Less than a week to go...
Yes, winter is a thing of the past and we're into the Spring. Coincidentally, the last couple of mornings here have been as cold as anything we've had through the cold, dark months and that's a sure indicator that cricket is coming round once more. Get those hand-warmers out, lads!
If anything summed up the gap between levels in cricket, it has been the fortunes of the Netherlands cricket team in the past week. Having pulled off one of the greatest cricketing 'heists' with their run chase against a decent Irish attack, they were summarily despatched for just 39 runs by a much better Sri Lankan one. While Tim Murtagh and George Dockrell are talented cricketers, Mendis and Malinga are on a completely different level.
All of us need to keep that in mind when criticising our own players, of course. Some of us may be (or have been) decent enough players in our time, but the gulf between our talent and that of first-class players is vast. Similarly that between the good county professional and the top-class international is substantial. We will see where errors occur, but sometimes the players in other sides are simply too good, irrespective of the best efforts of our lads. Hopefully that isn't the case too many times this season, mind...
Over on Cricinfo, the talented George Dobell has produced a pre-season preview of our fortunes, which is largely sensible and well thought out, as befits the writer, but contains a few points on which I would comment.
I don't think it is fair of him to criticise our 'fragile' batting last summer and then to do the same to a batsman of proven talent and experience brought in to address that very weakness. Nor do I feel that the batting, as he suggests, looks weak this summer. Indeed, with proven run-scorers at this level in Moore and Durston, together with one of last year's best batsmen in Madsen and a confirmed great of the game in Chanderpaul, it is a somewhat contentious comment.
OK, his point about Chesney Hughes is valid and he needs to translate undoubted talent to weight of runs sometime soon. I'll also accept that the opening partner for Moore is a place that needs cemented, but there's plenty of options (and talent) to do so. I have a hunch that Godleman may prove himself this summer, while both Paul Borrington and Ben Slater showed their cards on the pre-season tour, as did Scott Elstone. No, I'm less concerned about the batting than in many pre-seasons of recent vintage, though, like all sides, they will experience their share of bad days.
While both Dan Redfern and Ross Whiteley have gone, there will be few who continue to mourn their departure. Their closing form and the manner of departures ensured as much and most fans will look at the batting and feel we are a stronger side now than we were twelve months ago.
I also feel that Mr Dobell doesn't fully recognise the change of coach and the process followed in the appointment. The Elite Performance model was one that the club were keen to adopt and to that effect the length of time that Karl Krikken had in post was irrelevant. No one has more respect for Krikk and what he did for Derbyshire as player and coach than I, but let's not forget that he was given every opportunity to throw his hat into the ring.
Why he chose not to do so is anyone's guess, but the crux of the model is in having someone at the helm who can manage various coaches and delegate, embrace new technology and ensure that everyone 'buys in' to the process. Perhaps he didn't feel like changing his established way of working, but it was his prerogative either way and no blame should be apportioned to the club who offered him the opportunity to apply. I have never criticised attempted improvements and after years of following a that was for the most part in stagnation, I'm hardly going to start now.
My pre-season preview will be up at the weekend. In the meantime, thanks for your comments and e mails. It appears many of you enjoyed the Chris Taylor interview as much as I did myself!