Saturday, 19 September 2015

Perennial moaners fail to see bigger picture

On my return from holidays, I had an electronic postbag to catch up with which was probably a blessing to the local postman, who wouldn't have fancied carrying them all to my door. I am nearly there, but if I haven't yet responded to your email, I apologise and promise to do so before the end of the weekend.

Next week I will be down in God's Own County for the last game of the season. It was pre-booked back in March, truth be told, in the hope that it might be a promotion party like 2012. Sadly it is some way removed from that. Not a battle for the wooden spoon, thank goodness, but we're not remotely close to the shake-up for promotion places.

There are reasons for that, of course. Two big-budget counties are going up, while we have not been aided by under-performing, big name overseas stars and an increasingly crippling injury list. Most things that could be pulled, twisted or broken have been, heads have been clattered and the queue for James Pipe's services must at times have resembled those we saw in Barcelona at the Sagrada Familia. If only the weather had been as good...

'You should look at the other site' said two or three mails. Not something I tend to do, to be honest, as one generally requires a prescription for anti-depressants to do so, but I had a brief look, for the first time in several months.

Same old, same old. 'Rock Bottom and Still Falling' said one piece, written by a regular contributor on here under another name, yet missing the point that we're actually not rock bottom, thereby not making the strongest of cases for reading on. I accept that people are entitled to express opinions, but suggestions of a mass clear out are laughable, as is an assertion that senior players have let us down. Really? Have Messrs Footitt, Madsen, Godleman and Durston had bad seasons? They will have hoped for better all-format form, but Wayne and Wes have had injuries that set them back. Tony Palladino has bowled on one leg for the past few months, Mark and Billy have had fine summers.

The problem has been that some of the youngsters need more time than the detractors are prepared to give them. If I look back at my early-twenties self, I knew ten per cent of very little about my job. If you can claim you were better at yours then, than you were in your thirties and onwards, I'd be worried for you.

I have said before and will again, perhaps ad nauseam. There is no fast track to success in the first-class game. Another assertion that 'young players elsewhere all do well' is cobblers. Some of them do, some don't. They all have good patches and bad, or a good season followed by one that is more of a challenge. Ours, as I wrote the other evening, need to find another ten per cent at least next year, but can anyone say for sure that some of them might not find that?

Then there's a suggestion we should release Tom Knight. Really? He is still just 22, and at the suggestion of the coaching staff has worked hard all summer to change his action. In addition, he has scored almost a thousand runs in the second team in all cricket, averaging over sixty in the one-day game. This on top of being one of the best fielders in the club, hardly makes him scrapheap material for me. If Tom's new action becomes 'grooved' over the winter, we will have a very talented young all-rounder on our hands. In the absence of quality spinners around the country, the coaching staff's confidence in Knight coming through can be seen in the release of David Wainwright.

That we need more experience is undeniable. Young players can be exhilarating when they come off, frustrating when they don't. On far too many occasions this summer, a healthy three-down has become a struggling six-down and the need for older heads is patently obvious to everyone. That includes the coaching staff, I'm sure, whose desire to fast track the careers of young talent has to be tempered by the need to get results, which young players cannot guarantee.

Yet neither can senior players. I keep reading how Leicestershire will overtake us with the players they are signing, but there are no guarantees of that either. Heck, if Amla and Dilshan don't come off, can you be sure that Horton and Dexter will?

In my opinion, we need to find at least one more reliable batsman, one with the right attitude and a desire to do well. I suspect he may turn out to be a Kolpak and with two Kiwis and two South Africans in the side we will be a different side, for sure. Yet it has to be on a limited budget - and we still need a quality batsman as T20 specialist...George Bailey would do me nicely...

Keep the faith. This isn't 'rock bottom' or anywhere near it. The under-17s had a terrific season, the Academy won their league and the second team won the one-day competition. Their emergence will take time and we need to bring them into a side with greater experience, more streetwise, than the current one. The best will come through, some will fall by the wayside, but with prudent recruitment and hard work by those young players, we can re-emerge next summer and beyond.

There was an object lesson today. Gloucestershire beat Surrey, despite their star man, Michael Klinger, making a duck. Jack Taylor looks to be a player with a big future and has had a good summer and my congratulations go to a team that many thought were merely making up the numbers.

Both finalists from division two...hmmm...not that bad a standard after all, eh?


saintsfan said...

Peakfan. Your support for Tom Knight is admirable but having seen some of his dpells in League cricket this summer his action needs more than a little grooving to get anywhere near County standard bowling!! He is an OK 2nd XI batsman but, similar to Scott Elstone, will not be able to make that significant step up in my view. He may be able to offer the odd 2020 cameo but I can't see anything substantial beyond that. Ultimately we seem to be investing in too many of these average youngsters who will not win us any prizes...

Peakfan said...

