Confirmation that Jon Clare appears to be well on the way to recovery from his back problems is welcome news for Derbyshire supporters, as well as for everyone within the club.
Stories about his health and fitness have landed in my email box on a good few occasions in the past couple of years, while some of those elsewhere have been scurrilous and borderline defamatory. As I have said before, there is a big difference between 'There is nothing wrong with you' and 'We do not know what is wrong with you'. Thankfully, the contacts list of James Pipe finally got Clare a chance to be seen by someone who knew both what he was looking for and how to do something about it. The result is that the player appears likely to be fit by April, which is terrific news.
It is the last year of his contract and my only hope is that he makes a good fist of that year and then, if offered another deal by Derbyshire, shows the loyalty that the club has shown to him. There have been instances in professional sport where such loyalty has not been repaid and I hope that the player is fully appreciative of the time and effort that has gone into getting him fit to play the first-class game.
As I have said before, a Derbyshire team with him in it is undoubtedly a stronger one. A bowler capable of mid-80s mph and a batsman who can change a game in a short space of time, there is much to like. I have a suspicion that he and Wayne White are perhaps battling for the one place on the staff for 2016, possibly a reason for the latter's one-year deal, but so too could be the potential in Shiv Thakor, Alex Hughes, Tom Knight and Greg Cork as all rounders.
Speaking of all rounders, it is interesting to see the club's current poll on the best since the turn of the century (which makes it sound a lot longer than it is). I haven't voted, but find it difficult to go by Dominic Cork. How do you go past an international cricketer? Graeme Welch would be in the frame, as a cricketer I admired who will probably be looked back on as an even better coach , but you have to go with Cork. While his era as a player will not be looked back on as one of the more harmonious in the club's history, it would be churlish and silly to lay all of that at his door. There were strong characters in that squad, one that contained sufficient talent to do much better than it did if they had pulled together more often.
Further afield, it was interesting to see Charl Langeveldt brought in by South Africa as a specialist T20 bowling coach. Anyone who saw him bowl in that format saw a craftsman, one who could hit the right line and length more often than not and drop yorkers in with astonishing regularity. I have yet to see anyone markedly better than him at that, only Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka running him close with Dirk Nannes a little behind.
Equally interesting was to see Jimmy Neesham omitted from New Zealand's World Cup squad. I like him as a cricketer, but his country are somewhat awash with all rounders of talent and Grant Elliott got the nod. They could be worth watching, especially when players of the calibre of Jesse Ryder and Colin Munro aren't in there. Thankfully Martin Guptill made the side and Derbyshire fans will be able to watch our fantasy T20 recruit for 2015 launch their innings in typically refreshing style. I'm also pleased to see Daniel Vettori back in the squad, a slow left armer of charm and skill.
And finally tonight, our dear neighbours up the road have signed Vernon Philander and Ben Hilfenhaus as job share overseas players for next summer. It will be the latter's first taste of county cricket, while the South African has previous stints with Somerset, Kent and Middlesex. Both are fine bowlers, but the crux for our East Midlands rivals is that for all their exciting component parts, they rarely seem to make for a cohesive whole that wins trophies. With their resources that has to be regarded as disappointing.
Or funny, depending on which county you follow...