Friday, 30 September 2016

Barnett announced as new Director of Cricket

In some ways, today's announcement of Kim Barnett, Derbyshire's greatest-ever batsman, as Director of Cricket comes as no surprise.

After all, as I have mentioned a couple of times recently, for players to be getting contract offers and for Gary Wilson to be signed, someone within the club had to be making those decisions with an expectation of being there to see them through.

The new deal for Tony Palladino, with a coaching remit, appears to be a sign of things to come, while Wilson suggested that he wanted to help younger players to develop. It would appear that this is seen as the way forward and it is hard to fault as a concept.

Thinking about the game is a major part of things and surely an effect of this new process is for players to work and think that bit harder at their own game when helping young players. Setting an example, hopefully as a consequence, can only be good from a team perspective.

Barnett will report to Kevin Dean, as Cricket Advisory Director and there will be three coaches underneath him. One, a Development Coach, will be responsible for the Academy and Second Eleven (presumably with input from player/coaches), while for the first time the senior coaching role is split in two.

The First Eleven Support Coach will be responsible for the four-day and fifty-over teams, while the Twenty20 Coach role will be a three-month contract and the successful candidate will appoint the captain and his overseas players.

It is a bold move, with Derbyshire being the first county to appoint a T20 specialist coach. I can't fault them for that, although cynics will suggest that we had a 'revolutionary' idea before that never worked out. Perhaps not, but in the situation we find ourselves, it is good to see us trying something new, rather than going for the same old, same old. I can never fault original thought, whatever the outcome.

I'm unsure of who we are aiming for with a three-month contract coach, but logically we could attract the same coaches who find a niche in the IPL and Big Bash. Perhaps even a player-coach, happy to come here for a short period to broaden their experience and  hopefully add something to their CV. Let's be honest, any coach who can get Derbyshire through to the knock out stage of T20 has got to be worth their weight in gold.

Talking of cynics, there will be those who suggest that the return of Kim Barnett may be a bad move, remembering the discord of some of his time at the county. I accept that, but would also suggest that it was one of the most successful periods in the club's history. Whatever you think of Kim Barnett - and many have formulated opinions despite never having met him - he IS a winner, both with Derbyshire and with Gloucestershire.

I wrote last week that I wasn't really fussed who became Derbyshire coach as long as he oversaw an improvement in the club's playing fortunes. This new structure would appear to me to divert more money from the coaching side to playing affairs, which can only be a good thing. 

I also like today's assertion that we are 'shopping' in the experienced and proven side of the market this winter. While one or two, for example, disagreed with my comment that Nathan Buck was little better than we had, I stand by it. That he has 158 first-class wickets, for me, is neither here nor there. They have come over eight seasons in the first-class game, which rather puts things in a twenty wickets a year perspective. Like I said at the time, we HAVE to aim for better than bowlers who average around 40 runs per wicket, or we may as well not bother.

Which all makes for a rather exciting prospect. AJ Harris may well prove a good shout for the development role, but we are likely to have at least one new coach, as well as some new players of proven quality in the coming months.

It is, as an email to me stated today, going to help our young cricketers develop in exactly the right environment, one that will hopefully become a positive and winning one.

We'll see about that.

For now, as always, I welcome your comments.

Postscript - almost forgot to welcome our new physio, Fran Clarkson, to the club. Formerly of Worcestershire 2nd XI, she is a cricketer herself and will doubtless prove a worthy successor to James Pipe, who has gone over to the dark side - sorry, Nottinghamshire.

She's not the club's first lady physio, as many will remember Ann Brentnall, but I am sure that she is eminently qualified to so a fine job.

I wish her well - and hope that she's not TOO busy!

Post postscript - Kim Barnett has given up the presidency of the club - understandably - and I hope that the club takes the opportunity to revert to the old way of things and makes this honorary role that of a senior, surviving former player, which was always the way of things.

I understand the commercial rationale of appointing Geoff Miller and Kim Barnett in turn, but in so doing the club ignored an opportunity to honour some outstanding contributors to its history from earlier generations.

The claims of Harold Rhodes and Brian Jackson are strong, but I am happy to nail my colours to the mast and suggest that Edwin Smith, who made his county debut in 1951, should have a long contribution to the club, as both player and coach, formally recognised.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Tour dates bring summer closer...

Good news today that Derbyshire has secured a three-day friendly against the West Indies next summer, as well as a one-day game against South Africa A.

The West Indies game will be of interest, as the last game for the tourists before the first Test match. It is being held from 11 August, while the game against South Africa A is on Bank Holiday Monday, 29 May.

It is a good chance to see different players in action, though anyone's guess as to who will be involved. Certainly the longer format West Indies bears no resemblance to the very strong T20 side, most of their better players opting for the greater rewards on offer around the globe.

In other news, I've seen suggestions that Derbyshire should have been in for Nathan Buck, who was today announced as a Northamptonshire player and also for Jaik Mickleburgh, who has not been retained by Essex.

I don't see why on either count, to be honest. I'm not sure that Buck, with a dodgy record with injuries, would have been sufficiently better than what we already have. That he can bowl some good spells is undeniable, but he's not played much cricket at Lancashire and his first-class wickets have cost around forty runs each. Similarly, Mickleburgh has played some good innings, but his first-class average is only 28 and I don't think he would be a major improvement on what we already have.

Indeed, of the players I have seen released so far, only Luis Reece of Lancashire would make me consider a punt. A good enough batsman to open the innings, a left-arm seam bowler into the bargain, I think there's a good cricketer in there that a worthwhile coach might turn into something special. He looked a class act when I saw him this summer, outscoring Alviro Petersen, which is no mean feat.

Our greater need, however, is for proven players. We need a seamer and spinner of reputation who will deliver the goods and enable the young players in our squad to develop their games without the additional expectation of being match-winners.

Anything else on top of that will be a bonus, as far as I am concerned.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Season review - the one day game

It is easy to forget, after the limp ending to a difficult season, that there was a point in it when Derbyshire sat top of the RLODC at the halfway stage. We were also in contention to progress from the T20 group stage to the knockout, something that has attained a nigh-mythical status in Derbyshire circles, right up to the last match.

Indeed, in the T20's opener we came close to beating the eventual winners, Northamptonshire, in a match that set a tone for the competition - whenever there was a close finish, we were on the wrong end of it. Twice we lost to Yorkshire, another side that made finals day, by one run, one of those occasions being when they had their England men in attendance.

Our worst was reserved for local rivals. Having effectively and professionally disposed of Leicestershire at Derby, there was a wretched return game where we never showed up, while a point from a rained-off game at Trent Bridge was shown as fortuitous when we were hammered in the return.

That the side was capable of good cricket is beyond dispute. In disappointing summers, the best of Neil Broom and Hamish Rutherford was seen in the one-day game, although they flopped in the pressure matches when you really need your overseas professionals to perform. Jimmy Neesham performed better than his compatriots, producing some useful displays without crossing the line into 'brilliance' that distinguishes the standout performers from the rest.

Matt Critchley bowled spells of precocious talent and Alex Hughes was generally tidy, but the omission of Ben Cotton, so successful in the previous year, for a few matches was a puzzle. Shiv Thakor was the 'go to' bowler and generally delivered, while Wayne Madsen, unsurprisingly, was top of the batting averages with some important knocks.

The 'Wes and Ches' combo rarely came off this year, Rutherford generally preferred for opening the batting and it was a tough summer for Wes Durston. He appeared to opt for a pinch hitting role that saw only one fifty in the summer and while a side injury ruled him out of a few games, he under-bowled himself at times. This was most evident in the RLODC game at Warsop, when he bowled only five overs while others of less experience were going around the ground.

In the RLODC we started well, with a stunning win at Worcester when chasing nearly 300, followed by a professional chase of a lesser total against Durham. Points from rain-offs against Yorkshire and Warwickshire were fortuitous, but we threw away a winning position that should have been a stroll against Lancashire and were thrashed by Northamptonshire. We didn't win another match from the halfway stage and the introduction of Dominic Cork as an 'advisor' in the dressing room.

Coincidence or not, like the summer it fizzled out. Ben Slater is worthy of mention for some sparkling RLODC displays, in a summer where he looked a million dollars on occasions and formed a good opening pair with Billy Godleman, who played some good hands. The batting was generally OK, but we lacked the 'oomph' to take games away from teams, posting competitive rather than intimidating totals.

We need more. It is unrealistic, perhaps, to see Derbyshire as trophy winners in the immediate future, but if Northamptonshire can do it, why can't our side, if it produces performances where eleven men play a part?

For improvement, much will depend on winter acquisitions, further progress from young players of talent and reducing errors in the field. I'd like to see Alex Hughes, an effervescent cricketer who did well in the role as a stopgap, as one-day skipper next year, unless we can attract someone from elsewhere for who the captaincy is a deal-maker.

Much to do then, and while supporters will sit in front of their fires and think back to one or two days in the sun, further progress in one-day cricket, especially from a tough T20 group that produced all four finals day sides, is going to take some doing.

Still, we dream.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Fantasy League final placings

Warm congratulations to David Aust, who once again came out on top in the Peakfan Blog Fantasy Cricket League.

