Sitting down in my favourite armchair this evening, I told the family that I was going to do one last blog pre-Christmas. My daughter suggested I call it a Yule blog, so I did...
There's not much to report on, to be honest. The party season at The 3AAA County Ground appears to have gone swimmingly and any success there is going to impact on playing fortunes next summer. The more off-field money we earn, the more is ploughed into the playing side.
Graeme Welch will doubtless be happy with his charges at this stage and recent tweets suggest that the players are all passing their fitness tests with ease. Hopefully that will still be the case when they return from the Christmas break and all of its culinary temptations.
Welch has work to do in the New Year, but I am sure the groundwork for summer deals has been done by now. We may or may not offer terms to Azeem Rafiq, who spent time training at the club, but he has done that elsewhere and time will tell if he is deemed a worthwhile acquisition, or if someone else offers 'funny money' to secure his services. I am more than happy to leave that one with the coaching staff, who are better qualified than any of us to assess his merits.
There's also an overseas role to fill, with a T20 specialist needed too if we can find one. I suspect the former will be easier than the latter and very much dependent on the IPL auction early next year. Last week Cheteshwar Pujara was released by Kings XI Punjab and is potentially in that auction, should he decide to put his name in the frame. It was no surprise, Pujara only playing six matches for them last year. He averaged 25, which was no disgrace, but his run-a-ball strike rate was somewhat dwarfed by such big hitters as Virender Sehwag, Glenn Maxwell and David Miller.
Not only would a long spell at Derbyshire improve Pujara's long-term Test ambitions, getting plenty of one-day cricket under his belt would do him no harm either. From Derbyshire's perspective, it would be a decided asset to have a batsman in the side who is not deemed a one-day batsman, yet averages 54 in List A cricket with ten centuries. I'll take five such failures in my batting side any time!
He is not an explosive bat for T20, though one around who an innings could be built. Oh for a Guptill at the top of the order, a player to take full advantage of the early Powerplay and give us the kind of start that so often sets the tone for an innings. As before though, who wants to commit to two months in England, playing once or twice a week? Not too many of the big names, unless those with a point to prove.
The other day I watched a delightful innings by Michael Hussey in the Australian Big Bash. He made 96 and in the process something of a mockery of the decision by Mumbai Indians to release him. So too did his opening partner, Jacques Kallis, who was released by KKR. Both will surely be snapped up by a discerning owner in the new year, but if they don't, I would suggest both players would be highly sought after by county sides. Past their prime, yes, but still very good cricketers? Undoubtedly.
That's it for tonight. Like most of you I will be busy tomorrow, so all that remains is to thank you all for your continued interest in the blog and Derbyshire cricket. I hope that you all enjoy a wonderful festive season and I look forward to seeing you all on the other side of it.
Once I have posted this, I will add the penultimate part of the interview with Walter Goodyear, which has attracted a lot of mail and comments. Thanks to all of you for those too. I phoned Walter to let him know how pleased people were and he seemed astonished in the level of interest.
A man of humour, knowledge and humility. Not many of those around...
Merry Christmas everyone!