69 days and counting...the season is approaching, my friends and aren't we all glad about it?
Hope you like the countdown timer on the left of the blog and it will serve as a daily reminder until you look out the picnic set, thermos (and thermals) to head down to the County Ground once more.
It's nice to get the discussions going again too, after we all start peeking an inquisitive nose outdoors to test the air. Marc followed my post last night with a couple of observations that are worthy of further discussion - thanks as always for your thoughts, Marc.
Saturday afternoons would, of course, be the ideal for most cricket fans to enjoy T20, but the scheduling of championship matches to start on a Sunday means that the day will largely be used for traveling purposes. All concerned will be keen to avoid the frantic journeys that sides had to undertake on Saturdays to play in the old John Player League, followed by another one to resume the three-day game they were involved in on the Monday.
You can't have it all ways though and there will be plenty who are excited at the thought of being able to see championship cricket - which, let's face it, has been our recent forte - on one of their days off at the weekend. Some will pine for the good old days of forty-over cricket, but based on last season's experiences, when they seemed to squeeze the games in without much thought at any old time of week, this has got to be worth a try.
I think Marc is right in his assertion on the number six berth affording opportunity in the one-day games. Richard Johnson and Alex Hughes will both be keen to claim such a role, though so too will the very talented Scott Elstone. I understand he has been working on his off-spin over the winter to offer additional bowling options, while his ability to score quickly will be noted, as will the fielding that saw him called up as England twelfth man in the past.
Graeme Welch has quickly realised that he has considerable talent at his disposal and the secret to success will be unlocking the potential in various players. Billy Godleman could get a new lease of life after last summer's travails and potentially form a strong opening pair with Stephen Moore. Some of our young seamers may emerge, as could one or both from Peter Burgoyne and Tom Knight. The talent is undeniable and the forthcoming coaching appointments will make for fascinating reading.
Finally, Marc suggests we may have to be selective in our use of Shiv Chanderpaul, given his age. Another fair point and, like all players of advancing years, the skipper needs to be canny in where to position him in the field. I watched Murali last weekend in the Big Bash and he's slightly more mobile than the perimeter hoardings now - but invaluable to his side. There are two or three places you can 'hide' a fielder, depending on the favourite areas of the batsmen, which is very much at odds with days gone by when I recall two or three fielders we had to hide...
Injuries limited Shiv last year, but he still averaged 51 in the forty over games and 34 in T20. I'd take that as an average from all my top five right now, if someone wants to offer it. My own thoughts are that if you have a batting legend on your staff and he's fit, he plays.I expect big things from Shiv this year and will be surprised if he doesn't aim to put a slightly disappointing return in the four-day game to rights.
Different opinions, but that of Pop Welch is the one that matters. Like Krikk before him, he knows how players shape up in the nets, their fitness and what's going on in their lives, then has to use that information to choose the best team for the wicket and the opposition.
We all base ours on the understanding that our chosen eleven is in prime form and fitness, which is often far from the case. I'm sure we'll all enjoy having our say in the coming months, but must remember that we don't have all the information at our disposal.
Sixty-nine days to go....where did I put that bat....?