For me, recruiting a wicket-keeper who can bat high in the order is important, as it is no longer a case that high quality glove work alone is enough, In days gone by, the likes of Bob Taylor and Harry Elliott offered exemplary service behind the stumps, but rarely did more than chip in with the bat. The role has changed, along with the game itself.
When Derbyshire won the Sunday League in 1990 (Pro 40 was its name, I think, at the time), part of the success was down to Peter Bowler taking the wicket-keeping gloves, thus allowing the selection of an extra batsman or bowler, depending on conditions. Peter was no wicket-keeper in the finest sense, but did a competent job and it improved the balance of the side.
So will getting the right man now. As I have written previously, I think Harvey Hosein has every chance of being a first-choice wicket-keeper for a long time, but the mental and physical demands of modern first-class cricket mean that any expectation of a 19-year old doing it all season is unrealistic.
Around the current county game, there are, from admittedly very quick research, four wicket-keeper/batsmen of quality whose contracts are up at the summer's end. They are:
Steven Davies - no longer keeping wicket for Surrey, would he like the idea of doing so again and moving back up north? Davies is a fine batsman and kept well up to England level, but his salary will probably be the biggest stumbling block to a move.
Adam Rossington - a very good keeper/batsman from Middlesex, now plying his trade for Northamptonshire. Like Davies, he rarely gets the gloves as Ben Duckett is the preferred option. He could be persuaded, at 23, as there is international potential in a young man who is professional behind the stumps and devastating in front of them. A powerful hitter of the ball, there is much to like.
Phil Mustard - it has already been announced he is leaving Durham as part of a cost-cutting measure, suggesting that he is one of their biggest earners. Whether he is prepared to take a drop to what I assume is a different salary structure is a moot point, but he could be a big signing for Derbyshire, a dynamic batsman and very reliable wicket-keeper. According to the Northern Chronicle, Durham offered him the chance to take up another opportunity now, which would do our RLODC qualification chances no harm, though the player has opted, at this stage, to stay with his home county.
Interestingly, another local newspaper suggests that Yorkshire could pursue him, with Jonny Bairstow seemingly established in the England side. That might open the door for a move for Andy Hodd, who started out at Sussex and has performed very steadily for Yorkshire. Perhaps not as dynamic a batsman as those named above, but probably doesn't need another two years in a second team at the start of his thirties.
There may be others, but they are the obvious ones. For me, Rossington and Mustard would be the first choice and I would be happy if we ended up with either, another piece in a slowly evolving jigsaw.
What do you think?