helped to make yesterday the single biggest day in the life of this blog.

There were over 1400 hits yesterday, two thirds of them from the UK, but plenty from the USA, Australia, Italy, Spain, Germany and the West Indies. I'll not dare to think that Shivnarine was logging in to check what was being said, but it illustrates the interest in the club - and the player - from around  the globe.

The country's media were very kind to us today and rightly so. It is good for the county game for a player of Chanderpaul's stature to be on the circuit and fans, both home and away, will be keen to see him close up. I'd venture that a few of them will want to see plenty of runs from him too. When Lawrence Rowe played against England years back, I used to pray at night that he would make a hundred, at the same time that we bowled them out for 150. Of course, it rarely happened after his debut series against England, although my memory suggests the Windies normally got 500...

It was great to see the Derby Evening Telegraph doing us proud too, with a series of articles that must have looked impressive in hard copy. My old Dad went down to the only local shop that sells the Telegraph (they stay across the border in a county beginning with 'N') and was told that they'd gone in record time and had none left.

"Didn't think you know 'owt about cricket in this county" was his response. Priceless...old habits die hard and at nearly 85 he's as feisty as ever, not to mention thrilled at the signing.

The Telegraph has had some stick among Derbyshire supporters over the years for only being bothered about Derby County. In their defence, the city's reputation as a football hotbed, together with the commensurate sales that stories doubtless bring, has been a major factor. So too has been the inescapable truth that for large chunks of my lifetime the cricket club has been very much the poor relation. Apart from a Sunday league win and the odd Lords final, Gerald Mortimer and Mark Eklid must have been tempted to pop the odd anti-depressant en route to the match.

Changed days now. Don't expect me to boldly predict a Championship win on the back of this stunning signing, but it should go some way towards helping us become established in the division. As is pointed out today by the skipper, talented young players cannot help but learn from a cricketing great in the side, as well as a world-ranked batting coach in David Houghton.

I was thrilled to read Wayne Madsen say that Chanderpaul will bat at four in the championship, which is exactly where I would have played him. I assume the first choice batting line up would be Godleman, Madsen, Durston, Chanderpaul, Redfern and Whiteley. Isn't it funny how that has a look of durability that wasn't there in all eyes a couple of days back?

By the same token, I expect him to open in the one-day game, which he has done in style on many occasions for his country. That would give us a sheet anchor who can play himself in and then open out once he has found his range.

Madsen also seems thrilled to have Chanderpaul on board, citing his experience as captain of the West Indies and the help he can give. Shiv comes with a reputation of a player who is very good in the dressing room and happy to spend time with young players. For me, his signing represents a definitive win/win situation.

In closing, thanks for your kind e mails and comments and please keep them coming! Here's one more Youtube clip that you may not have seen. West Indies v Sri Lanka, two balls left, ten to win, Chaminda Vaas bowling to Chanderpaul. How can Sri Lanka possibly lose? Sorry about the poor footage, but I can't do anything about that...

Enjoy, my friends! Catch up soon.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What a day...

If you have come across this page by accident today, you can have no idea just how special it has been for Derbyshire cricket fans.

For those of a footballing persuasion, the news that broke last night of the signing of Shivnarine Chanderpaul can really only have one analogy. It is the equivalent of Derby County picking up Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in this transfer window. Seriously, it is that good.

For Chris Grant to secure his services, not just for this season, but for two, with first option on a third, is quite extraordinary. It will have taken weeks of negotiations and discussions and will mark a sea change in the perception of Derbyshire cricket from the wider cricketing fraternity.

No more can we be seen as 'little old Derbyshire' who are there to make up the numbers, a club that would be among the early casualties if county cricket were to be overhauled and revamped. We are now not only promoted-as-champions Derbyshire, we're 'signed one of the world's greatest-ever players Derbyshire'.

If they didn't know it before, they do now. We mean business.

Chanderpaul's Test average of 52 puts him among the legends of the game. T20 isn't his strongest suit, but I could see him as a good innings sheet anchor with the talent and nous to bat through an innings, allowing others to play the expansive shots around him. Likewise in the CB40, where his ability to find the gaps and time the ball will be a huge asset, as will his composure in run chases.