It was less of a runaway success than last year, just 500 points separating David from Dean Doherty, whose teams came in both second and third  with only 400 points between them.

Paul Kirk came fourth and Chris Hallam fifth and Martin Halls was sixth.

At the other end of the table, yours truly was third bottom, probably the result of not looking at it from the middle of June and still having plenty of subs come season end.

Finally, Jamie Holmes came second bottom, while Paul Walters 'did a Derbyshire' and came in last place.

Thanks to all of you for taking part and I hope it gave you a little fun through the summer.

David takes the medals for overall winner and winner of the wickets league, while Chris Hallam is the winner of the runs league.

If both of you can drop me a note of your addresses I will get them to you in the next few days, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph.

Final thoughts (for now) on the coaching role

There has been some good, healthy discussion on the coaching roles at the club over recent days. Thank you all for your well-expressed comments.

To my knowledge, no structure has yet been announced. Whether, for example, it includes a role for Kim Barnett to oversee the cricket side is a fair question. After all, he has reported to the board on the state of the playing side, suggesting a remit, temporary or otherwise, on that side of club affairs. I am not aware of the club president doing that before, though of course precedent is not something of which I am a devout fan.

The point I tried to make yesterday was that whoever looks after the coaching, be it John Sadler or anyone else, is likely to have blemishes on their CV, unless they take on the role as a first coaching post. Peter Moores, a very good coach who has gone to Nottinghamshire, has known the sack, as has Chris Adams. There is a lot to appeal in Adams, but there are those who felt he struggled with the Surrey role, where he was eventually sacked. It should not rule him out of consideration for the Derbyshire role, should he be interested, any more than taking on a listing ship, mid-season, where there were obvious things going on in the background, should preclude Sadler. Both men doubtless learned a great deal from their respective experiences.

Dave Houghton was a good man and coach. Then again, so were John Morris, Graeme Welch, Karl Krikken and Adrian Pierson. Gone are the days when a coach could remain in charge for twenty years, like Denis Smith did, when supporters and administrators alike are hungry and impatient for success and intolerant of failure, perceived or real.

Our big mistake, in my opinion, came last winter when we failed to strengthen properly. In putting faith in young seam bowling talent, Graeme Welch, a good man and excellent coach, perhaps expected a faster development of them all. It didn't happen and the one experienced seamer recruited, Andy Carter, just didn't work out.

It was similar to 1970, as Edwin Smith explained in my latest book. Had Derbyshire recruited then, having had a good season, they could have pushed on and perhaps become a really good side. Instead, players retired very quickly afterwards and we were left with too many youngsters who struggled at county level.

To a great extent I don't care who is to be the next Derbyshire coach, because I have no idea over who is available and who would be interested in the role. All I care about is that he has both the coaching and man management requirements for the role, because few have both of those attributes in equal measure.

It is like management in any other walk of life. There are those who are intimate with processes who will handle that side of the job, but lack the people skills which are so important. There are times someone needs an arm around the shoulder and times they need a firm word. Knowing who responds to what is half the battle and picking the right time and place to do both will generally separate the wheat from the chaff.

Whether from inside or outside the club, a big name or otherwise, all that really matters is that the successful candidate brings coaching and people skills to the table, together with a book of contacts that make all walks of life a lot easier.

The sooner we get someone, the better for all of us.

Season review : the County Championship

When Derbyshire took to the field for the season opener, back in April, there were six players in the side who look unlikely to be around in 2017.

Making such an assertion may appear presumptuous, but Andy Carter left mid-season, having failed to show the form that suggested he could be a leader of the attack, while Luke Fletcher's loan period was memorable only for being unmemorable. Hamish Rutherford had a hugely disappointing summer, while Tom Poynton had to retire midway through with a recurrence of the injury that had so sadly interrupted his career.

Meanwhile Wes Durston and Chesney Hughes have vanished without a trace in recent weeks and we now know that the latter will not be around in 2017. It made for a difficult summer in the four-day game, when the attack's crippling lack of experience left them exposed, on good early summer wickets, to batsmen who were happy to drink at the well, with conditions heavily weighted in their favour. 

Only the evergreen Tony Palladino exceeded thirty wickets, although both Will Davis and Ben Cotton produced displays that hinted of progress and potential. Both need to develop greater consistency, although time is very much on their side. Late in the season Tom Milnes produced displays with bat and ball that suggested he could also develop into a useful cricketer, given opportunity.

Tom Taylor missed most of the season with a stress fracture, while Greg Cork only got a game in the final fixture, which put additional pressure on the excellent Shiv Thakor. He had a splendid season with bat and ball, until his workload possibly caused a back injury that ruled him out of the closing weeks.

Alex Hughes was another who was largely ignored until the last few matches, when opportunity gave him the chance to bat three. He did a good job, registering a career-best century and staking a claim for the role next year, although his bowling may be of greater use in the one-day game, moving forward.

The side cried out as much for a quality spinner as it did for a strike seamer, Mark Footitt being sorely missed. Matt Critchley bowled beautifully in the one-day game, but struggled to take wickets in the longer format, while Callum Parkinson showed potential in a handful of outings but opted to take up a contract with Leicestershire for 2017. With Tom Knight's promising career ruined, at least for now, with too much tinkering and Wes Durston only playing one-day cricket latterly, the club has to address a major weakness over the winter.

In a summer where new regulations over the toss gave the visiting side the option to bowl before one took place, batsmen were always likely to prosper - and did. Seven players ended with an average in excess of forty, the star once again being Wayne Madsen. He started with a century in the first match and maintained form throughout the summer, ending with an average in the top fifties and underlining once more how important he is to the side. His player of the year award was both fully deserved and a racing certainty.

Skipper Billy Godleman enjoyed a solid summer too, just missing out on a thousand runs despite missing early matches with a hand injury. Madsen and Godleman will be key players in the Derbyshire side going forward. Ben Slater struggled for a starting role initially, but let no one down when he did and staked a strong claim as an established player for next year.

Meanwhile, Chesney Hughes started well, suffered a lean patch and then was omitted from the side without explanation, when in sight of a thousand runs. His announced departure is disappointing, but the club must now move forward without a player in whose development a lot of time has been invested.

Shiv Thakor emerged from a difficult 2015 to enjoy a prolific summer, looking stylish and fluent whenever he batted. The club has high hopes of the player, as do I, with international aspirations not at all unrealistic.

Sadly, two players of international reputation, Hamish Rutherford and Neil Broom, failed, each averaging only in the mid-twenties. Frustratingly they often got starts, only to give it away. Engaged in crucial overseas roles, neither justified the cost and while Broom has a chance to make amends next year, Rutherford will be remembered as a batsman capable of brilliance, but too fleetingly to prove worthwhile.

Behind the stumps, Tom Poynton started well, before that ankle injury forced his premature retirement from the game. The county will be the poorer - and quieter  - for that, although late in the season Harvey Hosein confirmed his rich potential with bat and ball, playing a succession of composed innings that suggested the role will be in good hands. With Gary Wilson signed from Surrey to push him from next season, it should be one area of the side where we have few concerns.

Bottom of the table tells its own story, Some good cricket was played, but the inexperience of the attack meant that watching Derbyshire was like watching a boxer with an arm tied behind his back, However many runs we scored, the opposition were always likely to score many more. It made for a depressing summer, saved only by some improved performances in the one-day game (review to follow).

John Sadler took over mid-season and did well through a difficult summer. He remains a good coach and engaging man but it is anyone's guess as to who is in charge next year. Graeme Welch took over at a difficult time and gave a good grounding to a young squad. The person confirmed in the role, whether Sadler or anyone else, has to infuse youth of some talent with quality, contributing experience. Far too many seniors, for one reason or another, didn't do that this year.

While the batting, perhaps with the addition of a couple of young players for competition, will hold its own another year, an experienced seam bowler and spinner, bowling to their reputation, are the minimum requirements for an improvement in 2017.

The young players will continue to improve and while some will 'top out', there is enough talent emerging to justify longer term optimism.

Finding that right blend will decide whether that is justified.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Chesney Hughes leaves

Half an hour after my last post, the news breaks that Chesney Hughes has, indeed, left Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

It is disappointing, as the departure of a player who has given good service always is, but to be honest I had been expecting this for the past few weeks, like most of you and the announcement at least draws an end to a process that hasn't been 'clean' from any perspective.

That the club has been unable to agree terms with Chesney suggests that the demands from the player or his agent, in one way or another, had been unrealistic. At the end of the day, the club has a salary structure that has to be adhered to.

Chesney had his best summer this year, averaging over fifty in the first-class game, but whatever he was wanting, either in salary or in conditions of contract, the club was not prepared to meet. That is their prerogative and they have made the decision based on information that only they know.

That he was wonderful to watch on the good days is undeniable. That he was frustrating on the bad ones is too, the feet not moving and the same mistakes being made this summer that were when he first emerged on the county scene.

The bottom line for me is that Gary Wilson, the one player signed at this stage, has a better first-class average in all formats than Chesney and offers more from a team balance perspective than he did. There was a time when the big Anguillan's slow left arm suggested itself as a potent option, but more recently he has turned his arm over only slightly more often than me.

