As off-field events go, those of recent days mark a defining moment in the history of Derbyshire County Cricket Club.
The reality is that in the next three years the 3aaa County Ground will change out of all recognition and undoubtedly for the better. The old ground was vast, cold and unwelcoming, while the current one has a certain charm though is somewhat rustic, featuring very obvious bits and pieces done at different stages when there was a little money to spare.
When it is complete, the new ground will bear little resemblance to the one that I photographed at the end of last season. Parts of it will be recognisable, but we will have facilities that are fit for purpose, that enable us to make money all year round, that offer function facilities second to none and make joining Derbyshire, from both a player and supporter perspective, a very attractive proposition.
It is exciting and should be seen as such by everyone. There will be those who like their little nook in a current place, but progress is important and the club is some way removed from the one that faced insolvency on several occasions in the not too distant past. As I wrote the other evening, all concerned deserve a big pat on the back for work of quite extraordinary magnitude.
Onwards and upwards...
Staying off the field, the latest 'recruit' to the 21st century fantasy side is James Pipe, one that I agree with one hundred per cent. I never got a chance to comment on this one due to other commitments, but for me it came down to a straight choice between Pipe and Luke Sutton. In another few years, there's every chance Tom Poynton could win such a vote, or Harvey Hosein perhaps, but Pipe was a very fine wicket-keeper batsman who is now an even better physiotherapist.
It boiled down quite simply for me - Pipe won matches for Derbyshire, while Luke Sutton saved us a few. The latter produced some gritty efforts in an average batting side, while James galvanised innings and pulled a win out of the fire on a number of occasions. If either Tom or Harvey can replace him adequately in the years ahead there will be few complaints.
Finally tonight, Mark Footitt has, apparently, not given up on his international aspirations and I can understand that after the Lions South African tour. Reports have suggested that the tour offered nothing new on either Liam Plunkett or Boyd Rankin, both of them strange selections when surely the purpose of such tours is to do just that?
Jonathan Trott scored heavily, but was always likely to as a class batsman, but of the bowlers only Mark Wood emerged with reputation enhanced. If the party made up the best of the supposed next tier of talent, then Footitt has a right to remain optimistic, especially if he starts the summer in good form. I still see his non-selection for South Africa as an opportunity missed, however.
Meanwhile, young South African batsman Theunis de Bruyn looks a likely international of the future after scoring 202 and 161 in his two innings. The youngster has a current List A average of 87 and first-class one of 60...hard to maintain but indicative of rare talent.
Indeed the winter has been good for the Saffers, as several players have emerged. Rilee Rossouw looks a good opening batsman, while Temba Bavuma has potential. I also like two all rounders I have seen, Chris Morris and David Wiese. Both bowl with decent pace and hostility, while hitting the ball a long way. I would be surprised if some of these players are not picked up by a discerning county in the next year or two.
I especially liked the look of Wiese, who handled a West Indian assault well. A player who scores his runs at 160 per hundred balls and bowls his overs at under eight, he would be an astute T20 signing for a county - assuming he fulfilled selection criteria. Such players are widespread in that country, with Johan Botha still proving himself a very good cricketer in the Australian Big Bash.
Botha is a modern cricketer and a good one. He has captained the Adelaide Strikers with flair to the semi-finals, his side finishing top of the group section, He has scored runs at 175 per hundred balls, finishing second in the averages in doing so, while bowling his overs for under seven runs each. He is a very good fielder and as such he can make a good career around the globe, even if he played no first-class cricket.
More from me soon.