Thursday, 5 March 2015

Abu Dhabi do...county head for Dubai

There's only 45 days till cricket starts again. Proper cricket, involving a team that a man can be really bothered about.

Derbyshire.

I've watched the World Cup on and off but that viewing has been largely restricted to weekends. Watching a start at 3am isn't conducive to getting up at 6.30am for work, so I have watched what I can, when I can.

My pre-tournament favourites have all impressed. New Zealand look good, if a little gung-ho with the bat at times. Australia have a powerful batting line-up too, while South Africa's is firing on all cylinders right now, albeit against bowling that is at times barely first-class in standard. India cannot be discounted, but aside from Ashwin I don't think their attack holds the terrors of the other sides.

England have disappointed, but I'm not in the least surprised. The attack is like watching the Stepford Wives...wave after wave of right arm fast-medium, interspersed with off-spin that is functional at best. It cries out for a left-armer (well hello, Mr Footitt...) of any pace and just some variety. You can't say that Anderson, Broad, Woakes and Finn aren't good bowlers, but good batsmen are lining them up and working them around the field for fun.

It all gives incentives to Derbyshire's players as they round off a sterling pre-season effort by heading to Dubai. As they do so, it crossed my mind today that we have rarely had so many seam bowlers pushing through as we have at present.

With a 'senior tier' of Footitt, Palladino, White (major) and Clare, you then add in Taylor, Cotton and Cork. Yesterday came news of summer deals for White (minor) and Davis, all this before one considers the offer from Alex Hughes and Shiv Thakor.

What is so good about the young contingent is the variety they bring. There is Ben Cotton's height and movement off the seam; Tom Taylor's swing; the different angle of the left-handed Greg Cork. Disregard to some extent what you saw of these lads last year, because a winter of physical development can make a huge difference to a young bowler. All of them could be a few yards faster this year, just as Alex Hughes was between the start and finish of the summer last year.

Then there's Will Davis and Harry White. The potential of the former has been recognised by England and the young player recently admitted that Graeme Welch had taught him to swing the ball both ways now. White, younger brother of Wayne, will doubtless dream of one day playing alongside his sibling in Derbyshire colours and again, his angle of attack gives him something special. I wish both players the best of luck for the coming summer and look forward to hearing about and reporting on their successes.

Indeed, it is a summer with so much to look forward to. I cannot wait to see Shiv Thakor in our colours and think that he could be a massive player for us in the next few years. So too could Tom Knight, yet another with all-round capabilities.

For me, Knight is one of the cleanest hitters of a cricket ball in the side and showed his potential last summer. If, over the winter, the coaches have managed to 'groove' his action and got him spinning the ball more, we could have a serious talent on our hands. Don't be surprised if he forces his way through to a senior spinning role in the next few months. For me the only barrier to that might be the possible signing of Azeem Rafiq from Yorkshire. It was reported several months ago that he was training with the club and I am impressed with how there has been no knee-jerk signing. By this stage they will have had a good look at him and made a decision, one way or another, probably after working on his own action along the way. David Wainwright will need to be at the top of his game to see of the challenge, that's for sure.

As the season approaches, I will be looking at some of the key areas in the side and the decisions that will have to be made by Graeme Welch.

Finally tonight, warm congratulations to all involved for the modest profit returned over the past twelve months.

To manage this for the fourth successive season is a wonderful achievement for a small club with a relatively modest budget. There are plenty who would swap that for their own figures, including champions Yorkshire, who recorded a deficit of £300K last year.

Congratulations to all concerned!

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