The latest options for the Derbyshire Fantasy First-Class XI highlight the issues with such ventures.
The original idea was to select a side with two overseas players. Having picked Michael Di Venuto and Chris Rogers to open, those berths were already taken, thus rendering the overseas names to follow largely redundant.
I clarified this with the excellent people in the club's marketing team and got an immediate reply - there will be two sides named, one with two overseas players, and one with the players gaining the most votes.
Being an old-fashioned kind of dude, I am going with two overseas players and am quite happy with the ones I have in the side to open. I wouldn't have chosen anyone else over those two and in the paragraphs below I will tell you why.
Pretty much by definition, if you are bringing a player from the other side of the world, he should be better than you already have. If one assumes that a decent county player will average between 30 and 40 with the bat, I have an expectation that an overseas star should average 40 as a bare minimum and ideally over 50.
That's why Di Venuto and Rogers were such fine players. Although neither played in a strong Derbyshire batting side, they scored thousands of runs. The weight of the batting lay on their shoulders, but both seemed to thrive on the pressure, a mark of genuine talent and sense of responsibility.
If nothing else, the available options for the middle order confirm that, whatever else, Derbyshire have chosen overseas players fairly effectively. With only one domestically-reared player in the selection, it highlights some judicious recruitment, even if the results didn't always follow on from that.
I would have liked to see Chris Taylor among the options. I know he only played one full season with us, but in that summer he looked head and shoulders above most of his team mates as a batsman, in all forms of the game. Perhaps his lack of appearances counted against him, but Simon Katich is in there and only played thirteen first-class matches. That he was a fine player is beyond doubt, but I am going to go for players who made a more lasting impact on the county's fortunes.
My first is easy - Wayne Madsen. Watching the Derbyshire skipper grow as a county cricketer and as a captain has been a pleasure. He is a delightful and ever-improving batsman, as well as one of the nicest sportsmen it has been my pleasure to meet. I suspect his average will continue to climb and he will end his career as one of the very select number of genuine club legends. Enjoy watching him while we have him, as he is up there with the best in our history. A record of at least a fifty in every two matches that he has played is really something, especially after playing ninety games.
My second choice is Wes Durston. He can be a poor starter, his feet slow to get moving, but when Wes gets it right there are few better sights in the game. His stroke play can be imperious, dismissing the ball from his presence and he has played some spectacular innings. His forte is probably the one-day game, but as a game-changer with bat or ball, as well as a safe catcher anywhere, I would have Wes in my team every time.
My third choice is perhaps more contentious - Chris Bassano. He was a player I loved to see bat and his strokes were crisp and clean when he was in the groove. A naturally quick scorer, only his health issues with diabetes held Chris back from becoming a fixture in the county game. He would have had greater freedom to play those shots with such an opening pair and I would be more than happy with a top five of Rogers, Di Venuto, Madsen, Bassano and Durston.
The others? It is difficult to leave out the legend that is Chanderpaul, but his very best days were behind him when he played for us and I've already picked my two overseas stars and their records were better. Wavell Hinds could play but didn't score enough runs, while Travis Birt was a batsman of moods who found odd ways to be dismissed. Both were fine players when in the groove, but this is select company.
Run machine Simon Katich was a terrific player, but thirteen games isn't enough involvement in our history to get into my team, while Hassan Adnan was a mercurial talent. He had all the shots and time to play them, but only converted ten of 61 first-class scores in excess of fifty into centuries. He wasn't a great runner between the wickets either, so he misses out too.
I will be interested to see who other people select, but hopefully you appreciate my rationale and, for what it is worth, the quality of that top five.
Rogers, Di Venuto, Madsen, Bassano, Durston...yeah, I'd queue for tickets to see that batting side!