Monday, 28 November 2016

Stubbings return makes sense for Derbyshire

It struck me today, when my Twitter feed told me the news, that the two coaches thus far appointed by Derbyshire to their new structure would make up a pretty handy opening partnership.

Certainly John Wright and Steve Stubbings, announced as first team support coach today, would sell their wickets dearly in the club cause and if the current incumbents do as well next year we will have plenty to cheer.

There is a pattern emerging here...ex-opening batsman Kim Barnett as cricket supremo, John Wright, Steve Stubbings...what price the Development Coach being a former opening batsman, when the news is released?

I don't care too much, like most of you, as long as they do the job that we hope for.

Steve Stubbings was a very dependable opening batsman and is still young enough to be playing the first-class game. Instead, he has gained his Level 4 coaching badge and held a range of coaching roles since leaving Derbyshire as a player in 2009.

He was Second XI coach for a while and most recently was batting coach at Northamptonshire, who, let's not forget, were T20 champions this summer. It is a good time for him to return home - which Derbyshire most assuredly is, even for a man whose accent still gives away his years in Australia for education.

Welcome back Steve. It is another piece of the jigsaw complete and a sound appointment by the club. He will be an excellent foil and sounding board for Billy Godleman and will be appreciated by supporters as a man with a ready smile and willingness to chat.

I wish him well, as I am sure you all do.

Postscript: early warning for you that I will be out of action for around a week from December 7. Should anything of major importance occur, my offspring have offered to type for me, while I recover from another operation to my hand. There will otherwise be scheduled 'down' time, as they say in computer circles.

One or two things planned before then, but that is sure to be the time when we announce Dale Steyn on a Kolpak deal...

Saturday, 26 November 2016

AJ Harris leaves as county start afresh

So now we know that Derbyshire will start next summer with a completely new coaching set up, with the news that AJ Harris has left the club to 'pursue other opportunities'.

He did a good job, but there was a strong feeling that the new broom of Kim Barnett was going to sweep clean and that the post holders in the new structure would be new men.

So it has transpired and one assumes that the announcement of the new roles may well come this week.

One to keep an eye on, for sure.

The fixtures duly came out yesterday and the season now takes place in largely-defined 'chunks'. If you want to watch 50-over cricket, you'll be doing so in your warmer clothes, as the group stage is done by the end of May. Meanwhile, July and early August is almost wholly given over to T20, with no four-day cricket between July 6 and August 6.

I will be working out when I can make matches over the coming weekend, but the championship season seems odd, with no away trips to Leicestershire and Worcestershire and no home games against Gloucestershire and Sussex. Little in the way of out grounds too, alas, unless the T20 against Lancashire is played at Blackpool, which appears a possibility.

I do hope to make part of the Chesterfield Festival this year, something I have planned for a year or two, while the rest will be when the cricket being played justifies the long trip, unless it is combined with a break to see family.

Time to work that out though, with 131 sleeps to go before the first action.

I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fixtures out tomorrow!

My boss will be pleased on Friday.

She has been asking me to get some holidays in for next year for a few weeks, but I've been holding off booking the majority as I want to tie into some cricket. No surprise there eh?

So when I see when and where the games are, I can plan my days away accordingly. There's a few things I hope to do to celebrate fifty years as a Derbyshire fan and an early season game, to have a look at our new recruits is high on the list. I'd love to pull in the Chesterfield Festival too, at least for some of the game - always assuming we get a game on in 2017.

The announcement always makes you feel the season is approaching, albeit not as quickly as we would like. At least the thought of some balmy (as opposed to barmy) days in the sun takes the edge of the penetrating cold right now. I just took the dog out looking like I was setting out to emulate Captain Scott...

There's little else happening on the cricket front. England will undoubtedly struggle to handle India from here on, especially with Kohli finding his best form and our batsmen showing an alarming tendency to collapse like a pack of cards. We need batsmen other than Joe Root to score heavily to go into the next Test anything other than two down.

