Saturday, 15 April 2017

Flexibility and bravery the key for Derbyshire

Competition for places is quite likely going to be key for Derbyshire in their quest for improved fortunes this summer.

So too will the bravery and honesty of the senior players who will select the side, along with captain Billy Godleman.

There was a time, as told to me by several players of senior vintage, when a young player had to produce the exceptional to get into the first eleven and displace a senior, capped player on the commensurate (not especially high) salary. Even then, after a failure or two, that young player would be back to the second eleven, who rarely played enough cricket for them to force a way back through. It was very much survival of the fittest and only what Jean Brodie would have called the creme de la creme would survive.

As it should be, of course. The county game is the pinnacle for most players, only the elite status of the international game beyond. The only way that a place in the side should be maintained is on a sustained level of performance, exactly the same way as one should be earned.

Last season, for example, irrespective of the fact that he had flown thousands of miles to get here, Neil Broom shouldn't have held down a place in the side all summer. His form simply didn't warrant it and a closing average of mid-twenties was more in keeping with a young lad learning the game, than that of an experienced player of international experience.

This year, I think things will be different and players will be aware that they have to deliver to retain a senior role.

There have been several comments about the absence of Harvey Hosein and Ben Slater from the lineup and both could be considered unlucky to be out of the side for the first fixture. Yet Hosein is competing against the vice-captain, who has had two innings and scored a century and 72. You cannot argue on such figures and while there is perhaps one on whether either could play as a batting specialist, you look at the current side and ask 'replacing who'?

Slater picked up a pre-season knock and in his absence Luis Reece scored a fifty and took three wickets in a good spell against Loughborough UCCE. After such an effort it would have been hard, unfair even, to omit him, but Slater's turn will come.

Players should not be in fear of their place and failing in two successive matches should not equate to being dropped. That only results in people not playing freely, to their and the side's detriment. Yet the senior players will see how people are in the nets and be well aware when a rest is needed.

The beauty of the current squad is that there is cover, ironically, for all but Hardus Viljoen. His absence, however long it is, will be keenly felt, as genuine fast bowlers are few and far between. Yet for Reece, read Slater, Macdonell or Wood. For Wilson, read Hosein, or Smit. For Hughes, read Reece, dropping down the order, or Cork, or Cotton. Maybe even Critchley. You could do that with them all at this stage, except captains present and previous, Messrs Godleman and Madsen.

We should not be a one-dimensional side this year. While doubts of our ability to take twenty wickets without Viljoen remain, they are based on a twelve-month old perception of bowlers who should have improved. Whether that improvement is enough, we don't know yet, but we have an attack to handle most wickets and batsmen who, I think, have the mental toughness to follow a big score on a 'road' with one of our own, rather than falter under pressure.

Do I think we can win something this year? Probably not, but right now we would all take brighter, competitive cricket and signs of progress. Trophies come from talent, attitude and luck.

We have two out of those three, but no one will win anything without their share of the other one at key points of the summer.

1 comment:

jasper said...

In this side hosein would replace hughes. As much as i like alex what is the thinking of batting him at 8 in a side containing seven, yes, seven bowlers. Last year he batted with some success at 3 but we seem to be intent on batting shiv at 3 which again seems odd.

But hey ho as it stands we are doing well...although our number 8 is yet to have a bowl!!

Let's just hope hosein is content to wait for wilson to play for Ireland before he gets a gig...