Friday, 23 October 2015

Lessons to be learned from history

I awoke this morning to a tweet, acknowledging it is a hundred years today since the death of WG Grace.

The first 'great' cricketer, Grace had but a moderate record against Derbyshire, never registering a century against us in 24 innings and only making two half centuries in the process. Nor did Donald Bradman, who 'only' averaged 61 against us, and nor did Peter May, who averaged a very modest 32 against Derbyshire in an otherwise glittering career.

Three of the biggest names in the history of the game and none of them registered a century against us, though each played at times when the county had a pretty good attack, of course. Grace faced Joe Hulme, George Davidson, Arnold Warren and Bill Bestwick over a lengthy career, while Peter May had to handle Gladwin and Jackson on uncovered wickets, something few managed to do for long.

Bradman? Well, he faced a largely aging attack in 1948, but came up against an inexperienced one in 1930 and one that was coming to the height of its considerable powers in 1934. All of which brings me to the point of today's article.

That attack in the 1930s was probably the most complete in the club's history and carried all before it in the seasons leading up to the Second World War. There was the pace of Bill Copson. as fast as anyone in the country for half a dozen overs, then the Pope brothers, Alf and George, who moved it around at sufficient pace to be awkward on most surfaces. They were also willing and able to bowl long spells, especially when they were taking wickets...

If they failed to break through there was the mercurial Tommy Mitchell's leg spin, or Les Townsend's off spin, while if things really got tough Stan Worthington would turn back the years and bowl a few overs of medium pace, having increasingly focused on becoming a very sound batsman as the decade progressed.

Eighty years ago next year, in 1936, that attack carried Derbyshire to their only county championship success, after coming third in 1934 and second in 1935. The truth of the matter is, however, that the seeds were sown between five and ten years earlier. With the exception of Copson, who burst onto the scene in 1932 and George Pope (1933) it was a time-served attack that needed only a decent batting effort to be able to force wins.

Which is why we will need a little patience, or recruits, if we are to hope for success in 2016. As our squad stands, I think we will improve in the four-day game, but I will need to see the progress in our young seamers to be convinced we can bowl out sides twice. If we picked up a good Kolpak seamer or all-rounder I would be more convinced, but Andy Carter and Tony Palladino cannot realistically be expected to bowl teams out all the time from April through to September.

With a young spin attack too, there needs to be an acceptance that a good all-round side may take a year or two to come together. Graeme Welch has recruited prudently and brought in two Kiwis who will stiffen the batting and with Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman, we shouldn't find runs elusive. They should enable us to save more games than we managed last year, but if they quickly find form we will find opponents setting less than generous targets, just as happened when John Wright and Peter Kirsten were in their pomp.

In time, one or two of the clutch of young seamers may earn reputations to rank alongside some of the greats named above, but they need time to learn and hone their craft. If it happens next year I will be as thrilled as anyone, but I remain to be convinced that match-winning experience can be fast-tracked over one winter.

In time though, the groundwork now being done will pay greater dividends and we should all remember and acknowledge that.

Just as they did in 1936, when Sam Cadman's earlier work was commended and came to the ultimate fruition.

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