Saturday, 12 March 2016

Dubai-ous steer from me

Apologies for the 'bum steer' on Derbyshire's opening game.

I had taken the information on the game from the club site, but the news of the inclement weather in Dubai hadn't percolated through. That such a nigh perfect climate was sullied by torrential rain and storms will have been a frustration for players and staff alike. Yet like all good organisations, there were contingency plans so that training could continue apace.

It has been good to see the footage and blogs on the club's social media feeds and the squad look as fit as the proverbial butcher's dogs as the season approaches. They should of course, after a winter's hard work, but as long as they are all fit and firing when the real stuff starts, I feel quite positive about the summer ahead.

While the domestic players were en route to 'sunny' climes, two of our Kiwis were in the runs for Otago. Neil Broom scored a century and unbeaten 30, while Jimmy Neesham made 75 and 48 not out for them, yet they still lost, despite setting their opponents 397 to win. Ken McClure suggested himself a 21-year old of considerable talent with an unbeaten innings of 193.

One thing that has surprised me is the recruitment by counties in the last couple of weeks. There have been one or two what I would call 'left field' signings, which may well turn out to be strokes of genius or somewhat flawed.

Sussex have picked up Mustafizur Rahman from Bangladesh, a twenty-year old with only fifteen first-class matches and twenty T20 games behind him. It is a huge gamble signing a lad of that age and puts serious pressure on him. Imagine an overseas side signing Ben Cotton or Tom Taylor, both with greater experience. At the end of it all, someone will either get a huge pat on the back or a few quizzical looks...

Surrey have picked up a couple of young South Africans, both presumably giving up on the country of their birth's quota system. Conor McKerr and Matthew Pillans are both seamers of talent, though Surrey's depth in that area makes me wonder why they needed two. As I wrote earlier in the winter, white South Africans will see England as a strong option, especially when the conversion rate of rand to pound is so heavily in their favour at present. Money earned here will go a long way back home, but home-grown players on the Surrey staff must be a little puzzled.

Finally, Essex have picked up 23-year old Matt Dixon from Western Australia, who can play on a dual passport. Seven wickets in five first-class matches at an average of 70 doesn't suggest they have picked up the new Denis Lillee, to be fair. Again, I wonder why they need to 'shop' overseas, as surely the domestic talent pool isn't that shallow? Good luck to the lad, he may come here and do well, but it seems a strange decision at this distance.

All of which makes my satisfaction with our recruitment even greater. Hamish Rutherford, Neil Broom and Jimmy Neesham should make up a talented trio this year and if we can pick up one more seamer of experience before it starts, I think we will be competitive. I don't think it realistic for Andy Carter and Tony Palladino to play every game this summer, nor for our young seamers to have suddenly become fifty-wicket bowlers in a close season.

Yet if they can contribute and we can pick up one more bowler with a track record, we should be all right. As I have said before, it isn't a case of one bowler matching Mark Footitt's recent wicket haul, but several improving by ten to fifteen per cent. I still stand by my erstwhile assertion of Andy Carter being a fifty-wicket bowler, just so you know.

Not long till it happens now. A month till the first match and then I will be down for the first game at the 3aaa County Ground against Glamorgan. The thermals are looked out in readiness...

Finally tonight, I've had several emails and texts asking after Wallace, our fox terrier puppy. With no apologies, here's a picture of a little chap who has re-defined the word cute and has people stopping to chat wherever we take him. Fifteen weeks old now and a bundle of energy and fun.

He's a bit young for the cricket, but would be a real asset in the field!

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