Difficult situations - and no one can deny that we are not in that - require difficult decisions. If this situation was affecting the mood within the club and causing discord (which it may or may not have been) then the parting of the ways is for the best. The only way that we can move forward as a club is if everyone in it is pulling in the same direction.

No player is bigger than his club and if this leads to improvement for Derbyshire and the furtherance of Chesney Hughes' career then it is very much for the best.

We will always remember the days when Chesney bludgeoned opposition attacks, while his marathon 270 against Yorkshire has left him indelibly stamped in the club record books.

I wish him well in his career and thank him for the entertainment he provided.

As for Derbyshire, the rebuilding has begun and I can't find fault with decisive action.

Coaching situation needs sorted - and quickly

The end of the season is always time for reflection and this year certainly has plenty for Derbyshire's board to look at.

A summer that started, if not with confidence  of improved fortunes then with at least optimism of it, dissipated way too quickly for most tastes. Within a couple of games of the season starting, it became obvious that our attack would struggle to bowl teams out in a four-day match, especially on wickets that were far too heavily weighted in favour of batsmen. The loss of Mark Footitt to Surrey hit us hard and, with no spinner of genuine quality and experience to call on, our sessions in the field became exercises in containment and damage limitation.

I remain convinced that we have some seam bowlers of talent at the club. Ben Cotton, Will Davis and Tom Milnes showed enough in short, sporadic bursts to suggest they could take wickets at this level, while Tom Taylor should come again, once his issue with a stress fracture in his back is sorted. Matt Critchley likewise could become a spinner of ability, but is probably several seasons from being one who will bowl sides out on a wearing pitch.

They all need time to develop the requisite skills and for their physiques to fully develop, before they can be considered even solid county performers, however. It is imperative for Derbyshire, even if we are to consider moving off the bottom of the table next year, let alone further improvement, to bring in a strike bowler of experience, together with a spinner with expectations of taking wickets. Any other signings would be a bonus and a seam bowling all rounder wouldn't go amiss either, but I have no idea of the resources available.

While factoring in close season development of young players, the reality is that the only Derbyshire players, at this stage, who could be said to be definite four-day side players for next summer right now are Slater, Godleman, Madsen, Hosein, Wilson, Thakor and Palladino. Alex Hughes could well be another, but for me there are four places 'up for grabs', with most of the bowling roles among them. As Tony Palladino's new contract includes a coaching remit, perhaps the plan is to play him on a 'horses for courses' basis and keep fingers crossed that he can pass on his skills to a new generation.

Neil Broom should be another automatic pick, but irrespective of whether he has traveled from New Zealand or not, he has to be picked on merit and form alone, not reputation. I've not included Chesney Hughes and Wes Durston, as the silence in recent weeks has only suggested, rightly or wrongly, that they won't be around either. In prime form you would take them both, but we await news and developments on that score.

Mind you, we have two batsmen/wicket keepers, both of who should be picked in either capacity...

Bringing in the right men will take patience, money and the right coach. Players at this stage, will, I think, be loathe to commit to Derbyshire until they know who they will work with and what the coaching situation really is. Its not been made clear to supporters - we know John Sadler has been nominally in charge, but Dominic Cork was involved for a while and Kim Barnett has had a watching brief. It would be useful to clarify the new structure as soon as possible so that we can get the coach situation resolved and bedded in.

I don't necessarily buy the argument that John Sadler is now associated with failure. Name me a coach in professional sport who has constant success  and has never known failure and he won't have many people for company. Any such role can only be as good as the players you have available, how they perform, what they have going on in the background and what money you have to change things. There will always be those who respond to you, together with others who don't. A bit like teaching, when you think about it.

Until a role is advertised, we won't know who is interested in taking on the Derbyshire challenge, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will have minuses, as well as pluses, on their CV.

Look at Dave Houghton. We had him at Derbyshire, where he had his critics, despite being renowned as an outstanding batting coach. We let him go, and he's now made a great success as batting coach of the county champions, Middlesex. Likewise, Steve Stubbings has done really well as Northamptonshire batting coach, despite not getting real opportunity with us. Graeme Welch is revered as a bowling coach, yet left us mid-season. There's an unattractive pattern emerging there...

I don't think we need the raft of coaches from the last structure but we do need the right man. One who knows the game and builds the kind of team spirit that Karl Krikken did and John Sadler has done. Maybe, in this process, Sadler, a lovely bloke and one who will have learned massively from a huge learning curve this summer, will come out on top. Given a winter to work with players, recruit the right people and develop the right culture, he could be the man for the role. But I'll not second guess the likely applicants, because you can't.

All I hope is that we appoint someone after a robust process, then let them get on with it as they see fit. Whether there is truth in it or not, rumours that X is having a say in matters or Y has got so and so's ear are counter-productive. If a coach has sufficient credibility to be appointed in the first place, give him his head and give him the time that is needed to turn our club around, without interference but with support available on request.

Look at Worcestershire, a good club, very well run and with Steve Rhodes the director of cricket for ten years. Also David Ripley, who has done a great job with Northamptonshire for four years. Both men are respected but needed time to impose themselves. As did Jason Gillespie at Yorkshire, who took over at a relegated club and did an extraordinary job from 2011.

For me, judging a Derbyshire coach on trophies is unrealistic. It shouldn't stop us trying for one, as Northamptonshire and Leicestershire have shown what is possible in recent years. Yet if we can get a coach who can produce a steady stream of good county cricketers, playing attractive, aggressive and positive cricket and entertaining the crowds that is a good start. Perhaps the rest will follow.

If you're out there with those credentials, there's a place waiting for you at the 3aaa County Ground.

If you're already there - then I wish you all the luck in the world in taking us on a journey that, let's face it, can really only improve from eighteenth position.

Retirements for two former players

Chris Rogers retired from first-class cricket this week, after an exemplary career in which he became an outstanding county overseas professional for several clubs.

One of those was Derbyshire, of course, where he proved a courteous, likeable and immensely popular player who did what he was paid to do - score runs by the thousand. It was indicative of the strength of Australian cricket at the time that neither he nor Michael Di Venuto, another outstanding player who graced the county scene for a number of years, could force a way into an impressive batting side at national level.

Yet their loss was county cricket's gain and 'Buck' was a wonderful servant to Derbyshire, in a career where he also played for four other counties. He finished his career with Somerset, nearly taking them to a first championship, and ending with a career average of a shade under fifty. He never cracked T20, making only three fifties in the format, but he scored a bucket load of runs in every other version of the game.

International recognition came late and perhaps when he was past his best, but he still averaged 42 and exceeded two thousand runs, confirming what a talent he was.

He can head off into retirement with his head held high and let no one down in the course of a wonderful career.

On a lesser note, Andy Carter also announced his retirement from the first-class game yesterday. His move to Derbyshire this season never worked out and I have to admit being surprised by that. He looked a good bowler, up to and including last season when he had a spell at Glamorgan, but to me seemed to have lost a little nip this year.

His mid-season departure from us came as no real surprise and a few games for Hampshire weren't marked by sustained success.

I wish him well in whatever ventures he has lined up.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day 4

Worcestershire 475-7 and 43-1

Derbyshire 248 and 266 (Madsen 100, Hosein 59, Milnes 36)

Worcestershire won by nine wickets

A county championship season that ended in high drama at Lord's, where Middlesex and Yorkshire engineered a last day of both farce and brilliance, ended in a fireworks display that fizzled out like the dampest of squibs at New Road.

Despite a typical innings from Wayne Madsen, who made his sixth century of the season and in doing so entered the Derbyshire cricket pantheon, there was simply not enough support. Harvey Hosein played another fine innings, finishing the season with successive scores of 52 not, 83 not, 58, 108 and 59, but Tom Milnes apart, the rest came and went with far too great a speed. The home side were left with a total that my club side could have handled and defeat came to end a chastening summer.

Madsen can hold his head high, having registered his highest-ever season tally, while Hosein has confirmed that he and Gary Wilson can play in the same side next season. Whichever takes the gloves is largely irrelevant, but both will be among the best batsmen and should take a place as a matter of course.

John Sadler said at the end that the players will have learned a lot from the season, which I am sure they will. They need to have, because they must come back to training later in the year intent on doing better next year and never repeating this experience. Young they are, but they need to improve across the board and be joined by a  clutch of senior players who offer more than some of ours did this year.

We came eighteenth of eighteen counties for a reason - the other seventeen were consistently better than us. The club board needs to sort out the coaching situation and let those currently involved know where they stand as soon as possible, so the rebuilding can commence and players know where they stand when considering joining the cause.

Supporters need that too. There have been enough talking points in recent weeks that really need clearing up so we can move on.

The worst summer in living memory? No, because it was salvaged by some encouraging one-day efforts and I have seen 49 of them now, some of them with not even that to redeem them.

I sincerely hope that my 50th next year is a whole lot better, for everyone's sake.

Season reviews will follow for championship and one-day cricket in the coming days.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day 3

Worcestershire 475-7 dec

Derbyshire 248 (Hosein 108, Cork 49)

and 15-1

On the penultimate day of an underwhelming county championship season, Derbyshire delivered one more disappointing batting display that was redeemed only by another wonderful effort from Harvey Hosein.

