Friday, 2 October 2015

Good news time

One of the first bits of good news of the close season came today with news breaking that Matt Critchley has signed a two-year deal.

The youngster came from nowhere - be honest, few had heard of him pre-season - and produced a brilliant maiden century, two or three nice cameos and a couple of good bowling efforts. All this at the age of 18. Given that he is still years - perhaps as much as a decade - away from his peak, he now has the opportunity to work on his game and hone his skills.

Let's face it, leg spin is the toughest to master but he has time on his side, as does Tom Knight, who I expect will be announced for a new deal soon. Next year, the two will vie for the senior specialist role, though Wes will doubtless be lead spinner overall. I don't see a move for George Dockrell, as I was asked yesterday, because I think he will stay in the south and because Graeme Welch has already made his spin intentions clear.

Then comes news that Tom Taylor is one of six bowlers selected for the England Performance Programme, another sign that the work with the Academy is bearing fruit. I thought Taylor looked leggy towards the end of the season, but his potential is obvious. It's funny, the other day I was struck by how much my son's physique has changed, for the better, since he was 21 (he's now 24). Trips to the gym three times a week have seen him fill out and he has changed considerably from the willowy youth of just three years back. Similar physical development of our seamers in the next few years will doubtless see them all a few yards quicker, while their skills can only improve.

Well done to Tom and well done to Ben Cotton, for acknowledging the work ahead of the squad this winter. Taylor is a good bowler but there are others not too far behind him at Derbyshire, all of them capable of earning further recognition. They have an excellent group of coaches to work with and in Welch have one of the best seam bowling coaches around. If they listen and work, there's a clutch of talented bowlers who could go far.

Finally tonight, Graeme Welch acknowledges that Mark Footitt may yet stay with us, which is wonderful news. Replacing that quantity of wickets is a nigh-impossible task, but this is big decision time for Mark. He is perhaps at his peak, near the England squad, taking wickets and in prime fitness. Two years down the line and those stars may cease to be in alignment, so he needs to take his time and do what is best for him.

Sometimes though, as Greg Smith and Tim Groenewald have found, the grass isn't necessarily greener elsewhere. Smith may struggle for another county after being released by Essex, while Groeners did OK, but nothing more than that for Somerset. They may have earned a few quid more than they did at Derby, but has their career been prolonged? I'm not so sure...

More from me soon.

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