There were a couple of pertinent and fair comments below my last piece.
Knack, thank you for your kind comments on the blog. The only answer I can give as to how I do it is 'time management'. That I write quickly is a bonus and the words are often in my head before I write them.
I take your point on the 'three all-rounders' I referred to. Of the three, only Shiv Thakor has thus far shown he can take regular wickets at first-class level, the benchmark by which the true all-rounder will be judged. His challenge is to reproduce his excellent all-round form from last year, before the season-ending injury that cost us a very good cricketer.
Alex Hughes and Luis Reece, I agree, have their stronger suits in batting, yet both are players who could make a difference and offer options in the one-day game. You never know with developing cricketers (and I see both as that) when the winter will come that makes a difference and turns them into the real deal. That could be physically, emotionally, mentally or professionally. Both players are wintering down under and such an experience has been the making of many good county cricketers in the past.
For what it is worth, I see both as key players this year, their opportunities perhaps more in the one-day game, depending on whether or not we replace Neil Broom, but each will be high in the mix to take his place.
As for the seamers, I agree that at this stage Will Davis looks the likeliest to go far in the game. Last season he bowled with real pace at times and will only get better. He needs to be well-managed and needs to build up his physique so he can handle three, maybe four spells a day. He needs only look to Hardus Viljoen for inspiration, a huge man whose powerful physique and high level of fitness lets him come back for later spells at the same pace. The two of them together will probably make for the fastest opening pairing in the division. If they get it right, few will fancy facing them.
Yet it depends on what you mean by 'make it'. Ben Cotton showed last year that he can take wickets in the red-ball game, but needs to work out the different lengths that will enable him to consistently get people out, rather than keep them quiet at that level. He is another who could become a solid county player, but cementing a place in the opening line-up in four-day cricket is the first challenge for him. He remains a talent in white ball cricket, however.
Tom Taylor has undoubtedly got it, but last season's stress fracture set him back a little. My understanding is that his spell with England Lions did him few favours either, as they tinkered a little with his technique to his detriment. When he did play last year, batsmen could afford to wait for the bad ball each over, which makes playing any bowler an easier prospect.
If you look at the GREAT Derbyshire bowlers - Cliff Gladwin, Les Jackson, Mike Hendrick, Brian Jackson, Harold Rhodes, Ole Mortensen - they all had uncanny accuracy, built up by bowling, bowling and bowling some more. The late Walter Goodyear told me that you could put a handkerchief over the area they hit and while batsmen perhaps use their feet more today, the ability to hit your length remains crucial. A missed yorker is usually a nice full toss for a batsman, while a short ball, meant to inconvenience, just sits up to be hit if you miss that all-important length.
That's why these bowlers developed what John Arlott memorably called a 'grudging' length, too short to drive, too far up to pull or cut. While the game has changed, its basics remain very much the same.
As for Greg Cork, I think this is a huge year for him. He featured little in senior cricket last year, despite good displays in the second eleven. His best chance, for me, is developing into a Kevin Dean-type bowler who swings it around and offers handy runs down the order. Although he has been around a few years, however, he is still only 22 and is working out his game accordingly.
I've heard some say he was fortunate to get another year, but there's a proper player in there, if he is willing to work at being a cricketer in his own right and not just 'Dominic's lad'. He may yet find his batting comes on more than his bowling, but true all-round achievement takes a great deal of work.
As for Tom Milnes, I think he showed last year that he has talent at this level. I see him as the third seamer, in poll position with Tony Palladino for that role and a very handy batsman at eight or nine. His averages, having just turned 24, suggest a player who is not too far from the real deal.
Plenty of potential there, for sure, but a lot of work to be done all-round.