He not only exceeded his personal best for a second successive game, but went on to register a maiden century, eventually being last man out for an outstanding 108. He was lent good support by Greg Cork, who missed a debut fifty by one run, but apart from that, the Derbyshire innings was a mediocre affair.

When both Tony Palladino and Will Davis went to successive balls, I was worried that Harvey was going to be left high and dry again, especially when he continued to take singles early in the over. Yet Ben Cotton, who was at the crease when Alex Hughes registered his maiden ton in 2015, did the job once more and kept an end going as long as required.

The follow on was enforced and Ben Slater was out before the close.

Tomorrow will be a long and attritional battle to save the game, though the assertion on Cricinfo earlier that 'Derbyshire look likely to go through the season without a win' was somewhat a case of stating the obvious.


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day 2

Worcestershire 475-7 (Clarke 194, Leach 107 not, Cotton 3-63)

Derbyshire 15-0

Derbyshire trail by 460 runs

Last night I suggested that Derbyshire needed an early breakthrough this morning. As it turned out, we never got one until the home total had passed 400 and that was all we managed in a tiring and largely fruitless session. It is, indeed, a game that appears to have 'end of season' emblazoned across it.

With two days to go, batting would not appear especially problematic, though there is considerable difference between the experience of the two sides. The ease with which Billy Godleman and Ben Slater began the reply suggested that the ball was coming on to the bat well enough and we must hope that continues into the third day.

Billy needs another 85 runs to reach a thousand in the County Championship, reaching which would be just reward for a steady summer. There's the nucleus of a decent batting side at Derbyshire, which needs augmented elsewhere to become a competitive outfit next summer.

More tomorrow.

New City T20 - an interview with Chris Grant

It was a pleasant surprise to get a text from Derbyshire's chairman, Chris Grant, on Saturday, offering to do an interview with me regarding the plans for the new city T20. Having read the somewhat caustic piece that I wrote before the weekend, he said he was happy to call me and tell me everything that he knew about the competition and why Derbyshire had voted in its favour.

It speaks volumes for the man that he did so and I'm grateful for the hour or so that we chatted about the competition and exchanged views. He was happy for me to record the chat and to publish it here.

Chris accepted that there were understandable reservations about the competition among traditional county members and also that part of the reason for that was a lack of information.

Andrew Strauss wants to see a competition that features the best players in the UK with top overseas stars, one that ideally replicated the atmosphere and intensity of the final over the World T20, where we fell short. Was that because of  lack of exposure to such match situations? Strauss thinks it might have helped had Ben Stokes had greater experience of the 'pressure cooker' atmosphere as he bowled those last six balls.

The ECB made it clear, in their meeting with the counties, that maintaining the status quo was not an option, at a time when most counties are under severe financial pressure. At the same time, however,  the parity and continuation of an eighteen-county T20 was completely agreed and is regarded as a non-negotiable.

So here are the main points from our lengthy chat, concluding with my questions, after Chris had gone over the presentation that county representatives had received:

Broadcasting - Tom Harrison, formerly on the Derbyshire staff, is world-renowned as an expert on broadcast rights and had confirmed that broadcasters were keen to see a new competition with new brands, one that would attract investment and new audiences. For the first time, with BT Sport and Sky, there are two major broadcasters to bid against one another and drive up the value of this competition. Those broadcasters want something new, a 'best against best' and a compelling spectator experience, to engage a culturally diverse audience.

Ticket sales  - analysis has showed that the majority of the current cricket audience is middle-age, middle-class male, irrespective of the competition. There is concern over the lack of tickets sold to juniors - only 5% of Test match and 13% of T20 Blast tickets go to that category and there is a great desire to tap into that audience.

A survey has shown that while 990,000 people currently attend first-class cricket in some form, there are a further 9.4 million who follow the game but don't attend, between the ages of 16 and 64. A separate survey of 7,000 sports supporters showed that cricket fans saw the game as 'exciting', but most non-fans saw it as 'boring', with twice as many teenagers more likely to go to a rugby match or wrestling event than a cricket match. Only seven in every hundred children had cricket in one of their top ten sports, while one in every two current club cricketers said that they struggle to reconcile the time demands of cricket with their everyday life.

The new competition is aimed at attracting children and parents into both watching and playing the game.

Finance - The ECB has done some very detailed financial analysis, assisted by Deloittes. The estimated annual revenues from the competition were £48 million, largely a combination of ticket sales and broadcasting rights, with running costs of £17 million. That would leave an estimated annual profit of £31 million, some of which would go into the grass roots of the game for participation, but leave £26 million to be split between 18 counties.  Each county would, on those figures, get an annual £1.3 million baseline cash injection, with the eight 'hosting' counties getting an additional fee of £250K. This fee is no different to what Test-hosting grounds get currently, or that we will get for hosting the Women's World Cup.

The use of that £1.3 miilion will be down to individual counties, but Chris would be keen to see much of it ploughed into grass roots cricket and get the game played in every school within the county, with coaching input.

So Chris, what exactly have Derbyshire agreed to?

The same as every county, Steve  - at this stage, ONLY to give the ECB a mandate to develop a future programme of two thriving T20 competitions and identify the best way forward with this. This mandate would include entering into discussions with broadcasters to secure the next TV deal.

Over and above the ticket income, what about the merchandising/refreshments sales at grounds. Won't those clubs retain them, giving them much more than a hosting fee?

All ticket sales will go into a central pot, while the group of  non-Test match counties will fight our corner very hard to ensure that we get our share of ALL revenues that we feel are competition-generated.

You can be assured that there will be some very lively discussion on how much of the burger  sale, or that of a pint, Nottinghamshire and the others will take and what goes into the collective pot!

Chris, I have two major concerns. First, to attract this 'new audience' won't they need to simplify the game? Secondly, if they are looking to get increased participation, where are they going to play? I know a lot of old clubs where the ground is overgrown or has become a housing estate.

I agree on that Steve, you're right and the format and 'look' of this competition will need a lot of work. The ECB and especially Rod Bransgrove, at Hampshire, has been a massive supporter of Cage Cricket . They are looking into this and also potentially buying land to create cricket grounds and clubs.

If the new competition is a successful as the research suggests and the ECB think it will be, we have to find new players and places for them to play, together with new formats of the game with special rules.

So why isn't that being done now, with the known ECB cash reserves, given as £70 million in May of this year?

The problem, Steve,  is that the counties have a combined £130 million of debt and money is currently being swallowed up in servicing that debt. Warwickshire's debt sits at £28.9 million, Yorkshire 24.1, Lancashire 18.8, Surrey 17, Nottinghamshire 11 - plenty of others are in middle single figures...

So where do Derbyshire sit in this?

We have borrowed £2 million pounds short term, of which one million will be paid back by January of next year. We will have a mortgage of around £300K on the Gateway - less than some people have on their houses. We are among the least in debt counties, along with Essex, Sussex and Middlesex, but there is serious debt out there, as I have said, which is sucking too much money out of the game.

Warwickshire's interest payments alone, every year, are £1.6 million. Yorkshire are paying £650K, Lancashire 500K, Surrey 470K, Durham 300K...that is just to service existing debt and it is effectively wasted money. We are paying it to banks and lenders, rather than putting it back into the game of cricket.

So basically this new competition is not aimed at me, or the traditional cricket fan then?

No it's not, Steve and that's why there's been such an outpouring from existing cricket fans. The people planning it don't see the competition as being for the traditional cricket fan, though their support would be a bonus. It is is being aimed squarely at this new, untapped audience and we are duty bound to try to get them into the game. It is the lady across the road who takes her kids to the zoo, or the safari park - that's who they are aiming at, getting her money and that of those like her into the game.

But do they seriously think people will travel to these eight cities to see a game of cricket?

You were right on your blog. There's little chance of Derbyshire members traveling to Nottingham to watch a side that contains perhaps one of our players. But I went to the BBC Music Awards in Birmingham and there were people there from across the country. When Elton John played Grace Road in Leicester, the audience came from Penzance to Edinburgh. They might do that for cricket.

They might not...people 'understand' music, but don't necessarily understand or like cricket...

We simply don't know, Steve. We have to try this and see if it works for the reasons I have explained.

What about its impact on the existing T20 Blast? Detrimental, surely?

One of the non-negotiables from the non-Test ground counties was that there had to be a competition on the same lines as the current T20 Blast. It might reduce to ten games a side, five home, five away in the group stage, but as a group we were adamant that there had to be something where any one of the existing eighteen first-class counties could get to finals day.

Be quite clear that this idea will eventually be voted down if there is not a guaranteed nationally televised T20 Blast competition, as it is at present, with the same resources being thrown into it.

Cynics might say you risk diluting the audience, perhaps saturating the market?

Some may say that. Why would the casual fan go to see Derbyshire play Leicestershire, when you could go and watch the 'Nottinghamshire Eagles' play the 'Southern Shandy Drinkers'? The parochial fan, the current county supporter, will still go to follow THEIR side. It is essential that we get the marketing right, but Simon Storey and I think we can 'piggy back' off the success of a new competition.

