Apologies for the lateness of the blog tonight, but I was working till 6.30pm and after dinner simply had to see the scorching set of Robert Plant's Sensational Shape Shifters at Glastonbury. I'm glad I did...
It's given me a little time to think what I wanted to say in this piece and, to start things off, I'll have to say that the departure of Stephen Moore surprised me only in that it happened mid-season, rather than at the end of this one. He is an intelligent man and was always going to want to start a career in business sooner, rather than later. He's had a very good career and can be proud of a first-class average in the mid-thirties. Perhaps his keenness to play shots cost him a few points on that, but it's hard to criticise a player who has given rich entertainment over a lengthy career.
Worcestershire saw the best of him, but there was enough left in the tank for him to become our leading run-scorer at the time of his retirement. It was a pleasure to watch his century against Hampshire earlier in the season, one that belied the idea that he was a spent force in longer-form cricket.
A fine player and lovely bloke, he will be missed, but his departure offers opportunity at the top of the order. Paul Borrington, Ben Slater, Chesney Hughes and Billy Godleman will all hope for a run to stake their medium-term claim for a place, all of them aware that their first-class careers depend on making the most of it. That all have talent is undeniable, but they now need to translate that into weight of runs and make the kind of positive impression that Alex Hughes has done.
Nor was Richard Johnson's departure much of a surprise, as various rumours had reached me from sufficient people to make it appear likely. He was a battling batsman and a good wicket-keeper, but I didn't think he was quite good enough at either discipline to displace Tom Poynton. Whatever the technical merits of a professional cricketer, perhaps the most crucial asset is a tough mental attitude. Without it, the challenges of individual performance in a team game must become insufferable, especially when everyone following the game tells you what you're doing wrong.
I wish Richard Johnson well in his future pursuits and I'm sure he will continue to prove himself a fine cricketer just outside the top level, while pursuing his degree.
Of the three, the one that most disappoints me is Peter Burgoyne. If I'm honest, I still entertain hopes that we've not seen the last of him in the county colours, but he needs time to sort a few things and the mutually reached decision to release him was the right one at this time.
It gives the player time to get better, perhaps to rediscover his love for the game and to produce some of his best form in the local leagues without the pressure that is on players at first-class level. Burgoyne can hit a clean ball and has excellent technique, while his off-spin, while needing some work, had plenty of potential. He is still a young man and it would be a surprise to see someone of such natural talent fail to realise that over the course of the next few years. At the end of the day, it will rightly be his choice on whether he wants to do so and that must be respected.
There's an odd article on Deep Extra Cover today that suggests, inadvertently or otherwise, that something is wrong at Derbyshire, but I'm inclined to regard it as sensational, perhaps lazy journalism. It would be silly to lay the blame of any of these departures at the club's door and the reality is that only that of Stephen Moore changes anything from where we were yesterday. I certainly had no expectation of seeing the others this summer.
Will we see new players? Not now, I think. Who are we going to sign mid-season, apart from second-team players? I'd prefer to see us hold fire and Graeme Welch have the maximum 'pot' for reinforcements during the winter. This group of players is good enough to finish mid-table in the championship, while another couple of wins in the T20 would build on last night.
Major surgery is needed. There is the nucleus of a side with Madsen, Elstone, Hughes, Poynton/Cross, Footitt, Wainwright and Palladino and opportunity for others to join them on the back of performances in the next three months. But we need three or four players of proven talent and few would deny that.
Matt, below my last post, suggests we might struggle to sign such players, but I'm not so sure. In my humble opinion, we will have saved good money with the departure of Moore and Groenewald, while I'd be surprised if we retained Shiv Chanderpaul, who will have been one of the county circuit's most expensive recruits. Then there's Burgoyne and Johnson, plus the salaries of any other players we opt to release.
No, I don't think money will be an issue, as long as we can identify players who buy into the club'svision. I'm also confident that the contacts of our current coaching set up will match anything we have had in the past and we could pick up people who would make an immediate and telling impact.
More on that in the coming months, but for now let's see another good display against Durham tomorrow and build a little momentum.