How do you know that mate? Far better qualified people than you and I feel that a changed action could make him the real deal and I am happy to defer to their greater judgement!
I haven't seen Tom bowl this season, but they will see the progress he is making. You are right that some players can't make a step up, but again, how do you decide, at that age, he is one of them? Perhaps 90% of these youngsters may not make it, but that has always been the case and the other 10% make it worthwhile.
I have watched him several times and for me he is the cleanest hitter of a ball we have brought through since Ian Blackwell. If he turns out as 'bad' a player as Ian, I can live with it!

saintsfan said...

Sadly I have seen a few cases where (undoubtedly well intentioned) 'qualified people' have modified the actions of promising youngsters with a negative outcome . A recent example is Jake Needham. It looks to me that the same has happened with Tom....I hope I am wrong as I thought we had a really promising bowler a couple of years ago.

Peakfan said...

The two are similar - I understand that they felt Jake could keep teams quiet in one day games but not bowl them out in four days, with men around the bat and greater loop and flight required.

Perhaps the same issue with Tom, who is young enough to come through. Changing an action used for ten years or more will take time, when you have to think of where to have the head, feet, hips and arm, even before you let the ball go! I can only assume that they think he can do it and is worth the work. If he does, the amount of time the lad has put into it should be recognised.

Maybe he could have been left alone and used as a one-day bowler, like Stephen Parry at Lancashire, who has played nine first-class games in nine seasons! Yet, I don't think we have the resources to carry one-day players alone and with time on his side, the coaches must have felt Tom worth the work.

saintsfan said...

We could probably debate this all day!! I am a great believer that all bowlers are 'born' with their own actions and should be left to develop as far as they can naturally. I don't think that many go onto greater success after significant modification. Essentially you've either 'got it' or not. ALthough not a spinner, Jimmy Anderson is a classic case. If he hadn't reverted back to his natural action after a couple of years failed tinkering then he would not have been half the bowler he has been.

Peakfan said...

Yes, we could debate all day. I can only say that if a top coach offered to change me from a bit part player, to something tat may be special, I would go for it.
In a lot of cases actions are natural and just work, though there are a few cases where modifications have alleviated stress issues and the like.
Think we agree to disagree on this one, but a good talking point!

notoveryet said...

You are certainly a believer in always look on the bright side of life, Peakfan, even when what's before our eyes is more like Monty Python's black knight. Perhaps if you'd seen more of Derbyshire's recent performances, you would have understood why people are using terms like rock bottom. We're not playing for the wooden spoon tomorrow, but it might have been different if Leicestershire hadn't lost two and a half days of their match against Essex last week. If it had been the wooden spoon decider, no-one who watched the performance against Essex would have backed us to avoid it. We looked like a side that had no idea how to stay in the game, but even worse, didn't look as if it cared or that it mattered. Apart from an hour either side of lunch on the first day, even a weakened Essex side looked in a different league from us. I've seem many worse Derbyshire sides being outclassed by much superior teams, but never one that gave up and rolled over like this. Of course it isn't rock bottom, but it takes the mighty leap of faith that you are prepared to take to see great prospects ahead.

Perhaps the difference between us isn't about blind optimism on the one hand and perpetual moaning on the other, but our willingness to trust implicitly those in charge to get it right when most of the evidence points to decline. I'm not going to dispute the credentials or qualifications of our elite performance structure, but cricket history is littered with well-qualified people who failed in the wrong role or environment - Peter Moores and David Houghton being two examples. I don't think we're at the point of saying it's failed and people need to be sacked, but neither am I prepared to write a blank cheque to them. All of the excuses that are being trotted out could be applied to other teams - we no longer have the smallest playing budget (look at Gloucestershire), nor the longest or most damaging injury list (look at Surrey or Essex in their games against us), nor tiredness after a long and dispiriting season (look at Leicestershire), nor an over-reliance on young and inexperienced players (look at any one of a number of counties). It may not be time for wholesale change yet, but it certainly is time for people to be clear about targets and to be accountable if they are not achieved.

Peakfan said...

