For the first time in many years, it is almost impossible to pick a first choice side at Derbyshire this summer.
Time was, and not that long ago, the interested supporter could probably name nine of a first choice eleven and get pretty close to the full side. Not so now, as Graeme Welch has assembled and cultivated a squad - a genuine squad - that has depth in most positions, especially in seam bowling. To the club's great credit, many are academy products.
A few people were aghast last summer when Tim Groenewald was allowed to leave the county. Those same people will be a little sheepish now, as the popular seamer's departure enabled Welch to accelerate the development of young bowlers who impressed him as soon as he arrived at Derby last year.
The giant Ben Cotton, not yet fully filled out out at 21 but able to move the ball around at decent pace, stands out in any company, but Tom Taylor, another from Staffordshire, has made a positive impression since his elevation to the senior side, bowling back of a length in a style not dissimilar to Mike Hendrick. A year younger and competing for a place in the senior side is Greg Cork, son of county legend Dominic. Word is that Cork junior has filled out and gained pace over the winter, his left-handed style giving him an advantage and Welch a nice option. With England under-19 spearhead Will Davis and Harry White, brother of Wayne, in the next age group down, the county's seam bowling depth will be envied by most other counties.
Mark Footitt will again spearhead the attack and supporters, together with opening batsmen around the country, will wonder why he hasn't yet got an England call. The identical and insipid nature of the national attack in the recent World Cup was there for all to see, never an accusation to level at the left-handed Footitt. He hit enough helmets, thigh pads and arm protectors last year to suggest pace well above the routine and while the odd ball still goes askew, he is a much-improved bowler under the tutelage of the highly-regarded Welch.
With support available from the reliable Tony Palladino and Wayne White, as well as all-rounders Shiv Thakor and Alex Hughes, the seam bowling has enviable riches to exploit most surfaces. There is less in the spin cupboard, but Wes Durston winkles out batsmen with his off-spin, while David Wainwright and Chesney Hughes have big seasons ahead of them. Two moderate summers have followed an excellent 2012 for the former, while Chesney will at last be able to add his left-arm 'darts' to batting which supporters will hope is back to its best, now he is fully recovered from shoulder surgery.
A key man could be Tom Knight, who has apparently emerged from a winter spent working on his action with an improved action that should help him take more wickets. Still only 21, despite being around for a few summers, Knight could emerge as first choice spinner this year, his claims enhanced by his ability in the field and a talent to hit a ball as cleanly as anyone in the club. A comparison with Ian Blackwell comes up when discussing his talent and he could play a leading part in all cricket as the summer progresses.
It will be great to see (and hear!) Tom Poynton back behind the stumps after last year's tragedy, though he will be pushed hard by Harvey Hosein, at eighteen a player of real potential with both gloves and bat. His debut at The Oval last year was Boy's Own material and pre-season form suggests he is ready for an opportunity when it comes.
The side is blessed with a number of all-rounders. Wayne White has rejoined from Lancashire and brings experience and talent, while after two seasons blighted by injury, Jonathan Clare will be available in May. It will be the equivalent of a new player, his back problem having finally been diagnosed and hopefully sorted by surgery. With new signing Shiv Thakor a player of special talent and Alex Hughes keen to build on last year's positive impression, batting depth would appear to be more likely than in recent summers.
A question mark remains on the batting, but there are reasons for optimism. Two of the World Cup's top five batsmen, Martin Guptill and Tillakaratne Dilshan, will share overseas duties and their dynamic style should complement whoever is chosen to open alongside them. Billy Godleman played some innings of quality at the end of last summer, but Ben Slater is likely to get the first opportunity after good pre-season form, following on from twin centuries in the last match of 2014. He is one to watch and his compact style could prove an excellent foil for the overseas men.
Batting success will once again revolve around Captain Fantastic, Wayne Madsen. Now England-qualified, he is simply a class act. Constantly improving as a captain and a strong figurehead for the club, he is one of the nicest men in cricket and massively important to the side's hopes of success.
He and Welch have forged an all-important bond and created a vital twelfth man in team spirit. There was an air of inevitability in watching the county towards the end of last summer, wickets always appearing around the corner as a tight unit cranked up the pressure, the skipper making regular bowling changes to make the opposition work. If that can be re-created early, the catches stick and Guptill and Dilshan replicate their international form, Derbyshire can be in the promotion shake-up by the end of the summer.
There are two potential issues. The batting has to be more robust and we also need a spin option to take advantage when the wickets start to turn. None of ours in the recent past have hinted at a fifty-wicket season, but we will need close to that from any combination of them to succeed in the later season.
I've been asked many times for my side to start the season and have already stated that it is tough. For the record, here is my best effort as we start with experience, but you could replace almost anyone, apart from Guptill, Madsen and Footitt, without major detriment.
There are seven bowlers, a depth of batting and some very good players outside the eleven. Graeme Welch can rotate bowlers to keep them fresh and that will be crucial when we hit the closing weeks of the season.
If we can get off to a flyer...who knows?