Over the winter months, the gradual release of the news regarding our overseas stars for 2015 was met with considerable excitement on this blog and on social media.
Understandably so. A lot of hard work went into acquiring the signings of Hashim Amla, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Martin Guptill and Hamish Rutherford, the world of cricket impressed by the stature of those we recruited. The first three, at least, had acquired big reputations and there was a quite natural assumption that each would bring the skills and runs that had created them.
To be fair, I've never been a fan of 'revolving door' recruitment. It backfired horribly on Essex when they spent a rumoured £10K on Dwayne Bravo for the knock out phase of the T20, only for him to have a disastrous first game in which line and length deserted him with the ball and form with the bat and they left the competition.
It is a difficult market. That revolving door is forced onto many sides by the increasingly congested calendar of international fixtures, leaving many players unavailable and those who technically would be in desperate need of a breather.
Derbyshire's signing of such names as those above looked to have nailed success, but with the exception of the admirable Guptill, it has been only a qualified success. I accept that Amla and Dilshan have been an asset in the dressing room with their experience, but the cold truth is that an inexperienced squad like ours really needed weight of runs from both. With the money we undoubtedly spent on them, the returns have been poor. Dilshan may return from his stint in the Caribbean Premier League invigorated and in form, but I look enviously at the likes of Michael Klinger at Gloucestershire for the sort of player we really need for another year.
No matter how good a player you are, it must be difficult turning up in another country for three weeks, quickly getting used to wickets and then performing to expectations. If people of their standing in the game struggle to do it, what hope for others? Far better if we could identify a fringe player for a national side, one who has played the requisite games to qualify to play here, but has either slipped out of the picture or retired from the international game.
Oh for a Chris Rogers or Michael Di Venuto! Maybe I'm alone on this, but I can't help thinking we may get more in the coming weeks from Hamish Rutherford, a batsman of talent with a reputation to build. Just as we would from, assuming they were qualified to play through their international appearances, the likes of Chris Morris, David Wiese or Farhaan Behardien from South Africa, Jimmy Neesham of New Zealand or Mitchell Marsh of Australia. All of them players who might find their international claims revitalised or enhanced with a good season in England.
Or there's George Bailey, a very good batsman whose Australian international career is a peripheral one at the age of 32 and might be a good option for the middle order. Identifying a player in this bracket, perhaps not the very top tier in the world game, but who could play half a season or more, would for me be a better bet than a big name every four or five weeks.
I don't think, for example, that history has been kind to the memory of Jon Moss. A player of perhaps more modest talent, but who, in 2005, scored 1500 runs in all cricket for us, as well as taking fifty wickets to a similar mid-thirties average. I'd take that from a player who probably didn't cost the earth but offered something with bat and ball. That would then free 'big player' money for a reliable out-of-contract player from another county, one who could give us important experience in the middle order, perhaps.
The best overseas player in the county game in recent seasons has been Jeetan Patel at Warwickshire. He averages in the thirties with the bat, in the twenties with the ball, gives them control in one-day games and takes wickets. Can you ask for more?
Looking at the 2016 international schedule, there is hope, however. New Zealand have no scheduled tours during our summer and there are any number of talented players from that country who would be an asset to us. We'd take Mr Guptill in a heartbeat, but wouldn't say no to any of around seven or eight others, either.
Something to think about, for sure and while on that subject I'd suggest that they have been the most popular tourists to this country in many years. Not just for the way that they play the game, which is always aggressive, always on the front foot, but because they have done it with smiles on their faces.
They have been an absolute credit to their country and I hope that next time they are awarded more than a somewhat derisory two-Test series.