Good comments, as always, notoveryet, though you are somewhat liberal in your interpretation of my own...
I have probably seen around a third of our home championship cricket this year - not a lot, but more than some and more than most, faced with a 600-mile round trip to do so. When you watch, follow and understand the game, it is easy to interpret what is going on, over and above reports from games from a range of columnists and agencies.
I think blind faith is an unfortunate term, given that I have seen more than enough to pass judgement and certainly that the potential of the younger players is evident in their success against counterparts elsewhere. Most of all I deem myself a SUPPORTER, the clue to which is in the name. Am I happy with the season? No, but I can see potential in some wins against big counties and when I do criticise it is in a manner I would be happy to use when speaking to the coaching staff or players themselves. How many could say that?
Comparing the age and make up of our staff with Essex and Surrey is somewhat pointless. They have bigger name senior players out of the side, as well as in it. We have had no overseas player since Rutherford left, nor do we have Kolpaks to bolster the cause.
I have already said - you must have missed it - that next year is a big one for Welch and his fellow coaches. He knows that, as they all will, but balancing the introduction of young players with success is tricky. The two rarely go hand in hand, but for a few bright days and this needs to be kept in mind. Do you bring in big names (assuming budget) for more instant success, or accept there is a longer road because that money isn't there, for all the sterling work done off field? Talented prospects of 18 don't become the real deal at 20, so to judge a coach on two or three years of a contract isn't close to the best way. The championship side of 1936 came from strong work by Sam Cadman 7-10 years before.
Do I trust Welch and his staff implicitly? I don't trust anyone outside my family in that way! But I am prepared to let them finish their contracts and then pass informed, balanced, common sense judgement, not knee-jerk, anonymous bile.
Next season, for the first time, Welch will have HIS squad. The long contracts offered in the euphoria of 2012 were proved wasteful and in their place will be players who Welch himself deems of county standard to improve the squad and who he has worked with for two full winters. I will be more than happy to pass an assessment on his 'reign' this time next year, when I have seen what the winter's recruitment and coaching has brought to the club.The signings of Rutherford and Broom are good portents. Then again, those of Amla and Dilshan should have been. It is no exact science...
Expectations of trophy wins are perhaps unrealistic, certainly on recent form, but next year's division two is likely to be more even than this year. We play good cricket in the RLODC and with a good Kolpak and a T20 specialist can improve in T20.
There will be targets for next year and they will, I hope, be realistic. Improvement, not just by coaching but by playing staff.
But there's room for that among some sections of 'support' too...

Sam said...

The recent form, or lack of it, does seem to have provoked quite a bit of debate. As professional cricketers, I don't think it's unreasonable to be critical so long as it doesn't become personal, as you've said many times before.

With a young squad, as fans we want to see improvement year on year, and the crux of the matter is there hasn't been enough of it. Several of the players, now into their 2nd or 3rd seasons of playing first team cricket appear to have been found out, as opposed to having improved and settled into their roles in the side. When you look at sides like Gloucestershire, who have operated a similar blueprint to us, or the good young players Surrey and Lancashire seem to have, who are being successful and have been around the county game for similar numbers of years, and I think the frustration is quite justified. Quite why there has been little improvement, and indeed a decline in too many cases, is a moot point, but if the trend continues into next year then I don't think the coaches can have too much complaint if they don't find their contracts being renewed.

Alex B said...

There have been positives (Godleman, Cotton, Footitt again, Durston in OD games) but overall we've been the worst county in the country this season, at least Leics have shown improvement.

The Championship performances have been the biggest disappointment to me after finishing last year so strongly and being outside tips for promotion. Middle order, spin and wicketkeeper positions are obvious problems but the pace bowlers were a little under par, didn't skittle teams enough and not winning a game at home in bowler-friendly conditions can't always be blamed on the batsmen.

Big fan of Welch and the professional way we seem to be run now, he is clearly an excellent bowling coach and desperate to make it work. But it has to be said Krikken got better out of some of these players than he has so far.

Like you say Peakfan, it's his squad now and he deserves a chance to show what he can do with them.

knacker said...

This is the best debate you have kicked of peakfan, good points made by everyone, i think you are ahead on points. I read the other site, it can be amusing, but i think the saying " victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphange " is reversed there.

notoveryet said...

I was referring to recent, rather than home, performances, Peakfan - Leicestershire, Surrey (at least the last day that I was there for), and the awful 7 sessions against Essex. I think the last you saw was against Kent, when I commented that it was the best performance I'd seen since early May, but either side of it, there has been horrific stuff that you would not want to believe a Derbyshire side would be capable of. I'm praying (in an atheistic kind of way) that there isn't more of it to come in the next few days, and that we get sent away for the winter with a performance that leaves us thinking what might have been if we'd played like that more often. If we get a decent performance, though, please don't assume that the perennial moaners were making it up. It really has been as bad as they / we say.

By the way, I didn't say "blind faith", I said "a mighty leap of faith" referring to your comments to saintsfan that you were happy to defer to the greater judgement of those qualified. I did say "blind optimism versus perpetual moaning" as a caricature of the relationship between your blog and Falcon's Forum, but didn't intend this to suggest that you aren't prepared to be critical.

Peakfan said...

Again, notoveryet, I would like to think that 'Dismal, Dismal, Dismal' after the debacle of Essex and from several thousand miles away summed up feelings adequately. As Cardus once said, when accused of missing the last afternoon bowling out of Lancashire's opponents for a dental appointment, 'I know how Tyldesley takes wickets'. Similarly, one doesn't need to be there to understand how it happens at times. especially when some who are seem not at times to understand things they are seeing...

There has been plenty of criticism in the months and years just past but I dislike people who simply moan. As I said to friends here bemoaning the Scottish referendum result, stop moaning and do something about it to change things next time, if there is a next time. If you are unhappy with your job, do something about it. Unhappy with your wife, do likewise, but moaning just for the sake of it does no one any favours.

We have rarely been one of the big players in county cricket and have been much worse than this over 145 years. There will be better times ahead, quite possibly worse ones, in the years ahead, but treat it as entertainment, take the rough with the smooth and in being frustrated by the bad, appreciate the good all the more.

Anyway, I need to drive...think we have exhausted this one!