For example, Northamptonshire currently have Ben Duckett on their staff. How long they can retain him is a good question, but he has stayed there for now, to his great credit, despite being coveted by every other county. If we get this right, Ben Duckett can afford to stay there, because there will be a draft for this competition each year. The 'vision' is that when, say, Northamptonshire win Finals Day, they will then go to the televised draft/auction and Ben might be picked up by one of the participating sides, based on his form in the competition, for, say, £50K.

His county will release him, just as they would were he playing for England, and perhaps quite happily, because that money reduces the likelihood of him having to go to a big county to earn top money. They will lose him for a few weeks, but otherwise have him available.

OK, I get that. Another question I have is the timing of the competition. I have seen July mentioned - is the month likely to be kept exclusively for that competition, or will there be other cricket going on at the same time?

The first year we could feasibly do this would be 2018, within the existing broadcasting deal, so Sky would air it originally. Colin Graves has gone on record as saying it may be launched in 2020, or whenever it was ready. The main issue of launching it early are its impact on future tours, which are scheduled well in advance. We need the England players involved, so that needs to be factored in.

The current idea is that the existing T20 Blast tournament would take place in late June/July, with the finals day around the third week in July. This new 'Charge' competition, as they are calling it, will take place in August, with the final perhaps in the third week of the month. I should stress that these timings are very much notional at this stage.

The intention is for one to follow the other, although another option, suggested among the counties, would be to play the two halves of the Blast either side of the new competition.

An issue could be that you have a side making a title challenge in the county championship who suddenly lose impetus, because several of their better players are 'drafted' and are no longer available at a key stage of the summer.

Yes, that could happen, but the reality is that we derive only eleven per cent of our revenue from county championship cricket.  We cannot allow that to be a driving force to prevent change. Yes, there will be games when key stars are missing, just as there are now - you won't see Jonny Bairstow or Joe Root near much championship cricket. There will be more missing for those few weeks, but we have to take that on the chin.

I suppose from a Derbyshire perspective, that might level the playing field a little, as on recent form we've only a couple of players likely to go to that draft?

That's probably correct, Steve. We have to fight hard to keep the integrity of the current competition, but be prepared to go with one that might just change county finances. Look at this year - we only played around ten days of cricket in the month of August, so it wouldn't affect that much, as long as the two T20 competitions were kept apart.

I actually think it would 'rev up' the existing competition, because players would be trying hard to impress and get a crack at the 'Super Charge' competition and the financial opportunities it would offer them.

So what are you wanting from supporters and members?

Their understanding of what we are doing and why, together with their mandate to continue to investigate this, while at the same time recognising their concerns and taking them to meetings. We know we won't get universal acceptance or anything like it, but the opinions offered will help us to make it into a robust competition that might just make a difference to the financial set up in the county game.

Chris, thank you for this. I have to say I am still not convinced that this massive untapped audience is there, but I better appreciate the rationale behind the competition - and how much still needs to be worked out.

Steve - neither am I, it will take a massive effort. The grain of comfort I have at present is that when we last hosted the Champions Trophy, it brought out an audience that came out, having not previously been involved in the game in this country.

Where the marketing gurus will earn their corn is in unlocking family involvement. They say they can do it and, while I have my doubts, we have to give them the opportunity.

One final point - the ECB are so confident that they can make this work that they are happy to borrow the money ahead of the broadcasting deal and give this to the counties from 2018. It's like going to the bank with planning permission for a development in your garden and asking for money against it. That's your analogy, right there and we need that money.

It is a work of magic and art to keep our heads above water every single year. Maybe if we hadn't been so effective at this, people in Derbyshire might have realised more how really hard it is, year on year, to keep the club going. We're running a business that loses money every year. By that 'magic', my financial input, the ECB handout and the support of loyal sponsors we somehow get to a break even and small profit.

But it is not sustainable. The ticket revenue from the County Championship each year wouldn't pay the wages of one of our young players. With membership income bringing in just 5.8 pence of every pound in the club, we need to be prepared to explore each and every opportunity.


I hope that the above helps other supporters realise the importance of doing something, whether you are a likely fan of the new competition or otherwise. The figures above convinced me of the need for that at least, even if the likely 'dumbing down' of the proposed game may render it not to my taste.

Do I want to see a change to the current set up? No, not at all, but if it came to a choice between that and counties folding - specifically MY county, then it is a bullet I am prepared to bite, albeit grudgingly.

Just as long as everything is locked down and the 'suits' can't renege on any promises or arrangements. I assume that everything will be carefully looked at and future-proofed from an eighteen-county perspective.

I struggle with the razzmatazz of the T20 Blast and am at an age when I don't really need the 'distractions' from the game, nor indeed coloured clothing. Yet I have grown to like it, tolerating its excesses if disliking the 'in your face' music, dancing and sideshows.

By the sound of it, the new competition will be a step too far for me and likely many of a similar mindset. I might watch one, in due course, just to shake my head like an old codger and tell anyone within earshot that 'it weren't like that in my day'.

Maybe I should warn the family...

But thanks Chris - your time gave me a better appreciation of the rationale and I hope that this blog, the longest I have ever published (albeit with considerable assistance!) will help a few others to better appreciate the challenges faced by our club and those who run it. Like me, some of you may struggle with the concept, but perhaps there is a much greater need. As long as the money IS equally divided between the 18 counties...

Now, if we could attract that new audience with the current set up, it would definitely get my vote.

Of course, I welcome your comments as ever!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire day 1

Worcestershire 255-6 (Clarke 117 not, Cotton 3-46, Milnes 2-46) 

v Derbyshire

Not a bad effort today by a young Derbyshire attack, keeping things tight and under three an over all day.

They might have hoped for greater success after opting to bowl, but a fine century by Joe Clarke, one of the county circuit's finest young batsmen, kept them at bay.

Tony Palladino bowled beautifully all day and finally got a deserved wicket before the close, but Ben Cotton and Tom Milnes took the lion's share of the wickets and we will hope to strike early tomorrow and limit the first innings to under 350.

If they can do that, there will be few complaints - then it is up to the batsmen to do their stuff.

More from me tomorrow.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Worcestershire v Derbyshire preview

The last four days of a long and arduous season start tomorrow, in the scenic splendour of Worcester.

There are many worse places to watch, and doubtless to play the game and Derbyshire travel with a squad of considerable youth.

With Neil Broom ruled out because of the birth of his third child and Callum Parkinson Leicester-bound, Greg Cork comes into the following squad:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Alex Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Tom Wood
Harvey Hosein
Greg Cork
Tom Milnes
Rob Hemmings
Tony Palladino
Will Davis
Ben Cotton

I'll not second guess the man to be left out, but the game represents a final chance to make a case for next summer, while going into the winter in good fettle.

The home squad:


Of course we hope for a win, but either way we will be anchored to the bottom of the table, with much to do over the winter months.

Gary Wilson signs

Interesting news today, that Gary Wilson, the Ireland wicket-keeper batsman, has opted to leave Surrey and join Derbyshire on a three-year contract.

It is a good signing by the county, giving them an experienced cricketer with an excellent record. He has a first-class average of almost forty runs per innings, suggesting that he could, should we choose, play as a specialist batsman if required. He has done that at Surrey, where he has also led the side on occasion with flair and considerable skill. A good friend of Billy Godleman, I could see him taking on a vice-captaincy role at some point.

He also has over two thousand international runs for Ireland and is known as an excellent one-day finisher, scampering runs and working the field, something that hasn't always be the preserve of Derbyshire sides over the years.

While there will be those who say that the signing will hamper the progress of Harvey Hosein, I disagree and think that it makes a lot of sense. For one thing, Wilson misses some cricket through the season with his national call ups (which Derbyshire receive money for) and so Hosein will be natural first choice at those times. It also gives Harvey an experienced man to work and compete with, never a bad thing.

Some will say we should have brought in a number two to Harvey, but who? Derbyshire are not exactly a number one draw in the county game right now. We lost our coach mid-season, will be eighteenth of eighteen counties and needed someone good enough to take us forward. I'd suggest that a wicket-keeper prepared to come and be number two to a lad of 20 is going to be hard to find - or is probably not going to be worth signing.

That Harvey has done well since returning to the side is undeniable. He both keeps and bats beautifully, but his next challenge is to maintain that over the season. I am pretty sure that Harvey will start next season with the gloves and he will then need to work to maintain his current high standards over a season and its various formats.

That is a big ask for any cricketer and when you are looking for a lad of twenty to score runs regularly and keep wicket nigh-flawlessly for session after session in three forms of the game, it will be tough. If he manages it, the world will be his oyster, but if he doesn't, Derbyshire have a very good man there to take the gloves without fear of a drop in standards.

Derbyshire could have gone for Niall O'Brien or Phil Mustard, neither of who could really have played as a specialist bat, or for the likes of Adam Wheater or Steve Davies, both of who wanted to move to keep wicket (and probably wouldn't have come anyway). They could also have gone for Daryn Smit, who would have done a good job and could still do, as a batsman and spinner/keeper option. I don't think assurances will have been given to Wilson and it will be down to the two men to show that they are the best option with the gloves. The challenge will doubtless appeal to the new man, who had slipped back in the queue at Surrey, who seem to have more keeping options than most clubs have seam bowlers.