Cricket being the game it is, there is no such thing as a cast iron certainty. A player can be in prime form and peak fitness, yet get a good ball on a bad wicket. Having said that, I would nip down to a bookies now and be confident of plenty of runs from the Chanderpaul wand and a top three placing in the Championship batting averages next September.

If you have read this blog for any time you will realise that I have mentioned him as a fantasy player for the club - in Something For the Weekend, 9 November if you want to check. But be honest, who among us thought that we could afford the guy, or convince him to come? I didn't. The thought of watching him in our colours for at least the next two years is quite extraordinary.

Below last night's/this morning's post, Mark asked if I was worried about Chanderpaul's age. I actually answered that one on December 5 Monday Musings. There I suggested that Shiv was like Mark Ramprakash and Graham Hick, his technique being more than enough to see him into his forties. He's not an expansive player like others mentioned in that piece, rather one who has worked out his game and plays his shots when the percentages are in his favour.

I don't see him fielding at cover point, but he is a steady fielder. He used to bowl handy leg spin, though hasn't for some time. But they don't matter all that much, as long as Chanderpaul replicates the form that he has shown throughout a long and glittering career in Derbyshire colours.

With a young batting side, the close season has seen much discussion over a need for experience. Well, we've got that now, with someone as good as it gets.

Then, of course, we're spoilt. In the same press release we read that we are pursuing the signing of Martin Guptill for the T20. Be fair, Guptill and Chanderpaul opening the batting on a warm summer's evening has got to whet your appetite. Cricket doesn't get much better than that. Or this, as he takes apart Steve Harmison in one brutal over..

Chris Grant, Simon Storey and Karl Krikken have done wonders and deserve each and every accolade. They fully deserve the support of the Derbyshire business community and cricket fans for an astonishing coup and I fully expect, in the coming weeks, for them to get it. On behalf of all Derbyshire cricket fans, I'd like to thank them for their efforts and for a day that few of us will ever forget.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul is coming to Derbyshire. Be still my beating heart...


At a time when counties around England are finding it difficult to entice top players across to play in the English game, Chris Grant and Karl Krikken have pulled off a signing that will send shock waves around the county circuit.

Derbyshire have signed a legend. A man currently ranked number two in the world, having recently been displaced by Australia's Michael Clarke. A man still very much in his prime.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul is one of a small band of international batsmen to have scored ten thousand Test runs, many of them made in a poor West Indies side. In the process, he has established himself as one of the most difficult men to dismiss in the international game. He is one of only six players to have gone one thousand minutes in Test cricket without conceding his wicket. He has done this four times, and is the only player to have done this astonishing feat more than once. He is also the only batsman in the history of Test cricket to have faced a thousand consecutive balls without getting out. He is one of only four batsmen to have averaged more than 100 in two different calendar years (the qualification being 400 runs) and the only one, other than Sir Donald Bradman, to do so in consecutive years.

Yet conversely, Chanderpaul has scored the fourth fastest Test hundred - off 69 balls - in the history of the game, against Australia. He is currently the second highest run scorer for the West Indies after Brian Lara, having overtaken Sir Viv Richards on 17 May 2009.

He may not be the most graceful player in the world game, but he is mightily, supremely effective. An unorthodox, perhaps unique technique sees him work the ball into spaces and around the corner, though any bowler who drops short falls victim to a rapier-like cut or a savage pull. The footage below shows his ability around the wicket, as one might expect with a player of such reputation.

Three previous short stints in the county game have been a huge success. Chanderpaul averaged 54 for Lancashire, 58 for Durham and 90 for Warwickshire

By any standards, these are impressive figures and by reputation in advance of arrival, Chanderpaul must go down as the biggest batsman to sign for Derbyshire. Dean Jones and Mohammad Azharuddin were players of world class, but neither were ranked quite so highly, Peter Kirsten's reputation was made at the club, while Eddie Barlow was an all-rounder. It goes without saying that should Chanderpaul emulate the feats of such players in his stint at the club we will have a treat in store.