Meanwhile in Australia, the home side has picked a very young squad to try to halt a losing streak against South Africa, but I fancy the visitors to take a third victory after the most ludicrous ball-tampering case in my memory.

I'm not sure how you can prevent people from eating sweets or gum and I'm unsure how much difference the application of mildly sugared saliva makes to a ball, compared to ordinary saliva or sweat. Or for that matter vaseline, which has been used in the past, along with myriad other things, both innocent and dubious.

Expect the Saffers to come out with guns blazing, in support of their captain, a good man.

Great game cricket, but a lot of silly devils are in charge of it at times.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Spin frailties offer county hope

If, like me, you have watched England's batsmen combating spin on their winter tours of Bangladesh and India, you will share my optimism for the English summer of 2017.

They're not very good, are they? The side's batting reminds me of the little girl with the curl in Henry Longfellow's poem - when they are good, they are very, very good but when they are bad they are horrid.

Sure, three players made centuries in the first Test, but that was on a wicket where batsmen of international class really should have cashed in. Here, where the track is more conducive to spin, most of the batsmen have looked ill at ease against the Indian spinners.

My friend, Ranjith and I discussed the game yesterday in a break from lunch. He is from southern India, 'Venkat territory', as he puts it and is himself a talented leg-spin bowler.

'I've been on that ground a few times', he told me, 'and sometimes the cracks in the wicket are visible from the boundary'. It doesn't augur well for a fourth innings, when you are already two hundred behind after the second.

The conversation switched to Derbyshire and I told him of our signings of Imran Tahir and Jeevan Mendis. His eyes lit up, as talk of such players will do, to one of the 'brethren'.

'They will win you matches', he said. It turns out that Ranjith is a big fan of Jeevan Mendis from his IPL days and rates him highly as a bowler and batsman.

I've seen less of him than Tahir, but his record suggests he has something different to offer and, with no one on the circuit having played him, the novelty value in itself may be considerable. As I have said before, if we get the wickets right, the impact of two high-quality spinners will be considerable.

So will that strike bowler, whenever announced. Do you stick or twist, bat on a seaming first day or on a turning last? If we are getting a man of a similar calibre to the previous winter signings, it will be well worth the wait and might see sides wondering how to combat a revitalised Derbyshire.

There's been a lot of talk on the Harvey Hosein/Gary Wilson battle behind the timbers in the last few weeks. We are lucky to have two such players on the staff and both are capable of playing as a batsman only, but as the newly-appointed vice-captain, I expect Wilson to start in the role. Yet when you think about it, there are only (for me) three players who are automatic picks, assuming fitness - Billy Godleman, Wayne Madsen and Shiv Thakor.

The rest, winter overseas imports aside, will have to prove their right to a place in the starting eleven. Such competition can only be healthy from a team perspective and is a sign that we are starting to climb from a season that will be seen as 'ground zero'.

Two final things before I close. It is good to see John Sadler get straight back into the game with the second team coaching role at Leicestershire. I think their young batsmen will thrive with his genial approach and I wish one of the nicest men in the game the very best of luck.

Finally, over in the Caribbean, Shivnarine Chanderpaul is still doing what comes naturally for Guyana.

Now 42, Shiv has started the season with scores of 91 and 81 not out, the first winning a game for his side, while the second took them to a competitive total. Like old man river, Shiv just keeps rolling along  and his work ethic and willingness to occupy the crease is an object lesson to many a young batsman.

More from me soon!

Postscript: 'ball tampering' after sucking a sweetie? What is going on with such daft accusations in Australia? If a player is found to be roughing up the ball with something in his pocket, or lifting the seam, I get it.

Yet obtaining reverse swing by sucking a sweet? Are we going to have end of over tests on the man bowling the next, to ensure there's nothing on their saliva to help them? If we are now telling players they can't suck a sweet or chew gum, we may as well pack the game up as a bad job.