The only surprise for me is that we have a signing before the coaching setup has been confirmed. I suspect that further pieces of the jigsaw will be once that has been finalised and the potential targets assured of who they will be working with. You never know, though...

I can't fault the signing of a man who seems to have been very popular with Surrey supporters though and will doubtless prove the same at the 3aaa County Ground.

Welcome to Derbyshire, Gary.

The first piece of the 2017 jigsaw is in place.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Hamza, Fred and Elton...

There were two unusual pieces of news this week with links to Derbyshire cricket.

First up was the news that Hamza Siddique, one-time Derbyshire staff player, had landed a role in Doctors on the BBC. A product of Repton school and Cardiff MCCU, the Staffordshire-born player never played in the senior side at Derbyshire but played through the various age groups. I hope he does well, as the second Derbyshire player with acting on his CV.

The first was, of course, Fred Trueman, who played former fast bowler Ernie Egan in an episode of Dad's Army in 1970, two years after he had retired from Yorkshire. Astonishingly, two years later, when he was a long way from prime shape, we signed him to play in the John Player Sunday League.

His figures weren't that bad and I remember him bowling especially well against his old county in a televised game at Bradford that year, taking the wickets of John Hampshire and Phil Sharpe after earlier clumping Chris Old into the middle distance.

Ironically, we engaged him to play one-day cricket having told Harold Rhodes, younger and fitter, that he couldn't play on such a contract, having retired early for a career in the brewing industry. One Sunday afternoon at Ilkeston, Derbyshire fielded an attack that in name was perhaps among their finest - Alan Ward, Mike Hendrick and Fred Trueman in the same attack against Glamorgan. They took seven wickets between them as we won easily.

It was a qualified success. He let no one down, perhaps because teams were still worried about the legend, but he was some way removed from his best. He put a 'few bob' on the gate, which was the intention, but the sight of him rolling, for want of a better word, around the boundary edge in vain pursuit of an edge at third man or fine leg, lives with me still.

Still, at least I saw Fred Trueman play for Derbyshire a few times, classic action and all - and got his autograph.

It was at Chesterfield, when we played Warwickshire and Derbyshire amassed an impressive 234-5 in 40 overs, with Chris Wilkins making a wonderful 94 and sharing in a highly entertaining stand of 121 with Tony Borrington, who played an equally fine hand in making 56 at number seven.

Against a batting line-up of John Jameson, Denis Amiss, Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran and Deryck Murray, internationals all, it might not have been enough, but Fred bowled his eight overs for just twenty runs and we won easily, despite a fine century by the wonderful West Indian, Kallicharran.

At the end, Fred signed my autograph book with a smile at the back of the pavilion, something that kept me happy for days afterwards. If only cricketers knew how much that signature meant to youngsters...

The other news? Elton John at the 3aaa County Ground. Using it for other purposes is not new - there was a special tennis event, organised by Walter Goodyear, that featured tennis greats Fred Perry and Dan Maskell in the 1950s. Elton is a step up from that, though and I understand that tickets are nearly sold out, understandably so. 

Cynics may say it has nothing to do with cricket and why are we wasting time on it, but if the sums have been done correctly (as they will have), Derbyshire could earn enough from hosting the gig to bring in a senior player. It is all part of the income generation that is so important for us as a club, so the more we can do, the better.

With that, I bid you adieu.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Critchley signs but Parkinson leaves

Mixed news for Derbyshire supporters today, with the story breaking that leg-spinner Matt Critchley (pictured) has signed a new four-year deal with the club, but left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson has signed a two-year deal with Leicestershire.

The Critchley signing is excellent news. While the youngster still has a long way to go to be bowling sides out in the four-day game - and why would we expect otherwise at his age - he bowled superbly throughout the club's one-day season and troubled almost every side that he bowled against.

That he is set to work with Shane Warne over the winter is excellent news and will give him things to think about and work on. What he perhaps could really do with now is a senior spinner of quality to come in, work alongside him and mentor his short-term development.

With his batting steadily improving too, Matt is a player who could be a focal point of our team for a long time and I am sure that he will be well-treated at the club, as he has been with this contract.

The news of Parkinson is disappointing and tweets from chairman, Chris Grant this morning were fairly clear.

'I believe the actions of agent Phil Weston have been totally unethical and I will be raising the matter with the ECB' said Grant. 'Counties must be given the requisite 28 day protections for players within their Academies, otherwise poaching will become commonplace.'

One can only assume that the player's agent has got what he feels is a better deal for his young charge, at least in the short term. Whether this goes to the ECB will be worth watching, though the agent's stance will doubtless be that Parkinson was not a product of the Derbyshire Academy, rather that of Lancashire. He was a relatively recent addition to our resources and, as a result, perhaps not deemed a graduate in the normal sense.

Mind you, having taken most of his wickets and played his best innings against them this year, they will be well placed to judge his potential. The chairman is absolutely right that clubs who put time and money into a player's development through an Academy system should have some protection, and seems to have support for this around the country. I suspect that this case may eventually be seen as different though, as highlighted above.

Time will tell.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Further thoughts on city T20

I'll start this piece by saying that I have a massive respect for Chris Grant and what he has done for Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

Regular readers will know that, and the level of professionalism, on and off the pitch in his tenure, is light years away from what it once was. More than anyone else on the county circuit, he has been transparent about his thoughts on the new city-based T20 and is to be commended on that.

Yet I am not convinced and it would seem that I am not alone.

Having spent a fair bit of time over the past few days looking over Twitter and various news sources, the biggest issue that I have - and I suspect many others too - is that there is no detail. To use the old phrase, the devil lies therein and the counties earlier this week voted for the introduction of a competition that no one really knows a darn thing about. How can you do that?

What cities will it be? One would guess, for eight teams, two in London, then one each in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, possibly Southampton and one in the west (Cardiff?) Surprise, surprise, that's one for every Test ground, bar Durham.

How will the teams be recruited? The best of the county game, plus the 'cream of world cricket'. Maybe three overseas per team, so a lot lifted from our domestic game for appropriate squads.

When will it be? That's a good one. The current thinking is July, when a lot of cricket fans - TRADITIONAL cricket fans mind, not this 'new audience' we will be finding - are taking their holidays, in the hope of catching some cricket played by the team they have supported, in some cases, for decades. Some sources say the month will be entirely given over to the new competition, which is a bit of a pain, isn't it? Call me old fashioned, but I reckon that the likelihood of a Lancashire fan from Liverpool going across to support a team called Manchester is slim. Likewise people from Sheffield suddenly buying Leeds tops. Only a quick Google search is needed to see what Derbyshire and Leicestershire fans think of supporting a team that may well have Nottingham, Outlaws or Robin Hood in its name.

If the aim is to make money for counties, I can buy that and superficially it is good. If the aim is to bring cricket to the masses equally so, but I struggle to see how. The TV rights will almost certainly go to Sky and they aren't close to saturating the domestic TV market, though granted are increasing it steadily. The cricket will be in eight cities in high summer, not across the far greater range of towns and cities as it is now. People won't travel two hours or more to watch a twenty-over game, be charged daft money for food and drink and maybe, if they're lucky, not have to pull their jacket around them for warmth or stick a beanie hat on their head.

This isn't Australia, where you can sit with a cold beer in 95 degree temperatures. With 65% of their population across the big cities that host state sides, the only change is a couple of extra urban teams. Of course the games are well-attended, it is by the same fan base. We'd have around 25% of our likely cities as a population base, a good few of the cricket faithful already marginalised and hostile at having to support a weird composite side that bears no resemblance to anything they have followed before.

Nor is it India, where the IPL is a huge affair and tickets are considerably more affordable. There's not the history to contend with there either, so the intermittent bugler who gets the crowds on their feet sounds like it is part of an event. Maybe a kazoo may be more appropriate for our version and quite possibly loud enough.

Of course the TV pundits are in favour. You don't bite the hand that feeds you, but it is delusional to think that a host of non-cricket families will discover the game for the first time, even if Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers were in town - sorry, the city. For the unconverted, a six is a six, whether smitten by a golden blade or someone of more rustic talent. The game itself is a mystery and the word 'cricket' is met with a glazed expression and swift change of subject. They will, in short, be much less interested in London  beating Manchester than the traditionalists would watching Surrey do the same to Lancashire. Whoever gets the crucial marketing 'gig' will need to be offered a huge salary, as it is going to be tough.

Which brings me to my final point. What of those left behind? There will be, we're assured, a T20 competition as we have at the moment, but will it run simultaneously?  If so, the cream of the domestic talent will have gone, the top international talent will be signed up and you'll be left watching two largely second elevens,  bolstered by two blokes from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Whoopy-doop...

If they run it earlier in the summer, the chances are that the weather will impact on both the games and the attendances. Branded hot water bottles will be all the rage, if there are sponsors to be found for largely second tier and possibly second-rate cricket, maybe re-branded The Pound Shop T20. Overseas players will be involved in the IPL and won't commit to playing both English competitions. They are already complaining of burnout.

Then what will happen? Those in the corridors of power will sit back in their leather recliners, pontificate once more that the county game is dying and 'renegotiate' the cash hand out to eighteen counties. No one's going along to games, they will say, and there's too many teams. They will have short-term conscience money, but then?