I suppose the big question is where he will bat in the order. He has opened in the past with success, as well as filling other positions in the top five with ease. I'm happy to leave that decision to Karl Krikken and Wayne Madsen to decide, but the presence of Shivnarine Chanderpaul in our batting line-up is the most extraordinary news that any Derbyshire fan could have wished for.

Regular readers will be aware that a few weeks ago I put him on my short list of fantasy signings for Derbyshire, though I didn't dare to think that it could come to realisation. Great players - and that is what he is - haven't habitually signed for Derbyshire over the years. Recently inducted into the American College Cricket Hall of Fame, Chanderpaul's recent form confirms that he is still very much at the height of his powers. Anyone who wants to see a genuine great of the era should get down to the County Ground a few times next summer. It is hard to think of a better role model for young supporters, let alone the talented young batsmen at the club, who can only benefit from working alongside him. There should be more than a few memberships on the back of this news, because Chanderpaul isn't just a good, solid professional.

He is one of the all-time greats of the game and those statistics don't lie. Making runs in a good team, when you go in at 230-3, is a lot easier than regularly making an entrance at 25-3 or somesuch. That's why his position in the order is of minimal importance. Batting for his country, he has faced more than his share of new balls and handled it beautifully. It would make sense for him to be in earlier than later, but that is a discussion for another day.

Chris Grant has made a massive impact on Derbyshire cricket in just under two years, yet took a little stick from people for an ill-advised comment, presumably made in the euphoria of becoming chairman, that he was looking for a landmark signing for the club. While it might have taken longer than he hoped, no one can now say that he hasn't delivered on that promise. I hope that those who stop him on his walks around the ground to moan about things - I've seen it happen a time or two - will now stop him again, shake his hand and say "Well done, Mr Chairman".

The amount of work that has gone into this signing, the phone calls, e-mails, meetings and discussions, will have been colossal. It will have taken weeks and weeks of work and it is to the chairman's immense credit that he has persuaded a man of this stature to come to play for OUR cricket club.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul will be playing for Derbyshire next season. And maybe for two years after that. I just had to pause and read that again.

I've just written my favourite-ever blog piece.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Postscript to Chanderpaul story

The statement issued by Derbyshire CCC on their website tonight suggests that any move for Shivnarine Chanderpaul, or any other player of international pedigree, is far from a done deal.

They will have several irons in the fire and the problem with stories of this nature breaking, of course, is that it can, in some cases, alert other counties to the availability of certain players.

We all know that Derbyshire are a long way from being the most affluent county on the circuit, though we are definitely among the best run. It would be a tragedy if a move for any player of international standing was hijacked because of a news report.

I've heard another couple of names mentioned in relation to the club, as well as that of the brilliant West Indian, in recent weeks, but it was not my place to put those names in a public forum, nor that of anyone else, for that matter.

This winter will have seen a monumental amount of work to secure the services of a world-class player and when the club have a signature to a contract it is only fair that they - and only they - have the right to break the news first. It's called fairness. I guess I'd never have made a journalist...

Once the news of a signing is out there, you will read my thoughts on it soon afterwards.

Until then, I'm saying nowt.

Midweek Musings

There is fascinating and - if true - unbelievably exciting news on Cricinfo today, where George Dobell suggests that Derbyshire are chasing Shivnarine Chanderpaul for part of next season.

You can read what the excellent Mr Dobell has written by clicking on the link above. I don't want to get too excited at this stage, however, as there are a number of unanswered questions in the piece.

For one, there is a world of difference between 'chasing' and 'have signed'. Another is that there is no indication as to how much of the season he might be available for. The West Indies have mid-summer commitments this year and one never knows whether additional tournaments might be arranged for some corner of a foreign land that will forever not be England...

It is very exciting but I will temper my excitement for the time being. When you have been a supporter of Derbyshire for the 45 summers that I have, you have seen a few names linked and more than a few chased that came to naught. Dennis Lillee was the earliest I recall, a move that fizzled out when he got a stress fracture in his back. There have been plenty of others since and as fans we have little idea of the number of players that the club has pursued to some degree.

