It was interesting to see the polarising effect that the announcement of Hampshire signing Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott had on cricket fans over the past couple of days.
On the one hand were those who felt their arrival would strengthen the county game and see it increasingly being a battle of the best versus the best. As a Hampshire fan it made sense - after all, they would have gone down last year, but for the penalties dished out to Durham that still seem unduly draconian. They now have a world-class bowler to call on, as well as a very talented batsman who can bat anywhere in the order.
The downside? Well, they also have Fidel Edwards from Barbados, who is never going to play for England, plus Shaun Ervine (Zimbabwe) and overseas professional George Bailey from Australia. Logically, half of their first-choice side will be made up of players from overseas, though conversely they have brought through the likes of Dawson and Vince to the international stage.
I don't blame any of the Kolpaks for securing their futures. With franchise and national selection some way removed from simply picking the best eleven, and with no guarantees as to their future involvement, would any of us not look to do the best for our families? Offer me definite against possible income for the next few years and I am sold to the highest bidder...
All county cricket fans want to see their side doing well and most of them at any cost. Of course, bringing through your own talent is crucial for the future, but sport is tough and the demand for immediate success is strong. You can set out your stall to develop youngsters, but if patience runs out and your job has gone inside three years, you can understand county coaches reconciling one against the other. There has to be a middle ground.
According to Cricinfo yesterday, players like Morne Morkel, Marchant de Lange, David Miller, Chris Morris, Dane Vilas and Dwaine Pretorius may also opt for the Kolpak route in the coming weeks and there could be more. In addition, David Wiese is apparently already lined up for a deal with Sussex.
2016 was tough for Derbyshire supporters with a side of woeful inexperience and 2017, with the addition of Hardus Viljoen and the Imran Tahir/Jeevan Mendis combo, looks set to be better. With Neil Broom leaving, the suggestion of bringing in a Kolpak batsman is out there, yet maybe we don't need to look at a like for like, if we look at anything?
Let's be honest, we aren't replacing a 50-average Azharuddin, Wright, Kirsten or Di Venuto. We have lost a nice guy and talented player, but one who only averaged 25 as a specialist batsman. The existing personnel are all capable of at least matching that - and likely more - in the coming season.
With the top four in place for all but T20 (Godleman, Slater, Thakor and Madsen), Gary Wilson could bat 5, which he did a number of times at Surrey. There's also a case for Harvey Hosein, based on his end of season efforts, while Alex Hughes and Luis Reece are good enough batsmen to carve a niche at 6/7, lengthening the batting and offering an additional bowling option as the season progresses and Imran Tahir arrives. Based on his record and current form, Jeevan Mendis will slot in very nicely at six to start the summer.
The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that we cannot block the progress of Hosein, one of the best-organised young batsmen I have seen from our own ranks. As he fills out and gets the power to go with natural timing, he will be a very special player. While Wilson, as vice-captain, has to be in a first choice side, the case for Hosein is strong. How galling it would be if a young player of obvious talent were to opt to move for greater opportunity, then realise that potential elsewhere?
Maybe there is greater merit, if such a signing is deemed necessary, to sign someone who can bat and bowl. From the names mentioned above, players like Morris and Pretorius would be a better fit, especially when seam bowlers need to be rotated and rested. More than anyone, having pioneered that in the modern game, Kim Barnett is aware of the importance of keeping them fresh through a long summer.
We would all love to see a Derbyshire eleven of local lads plus an overseas and maybe we will get there one day, but in the short term, most would settle for a side that has far from local accents but competes well and potentially wins trophies.
The decision of hiring another Kolpak is not as simple as 'can we afford him'? It would have to be the right man with the right attitude, whose on and off-field contributions meant that the detrimental effects can be justified and minimised.
I have no doubt that Messrs Barnett and Godleman have things in hand and it will be exciting to watch developments.