Batsmen have got way too much in their favour in the modern game, not least bats that are more like flat pack wardrobes than their earlier equivalents and much shorter boundaries. When did you last see an all-run five?

If the Australian media think that their erstwhile greats never got a ball to swing after a few vigorous chomps on a stick of Juicy Fruit, they are deluding themselves and insulting the intelligence of those who watch the game.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Wilson appointment makes eminent sense

There was no real surprise in the appointment of Gary Wilson to the role of Derbyshire vice-captain, which was announced today.

From the time that his signing was announced, there was a strong likelihood that a man who had captained Surrey with common sense and skill in 2014 was likely to be offered such a role. At thirty, he is a time-served professional who will undoubtedly do a good job whether playing as wicket-keeper batsman or as a batting specialist.

Whoever gets the gloves next season, it would appear that we will have someone who offers their fair share of runs from the role. With the form he showed at season-end, Harvey Hosein will push Wilson all the way and that can only be of benefit to the side.

A contributing player at number seven will be perfect for us, someone who can nurse the tail to a decent total on occasion, while perhaps launching a final assault if the earlier batting goes well.

I wish Gary well, as I am sure that you do.

Speaking of well, there's nothing healthy about the Australian cricket side at present. They were once again hammered by South Africa last night, their last eight wickets going down in the blink of an eye.

There appears little desire to fight and a fairly poor technique among some of the Australian players and their batting appears to stop at number four. Indeed, take away Dave Warner and Steven Smith and their batting has astonishing frailties, the likes of which I have never seen, to be honest.

Are the South Africans THAT good? They are without the increasingly injury-prone Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel is returning from injury, but Vernon Philander is a wily seamer and Kagiso Rabada will likely be the best fast bowler in world cricket in the next two or three years. Their match-winner in Hobart was Kyle Abbott, a man who has spent several summers in this country at different counties, yet it is only a few short months since he was hit for 57 in less than four overs by us in the T20.

It's a funny game cricket, but I think that an exciting crop of emerging players will make South Africa, with England and India one of the the top sides in the next few years.

More from me later in the week.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Family History query

It is always nice to have a first on the blog, and the email that I received from Sandra certainly broke new ground. She is looking for a little help with family history and has sent me the following query.

'The story in my family is that my great grandfather, William Yates, was
a fine amateur cricketer in the Bolsover/ Chesterfield area. As a child,
I recall having seen a few medals that had his name on them for playing
cricket. I have looked through some Derbyshire Times editions to see if
there is any reference to him with no success. William died in 1921 from
cancer, leaving a young family behind.

The family story is that he was hit in the chest by a cricket ball whilst
playing on Queens Park in Chesterfield & never recovered from it.
William was a miner, so I guess he played for the local collieries.
Any help you could offer would be appreciated.'

If this rings a bell with someone researching their family tree, or if you can help Sandra in any small way, please get in touch with me at the usual email address and I can put you in touch.

Thanks in advance!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

County ahead of the game on governance

So it is farewell and thanks to Sir John Gains and Kevin Dean, as both step down from their roles on the Derbyshire CCC Supervisory Board.

Both have filled their roles well, but with the requisites for governance of clubs changing, the club will ensure that the new look Board is fit for purpose and covers all the bases, in so far as ECB requirements are concerned.

What that will mean down the line is anyone's guess, but it is good to see that the club are taking time to get it right and are future-proofing things.

In playing terms, there is little more to report on just now, apart from, at international level, the nose-diving of Australian cricket. For all that the ECB seem to be using the Big Bash as the template for how things should be done, the reality is that their national game is in a very poor state at the moment. Aside from David Warner, Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc, they have no players who opponents would fear and desperately need one or two who have been 'young and promising' for too long to kick on.

South Africa, even without Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, seem to have way too much for them and for a Test side of their standard to be bowled out in just over thirty overs is shocking. With no AB de Villiers either, you couldn't claim this close to a first choice visiting side, but they have some highly talented players coming through who are doing what the Australians aren't  - contributing.