Last year we came close to signing both Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga for T20, but both fell through for different reasons. The story suggests interest from Worcestershire, but their second division status would surely count against them. One assumes that a player of Chanderpaul's quality, IF he is interested in another county stint, would wish to do so in the top tier, something that would be in Derbyshire's favour. By the same token, other counties yet to secure a player for the summer cannot fail to be interested in the availability of one of the modern greats of world cricket, a player who until very recently was ranked the number one batsman in the world. He is still number two, after Michael Clarke's recent golden run and would be a quite breathtaking signing.

The very fact that we are linked with a player of that calibre is indicative of how far we have come in a very short space of time. The acid test will be if we manage to secure the services of a man who sits between Brian Lara and Viv Richards in the top three West Indian run scorers of all time.

Now THAT would be something to get excited about...

Sunday, 6 January 2013

From Distant Lands to Derbyshire 7 - Michael Holding

Even for a county with the history of seam bowling that we have, Michael Holding was special.

The lineage from Warren and Bestwick through Copson, Pope, Gladwin, Jackson, Rhodes and Hendrick was generally of an accurate fast-medium, or medium-fast, depending on your preference. Rhodes could be quick for a few overs, Copson could too, but for the rest it was a case of being quick enough to be awkward, rather than really, really scary.

Alan Ward was very quick for too short a time, but when Michael Holding joined Derbyshire in 1983, at 29 he was probably the best fast bowler in the world. Watching him from the boundary edge was an awe-inspiring sight and one can only guess what it was like to be at the business end, 22 yards away.

I'd seen him over the previous years emerge as a lithe, graceful, athletic bowler who looked like his action was the best grooved and lissome in the history of the game. Whereas some quick bowlers - Ward being a good example - looked like they were quick despite their action, Holding gave the impression that everything from the top of his run to the release of the ball was a well-grooved machine.  Even that run up was a thing of beauty, although he could easily reduce it, as he did as years passed, yet still be capable of a ball of genuine pace.

For those of you too young to have seen Michael in his pomp, have a look at this legendary spell against England in 1976

In his first four or five summers at the club, there was always the possibility that he would replicate that sort of spell, turning an innings that was coasting into disarray in a few overs. He got pace from the most lifeless of tracks, yet had the nous not to try and bowl every ball at top speed.

In his early thirties he was still a superb bowler. The real pace had gone, but he was hard to get away and there was always the possibility of the occasional really quick ball to surprise batsmen. He was a wonderful asset to Kim Barnett when he took over the captaincy of the team, a go-to bowler who would take the ball, especially in one-day games, when the scoring rate needed slowed down or a wicket was needed.

He still holds the best List A bowling figures for Derbyshire, with his 8-21 against Sussex at Hove in 1988. For that matter, I'd suggest that he is likely to do for a long time to come. Reports suggested that it was swing and movement, rather than pace that did for the south coast side that day and the only disappointment is that few Derbyshire fans were there to see it.

Nor was he a bad batsman and many a run chase was enlivened by some lavish Caribbean strokes. Again, he was happy to go in and swing the bat with nary a thought of average, something that was appreciated by his team mates, as well as by supporters.

I have always had an issue with the series of books by a well-known publisher that list a hundred 'greats' of a given county. The issue is in how you measure greatness. If it is on a local scale, one would probably struggle to name more than thirty that met with any applicable criteria from a Derbyshire perspective. If it is on an international scale, then the number of players concerned in our colours would be in single figures.

Beyond any doubt, Michael Holding would be up there in the top three. In an age where fast bowlers are wrapped in cotton wool by their national cricket masters and their workload is constantly monitored, I can safely say that we will never see his like again.

I'm just glad that I was around to see it.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

I feel sorry for Khawaja...

Those who have stuck with this blog for any length of time will know that I didn't rate Usman Khawaja as a T20 player. He is a top bloke, a very good batsman and an improving fielder. Yet I have seldom seen him bat T20 and been impressed, his batting appearing too one-dimensional and his running indecisive.

Having said that, and with several weeks of watching his side in the Australian Big Bash, he is by some distance a standout player in a side that is singularly ineffectual at the format.