What if the new idea fails, as I suspect it will? There may be an initial curiosity value for some, lured in by the big names, but by the time people realise that it is actually just a series of celebrity beer matches, one where no one really gives a monkey's who wins or loses, it may be too late.

Once the bigwigs have seen that Sky will pay big money for a short series of matches, however crass and meaningless, what guarantees are there that the second tier down - the counties - were not deemed surplus to requirements? The big names play in the city competition, they play for England and hey, it's the same as in Australia now. It must be good.

Unless these newly-formed city sides (they already hate the word franchises) are totally independent of the counties at whose grounds they play, it can only increase the financial divide between the rich and the poor. Derbyshire may - or may not - get an extra million a year, but our dear neighbours by the Trent will otherwise get ticket, merchandising and refreshment sales that will make the current financial disparity into a future yawning chasm.

The devil's in the detail right enough. Let's just say that, in my humble opinion, the people in charge of the the county game have done a Robert Johnson and met him at the crossroads.

I hope I am proved wrong and will gladly admit to it in due course.

But I am not convinced. Not by a long chalk.

Let's hope Cap'n Grant can steer the good ship Derbyshire through some choppy waters in the years ahead.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 4

Derbyshire 307 and 286-8

Leicestershire 247 and 301-8 (Cosgrove 110, Palladino 4-64, Davis 2-45, Parkinson 2-76)

Match drawn

The last day of county cricket at the 3aaa County Ground this year was like many of those that preceded it. Derbyshire huffed and puffed but, like the wolf in the fairy tale, couldn't manage to blow the final house or two down.

There was a spell where it looked like they could lose, when Horton and Cosgrove were piling up runs to take them to 122-2, then when Neil Dexter helped to take them to 200-3. The dismissal of the talented Cosgrove  triggered a collapse, but Sayer and Jones held on through the last twenty overs and the quest for the elusive first win goes in to the final match. A season without a home championship win is not one to look back on with great fondness, although we played some good cricket at times.

The evergreen Tony Palladino took four more wickets and remains the 'go to' bowler  of the side. Will Davis again showed his potential, as did Callum Parkinson, but the side's need for another experienced seamer and a spinner who can bowl out sides on the last day is massive. No criticism of Parkinson intended, as he has done a very good job in his handful of outings, but it is unrealistic to expect to bowl sides out twice when two of your main bowlers are just 19 and 20.

And so to Worcester for the last game of the summer. An opportunity to go into the winter with some runs and wickets under the belt and look forward to a winter of massive work, both in the nets and in the offices...

Thanks again to Rachel for the typing!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 3

Derbyshire 307 and 286-8 (Madsen 134 not, Hosein 58)

Leicestershire 247 (Davis 4-68, Palladino 3-27)

Derbyshire lead by 346 runs

A fifth century of the season for Wayne Madsen today put Derbyshire into a position where they could feasibly break their duck for the championship season tomorrow.

With a game to go, Wayne is just short of 1200 runs for the summer and averages a touch under 60, highlighting once more how important he is to the cause. The pair he got recently was a momentary 'blip' in another golden season, one that earned him the Player of the Year award today.

We were in a pickle at 57-5, but Harvey Hosein once again came in and underlined his growing credentials. Getting out towards the end of the day took his average down to a piffling 128, but he has laid down the gauntlet to whoever comes in as wicket-keeper that there is battle ahead for that first choice role.

For me, that was part of the appeal of Daryn Smit. He is a good enough bat to just play in that role, or as a spinner to offer valuable options - a Wes Durston-type player as Wes was a few seasons back. If Harvey needed a break, Smit could then have taken the gloves. It would - could - be a very handy utility signing.

I had a few messages today asking if I thought Steven Davies might be headed our way on leaving Surrey, My answer was simple - no.

Davies is on a seriously good contract at The Oval and wants to leave for a county where he is guaranteed keeping wicket. Unless we plan  shooting ourselves in the foot with a twelve-bore, we don't want to block Harvey's path, merely have an adequate plan B in place and competition for the role. If that player is good enough with the bat to play as a specialist if required, so much the better.

Let's hope for that win tomorrow, to end the home season on a high.

Finally tonight, in the light of the decision to introduce a city-based T20 made today, I have brought in a poll for the first time in a while. Maybe I am alone, but I'm just curious how many people are actually interested in this. If there's money coming to the county as a consequence that's fair enough, but I remain to be convinced that it will attract the support that it will need.

So will you travel to Nottingham (I assume) to support a city franchise team of some name or another?

I'll leave it up for a week and see how it goes.

Decision day for counties and T20

There's a big decision at Lord's today, regarding the future of the T20 game in this country.

I say decision. Using an analogy with that other 'phenomenon' in the news, The Great British Bake Off, part of the problem appears to be that there are too many options on the table. Do you want it with jam, or butter cream? Maybe fresh cream instead and perhaps with vermicelli topping? No, scrap the vermicelli, let's go for a chocolate topping and tell you what, have chocolate filling instead.

It is nonsense and yet, for the parochial cricket fan of a lot of cricket counties, it is worrying. The crux of the matter appears to be the creation of an eight-team competition, based on the Indian IPL model (yawn) played in eight major cities. You can bet your bottom dollar that we won't be one, nor will Leicester, while Hove, Worcester, Taunton, Durham and Chelmsford won't be either. Let alone Northampton, regardless of them winning the T20 this year. That a lot of these towns and cities are in counties that have made T20 successful on and off the pitch is more than a little ironic.

So will we have Manchester and Liverpool? Two great cities after all, but both in the same county. There's two Sydney teams in the Big Bash after all, another model the powers that be seem keen to emulate. Will anyone in Yorkshire outside Leeds get behind a side that doesn't actually represent them? What about a London side, a composite of Middlesex, Surrey and Essex?

Research shows that only 25% of the UK population is likely to be catered for in the populations of these eight cities. Outwith them, interest may well be akin to mine, which is minimal. How many people used to be overly fussed by the result of the North v South matches? Or the Gentleman v Players? Or indeed Smokers v Non Smokers?

The idea appears to be to have a month-long tournament, with players drafted in and bid for as they do in India. What happens if or when a player is injured playing in a franchise team and ruled out for his substantive employers is worthy of consideration.

Whether the cricketing authorities like it or not, cricket fans ARE parochial. Their club's history goes back generations and few can just give that up. There's likely only three or four of our players would likely be involved and I certainly wouldn't follow that team's fortunes as a consequence, probably as a squad member in most cases. I don't support Worcestershire because they have Ross Whiteley, or Somerset because of Tim Groenewald, nor would I expect others to.

It is what happens to the traditional game that is of the greatest concern to me. Talk of reducing the championship still further to ten games leaves me cold, then they will moan that we're not producing Test cricketers any more. If the proposed tournament is to be played in July, does that mean that what I would deem 'worthwhile' cricket is played without a hundred of the best players? Or do we have no cricket worthy of interest in one of the best summer months? It would make booking my summer holiday easier, right enough...

Then there's the overseas players. However tough it is to get decent overseas players for the T20, to run a suggested 'traditional' T20 alongside it will make it nigh impossible. The big names will go for the 'money' competition in the cities, because as mercenaries they generally don't care who pays them. That will leave the counties picking over the lesser lights, with reduced appeal for the matches as a consequence.

A two-tier league system would be my preference, based on the current county set up, but then I am one of the accursed traditionalists, nor especially a fan of the format anyway. It appears to me that those in the senior roles of the game must always try to justify their existence by tinkering with the game to 'enhance' it. Comparisons with India and Australia are odious, because the social and economic issues in the game as it is played in these countries differs considerably from that in England. And I've not even mentioned the weather and the potential of its impact...

Be sure of one thing. If counties vote for the new competition, accepting a reported sweetener or  'bribe' of a million pounds-plus per county to get it through, the game as a lot of us love it will change forever.

For the better?

Not in my book.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 2

Derbyshire 307 (Hosein 83 not)

Leicestershire 228-8 (Cosgrove 81 not, Davis 4-60, Palladino 2-27, Parkinson 2-71)

Derbyshire lead by 79 runs

It was another encouraging day for Derbyshire today, albeit in an end of season game against a county that is hardly among the high-flyers.

Yet one can only do well against what is up against you. After Harvey Hosein ran out of partners, Derbyshire made regular inroads into the Leicestershire batting, with Will Davis again giving notice of an ability to take wickets. That he bowls the occasional bad ball is beyond dispute, but between he bowls enough really good ones to trouble and dismiss good batsmen, his pace setting him apart from most and his potential quite considerable.

Callum Parkinson confirmed his talent too and has done well in his limited appearances so far, while Tony Palladino just did what he always does - running in hard and putting the ball in the right areas with metronomic accuracy. Top marks to Billy Godleman too, making bowling changes today that often brought early dividends - a joy to any captain!

If the weather stays fair, a positive finish would appear guaranteed from here, but the first session tomorrow could well dictate which way the result goes. While the dangerous Mark Cosgrove is still there, the visitors will entertain hopes of exceeding 300 themselves. 