Injuries to some seam bowlers haven't helped, but there is no comparison between the current rude health of English cricket, with a lot of young talent emerging, and its Australian counterparts.

There is, it has to be said, a degree of irony in this...

More from me in the week.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Midweek update

Winter is fairly starting to bite now, up here in the northern wastelands.

I had to de-ice my car for the first time today and, in the middle of a quiet spell for cricket news, the season seemed a long way off.

Still, the Derbyshire players have reported back for pre-season training and they all look pretty fit after their end of season breaks from the game. Billy Godleman seemes enthused about the new structure and we all await news of the other coaching roles and of a strike bowler.

It was good to see England make a positive start in India, Joe Root maintaining his position (in my eyes) as the world's best all-round batsman. AB de Villiers is the best T20 player and Kane Williamson is an outstanding all-rounder, Virat Kohli a run machine on his own tracks, but I'd take Root as my pick for an all format batsman at present.

On the county front, another South African international, Stiaan van Zyl, has signed a three-year deal with Sussex, who appear to be accepting that Ed Joyce may be moving back to Ireland. The South African is a very good player, but perhaps just short of international standard. I have no doubts that he will get his share of runs for them though and will prove a very canny addition to their resources. He will have to go some to match the prolific Joyce, though, who has been an excellent servant to the club.

Finally, Fidel Edwards has signed another contract with Hampshire, this after his season was ended prematurely with a broken leg sustained in pre-match warm-ups.

I'll be back at the weekend with more news and, hopefully, a book review.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Hughes in the wickets

Great news overnight from Australia, where Alex Hughes took five wickets for his club side, including his first-ever hat-trick.

As those of you who have played cricket at any level will know, half the battle in settling into a new club is making contributions immediately and both Alex and his team mate Ben Slater have done that for their club, Kingston Hawthorn.

It augurs well for Derbyshire, as, on a different tack, does the success of the fireworks night at the club last night, which seems to have been a huge success and brought in ten thousand people to the 3aaa County Ground. A lot of these people won't have been before and you never know if seeing the facilities may be a catalyst for some to make return visits in the future. Ideally that would be on a cricket-watching front, but if it generates business for the marquee or other function space, it will all have a positive impact.

As the chairman tweeted last night, we have come a long way since the dark days of 2010, when the level of loss suggested we might struggle to be a sustainable entity in cricketing terms. Constant profits each year since then have shown the county game just how things can be done and have to be done.

All we need now is for that to translate into improved fortunes on the pitch and the signings so far have suggested that might happen. I remain convinced that the likeliest source of our strike bowler will be South Africa, where they appear to be on the verge of a golden period and have a lot of talented players emerging, especially from the ethnic groups.

They are hammering Australia in the first Test in Australia, with a side that is as fifty/fifty as you can get in a black/white eleven. Rabada, Philander and Maharaj are all fine bowlers, while Bavuma is fast-emerging as a batsman of talent.

Their success is encouraging but with Simon Harmer heading to Essex for next season and Colin Ackermann to Leicestershire, it is inevitable that more and more players with the requisite qualifications will look at opportunities elsewhere.

There's always the chance of a disenchanted West Indian, or a player from elsewhere on an English passport, of course, but the level of cricket in South Africa is high and no one could blame any player for seeking to pursue their dream elsewhere, when opportunities are limited.

We'll see.

For now, enjoy the remainder of your weekend.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Quiet week

Apologies for the lack of blogging this week, but there's been little news and I have been working till 8.30pm every night, leaving little time for anything but having a meal and walking the dog before bed time.

Truth be told, apart from a fireworks night at the 3aaa County Ground on Saturday, there's been little to report. I hope it goes well though, as fireworks off the pitch enable greater resources for fireworks on it.

We can't complain either - we have had a heady couple of weeks!

I will be back towards the weekend, as time permits.