A standout? Why, Chris Gayle is in the unfortunately named Sydney Thunder, presumably so called because they are clapped out. There have been seven straight losses for a side that, Khawaja and Dirk Nannes apart, seems to have little aptitude for the format. Khawaja averages 45, having moved down the order, and the next best batsman averages 20. Gayle, who looks woefully out of touch, has just 72 runs from six starts, while Mark Cosgrove, Chris Rogers and Matthew Prior average 14, 14 and 8 respectively.

Nannes still bowls quick and well, but no other bowler looks threatening nor bowls tight. They don't field well either and there have been some shockingly poor dropped catches. At no point in any of the games that I have seen did the players appear to feel they could win and morale seems very low.

Indeed, the Big Bash has been quite poor this year. Although they are in fourth place at present, the best team for me has been the Hobart Hurricanes. The bowling is steady, if not especially penetrative, but with Ricky Ponting, Travis Birt, George Bailey, Owais Shah, Tim Paine and Scott Styris in the batting they seldom lack for runs.

The Melbourne Renegades are currently top, primarily because of a fine team ethic that generally sees someone bail them out at tough times. Marlon Samuels and Murali have both done pretty well, but Aaron Finch so often gets them away to a flier that the rest can knock it around for the win. Netherlands star Tom Cooper continues to look a decent player too and if Finch stays in his current form they should make the final. He is built like Travis Birt and gives the ball an almighty thump, as well as bowling decent left-arm spin.

The competition again highlights the way to success for Derbyshire. Bat long and have two or three spin options. Malinga and Nannes apart, the best bowlers have been the tweakers and twirlers who mix up the pace, line and length and keep the opposition batsmen guessing.

Derbyshire are well-equipped in this area, with Hughes, Durston, Knight, Burgoyne and Wainwright all capable of bowling good, steady spin and all of them capable of scoring runs too. I'm not suggesting that we go into games with all five of them, but the value of such players is being proven on a weekly basis in Australia.

I reckon it would be no bad thing come summer time here, either.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Midweek musings

It has been another sad few days for cricket, with the passing of Christopher Martin-Jenkins. He was an excellent commentator and, in an era where it appears a pre-requisite for those in such roles to have been players themselves, he was one of the last of the breed.

He always struck me as a fair man in his comments and writing and was able to describe the action with a clarity and gift that is given to a very few. For me, cricket commentary has been best served by CMJ, Brian Johnston, John Arlott and Henry Blofeld, none of them cricketers, but wordsmiths all. It is good to have the expert analysts, but those four combined a passion for and knowledge of the game with an ability to paint a picture nonpareil.

All is quiet at the County Ground, though I understand that next week will see the announcement of the 2013 Academy intake. Mykylo Bird, Harvey Hosein, Tom Taylor, Greg Massingham, Greg Cork and Will Davis look likely to have another year, although the identity of those coming on board is a mystery until next week. There are several strong candidates, however and I look forward to seeing the names of those involved.

So, indeed, should everyone, as these lads are very much the future of our club. We must continue to invest in and produce our own young talent and hope that they emerge as the next generation to follow Redfern, Whiteley, Burgoyne, Knight, Hughes, Borrington and more. The sterling work that was started by Karl Krikken and is now led by Howard Dytham brought somewhat premature dividends last summer. Fast forward five years and who knows what this young crop of talent might achieve?

As I have written before, some will always fall by the wayside and reach a level that tops out before the first-class game, but if one or two from each year come through, the academy will more than justify its existence. In my opinion it will, and will continue to go from strength to strength.

Why am I so confident? Because the club has excellent coaches who know local cricket, together with a scouting network that is improving all the time. There will be few, if any, young players in the Derbyshire and Staffordshire areas that they are unaware of, with the presence of Kevin Dean in the local leagues, together with his role at the club, being of real benefit.

We will all, in due course, be getting excited (hopefully!) about our new overseas player for 2013. None of us should underestimate the importance of next week's announcement.

After all, one of them could quite possibly be one of our idols in a few years time.

Nice thought, huh?