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.