Let's hope that we can stop them in their tracks and build a potentially winning lead tomorrow.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Derbyshire v Leicestershire day 1

Derbyshire 282-8 (Hosein 79 not, Hughes 55)

v Leicestershire

A battling, unbeaten innings of 79 from Harvey Hosein, in the course of which he took his season average to 194, took Derbyshire to a position they would be quietly pleased with by the close.

On what appears to be a slow wicket that offered help all day, we lost both openers early, recovered through Alex Hughes and Wayne Madsen, then slumped again, before Harvey got help from the tail and steered the ship to a better-than-it-looked-earlier total by the close.

Scoring runs never appeared easy, but Harvey pushed on well in the final session, ably assisted by Tony Palladino and Tom Milnes. Reaching 300 tomorrow would be impressive and a maiden century is tantalisingly within reach for a very talented young cricketer, who already has a career-best to his name.

Mention too for Alex Hughes, who again showed he has the technique and battle for the key role at number three. Leicestershire have a good and experienced seam attack, Mckay and Shreck being wily campaigners, but he did well and deserves an extended run in the position next year.

It all makes for an interesting day tomorrow.

Postscript - delighted to see Tom Wood make his senior bow today and I'm happy to correct an error from last night. Tom was never on the DCCC Academy, although he had a few games for them in his younger days.

His progress o the county game is an object lesson for any young cricketer - that you can get there if you are prepared to battle, even if there are rejections along the way.

I am sure the runs will come for him with extended opportunity - which I hope will be forthcoming.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Derbyshire v Leicestershire preview

There has been pleasing news for Derbyshire supporters in the past couple of days.

First, Tom Taylor and Ben Cotton signed contract extensions, keeping them at the club until the end of 2018. Now today, Taylor's Ticknall team mate Tom Wood has been selected in the Derbyshire squad to play Leicestershire at the 3aaa County Ground, starting tomorrow.

It is just reward for Wood. after a prolific summer that followed a prolific winter in Australia. His game is in a good place right now and I am delighted for a young man who could have a big future. The presence of Academy graduates Alex Hughes, Ben Slater and Wood is good to see in a county batting line up. The full squad contains eight from that Academy and is:

Billy Godleman
Ben Slater
Alex Hughes
Wayne Madsen
Neil Broom
Tom Wood
Matt Critchley
Harvey Hosein
Tom Milnes
Tony Palladino
Callum Parkinson
Will Davis
Ben Cotton

The visitors have also named a thirteen-man squad, though one at the other end of the age spectrum, with a strong over-thirty bias.

 Horton, Robson, Dexter, Cosgrove (capt), Pettini, Eckersley (w/k), Dearden, McKay, Chappell, Shreck, Klein, Jones, Sayer.

Checking through my mails in recent days, there has been some criticism in the comparison between Leicestershire filling the coaching role to be vacated by Andrew McDonald quickly, while we have taken our time.

The answer is simple and the criticism not valid to me.  They know their coach is leaving, while we wanted to give our mid-season replacement, John Sadler, a chance to make the job his own. He's not done a bad job, though hamstrung by some under-performing senior players and a few issues (the Ches n Wes stories) that are probably outwith his control.

Some younger players have taken the opportunity to make a case and, whatever happens at the summer's end, John can hold his head high. That an influx of reliable, more experienced talent is required is a given, and will doubtless be addressed in the coming weeks and months.

I am sure that plenty of work is going on behind the scenes to sort the many outstanding issues and there will be news soon enough.

In closing - thanks to my daughter for this!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Short weekend warmer

Thanks to you all for the good wishes after yesterday's hand surgery. I am currently recovering well and should be back to a semblance of normality in a couple of weeks.

I just wanted to close the correspondence on Daryl Smit for now, which is generating a postbag that Santa would struggle with, opinions of all kinds among them.

My own have been made clear, but of course, I am not privy to the team building plans, any more than you are. For all we know, there could be someone lined up from elsewhere and we may have a Kolpak target in mind as a strike bowler or spinner. What I would be against is packing the side with non-English qualified players, to the detriment of the young talent emerging.

So while I could handle us going 9-2 or even 8-3 with English/Kolpak balance, I would be loathe to see it slip to 7-4. We would struggle to afford it, for one thing and with Neil Broom already here, an overseas would take us to 9-2, before we did anything else. I know he's not a Kolpak, but he is not English-qualified either. I think Smit's experience over here would see him score more heavily, but Neil may well come back with a bang next summer, after a difficult 2016. I certainly hope so.

Let's see how it all pans out.

Thank you for your comments and mails and I will be back over the weekend with a daughter-typed preview of the season's final home game, against Leicestershire.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Smit double century as seconds draw

It must have been a jolly old morning at Belper today, as Derbyshire Seconds advanced their overnight 364-6 to 519-7 by the interval.

Full marks to the talented Rob Hemmings, who made a splendid 85 from 127 balls, but the star of the show was again South African Daryn Smit (pictured), who advanced his overnight 110 to an unbeaten 200 from 281 balls, with seventeen fours and four sixes. The pair added 211 in 43 overs, in what must have been something quite special to watch.

The game ended in a draw, with Ben Cotton picking up two and Hemmings one wicket before Neil Brand saw Glamorgan to a comfortable draw. Brand sounds like a player of talent and potential, but from a Derbyshire perspective, so does Smit.

It is hard to think he could have done more in two trial matches, keeping wicket tidily and recording scores of 59, 10 not and 200 not. It echoed the feats of Peter Kirsten when he arrived forty years ago and turned out for our second team and Smit could be an equally important player, if given the opportunity.

I fail to see how he couldn't be engaged on the back of his efforts, though of course am no more privy to the winter team-building plans than any of you. For me, it would be better to sign a player of established reputation back home, with one to build here, rather than one of a handful of keepers here who would be perhaps coming for one last pay day.

Unless we have AB de Villiers lined up as overseas ( a man can dream, huh?), Smit would do me very nicely and would doubtless be an asset in all forms of the game. I'd have liked to see him bowl a few overs today, as others have commented, but you need someone competent behind the timbers and maybe no one was up to that role.

Here's hoping there will be appropriate conversations in the next few days. If he turned out half as good as Wayne Madsen we'd have few complaints and I suspect he would be much more than that. Nor do I fear another Dominic Telo, a player of talent but one who played most of his domestic cricket at a lower level than the county game and struggled here. One doesn't skipper a South African franchise side, as Smit has, without having something special to offer.

Anyway, that's it from me for now. As I mentioned earlier in the week, hand surgery awaits tomorrow and a little enforced down time. Should any news break, I'll be back courtesy of my daughter, be assured of that.

Meantime, enjoy your weekend!

PS Thanks to those who were at Belper for their informed and well-expressed comments. Very much appreciated

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Signposts for next summer at Belper? Wood and Smit make a case...

Last night, without the use of a crystal ball, I suggested that an 'impressive-looking' Derbyshire middle order might be worth keeping an eye on in the game at Belper, against Glamorgan's second team.

Indeed they were. Although Josh Clarke fell for just four, Ticknall's Tom Wood came in at four and played a lovely innings of 134 in just under four-and-a-half hours, with fourteen fours and four sixes. If Wood is not offered a deal for next summer, I will start to question the logic of our club's recruitment policy, plain and simple.

Here we have a lad from our own doorstep, who has scored heavily in local cricket for a number of summers, gone out to Australia and done the same in top grade cricket there, then come home and hit good runs against some quality attacks for the Unicorns. When given what appeared to be a belated opportunity in the second team, he responded with a double century, several other good scores and today's ton.

At 22, he is gold dust for a county not awash with exciting young batting talent and I hope that he gets a deal to show what he can do after a winter's work, when I would expect to see him push into the senior side. There is nothing to lose in playing the lad for the season's last two games, giving him a taster of the top level and seeing how easily he might make the transition. I would, were I picking the side.

Tom was joined in a stand of 158 by South African Daryn Smit, who batted to the end of the day in making an unbeaten 110 in four and a quarter hours of batting, nursing the side through to a healthy 364-6 at the close, after the quick dismissals of Greg Cork and Matt Critchley.

Ryan Bramwell earlier made a gritty 51, while Rob Hemmings shared an unbroken stand of 69 with Smit, who seems very much a player that we need for 2017.  Neat and reliable behind the stumps, capable of playing the innings that the game demands anywhere between five and seven in the order, able to bowl challenging leggies - what's not to like?

Last night I got a lovely email from someone at his club, saying that he was a 'superhuman run machine' and 'the ultimate professional' who thoroughly deserved a crack at the county game. It is hard to disagree, looking at his statistics. If a player with Smit's track record isn't the answer to our wicket-keeping question, I'm unsure what that question is. He's also got an ancestral visa, I understand, which would allow him to play here in the same way that Wayne Madsen first did.

For me, an experienced nucleus of Madsen, Godleman, Broom, Smit and a bowling overseas, augmented by the youngsters as their form and fitness permits, would give Derbyshire a better-looking side for next year, one with a strong, experienced underbelly. Another seamer of experience and we'd be alright, allowing for continued development of those young players and the building of a strong 'Derbyshire' spirit.

Let's see what the days ahead bring, but it would be criminal to lose two players of unquestionable talent to other counties through a failure to act quickly.

Anyone got a pen?