Friday, 1 September 2017

Future planning key for Derbyshire in last few games

The last four wickets went down yesterday with nary a whimper, as Derbyshire slid to a defeat that appeared likely from the first day and inevitable from the second.

For all Billy Godleman's worthy comments of pride in the second innings battle, until we start to do that over four days we will continue to look second rate at the long form of the game. There are signs of promise among individual members of the squad, but for some of them, next year is going to be key to their continued development - or indeed involvement in the first-class game.

Sustained and regular contributions of merit are key for any professional sportsman and the longer careers are enjoyed by those who overcome adversity and, by hard work and determination, together with no little skill, manage just that. In the current squad there are several examples among those who have 'made it' against the odds.

There's Billy Godleman, who was rejected by two counties before making Derbyshire his home. Wayne Madsen, who had to leave the country of his birth to pursue a dream and become one of the most respected players in the game. Daryn Smit, who had to bide his time while two more experienced players were given the role he wanted, before moving to this country. Luis Reece, rejected by Lancashire but turning up at Derbyshire to offer impressive skills in all formats. Tony Palladino, who went through stressful times that we can only imagine at Essex, before becoming one of Derbyshire's most valued journeymen.

Each of these players has had challenges this summer, but they are individuals around who our side for next summer must take shape. For younger members of the squad, the desire to join them has to be matched by their taking that next step forward in terms of personal achievement.

Averages of 25-35 have to be taken to nearer 40 for Ben Slater, Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley. All have showed that they can play a fine innings, but they need to do it more often and turn useful scores into match-winning and career-defining ones if they and we are to progress. Each has produced, at times, innings of rich potential, but they need to do more and set the bar higher still.

Then there are the bowlers. We have all seen Ben Cotton, Tom Taylor and Will Davis bowl well, but each has challenges ahead. Cotton needs to prove he can get players out, as well as keep them quiet, Taylor needs to combine an ability to bowl a wicket-taking ball with the equally valuable one of a further five that makes a batsman think each over. Meanwhile Davis, for all his talent (confirmed by thirteen wickets in two games) needs to show that his body can stand up to the rigors of the first-class game.

Harvey Hosein? In my opinion he is a good, solid keeper, but has work to do for me to see more than that, while his batting, organised as it is, needs to have an equal focus on scoring runs as staying in. That he has an excellent technique is undeniable, as is the fact that he bats time. Yet Paul Borrington used to get stick for not scoring quickly enough (unfairly, in my opinion, as I rated him) and Harvey has to do more to be the long-term county keeper that we all hope he can be.

Neither he nor Daryn Smit has yet produced the runs that we will need from number seven. With a first choice attack another year, assuming signing and fitness, of Viljoen, Davis, Tahir and X, there's not many runs to come after seven and whoever holds the role has to nurse the tail and contribute regular scores to hold down the role.

If these players can't do it, they will be aware of others awaiting their chance. I don't think Tom Wood or Charlie Macdonell have scored the runs this summer to push their prospects, while James Kettleborough took the opportunity of a trial with us to score 180 for the seconds yesterday, against a Yorkshire second team that included Bresnan, Plunkett, Sidebottom, Coad and Rafiq.

Kettleborough is another who has been rejected by Northamptonshire and Glamorgan, yet at 24 he is nowhere near his prime. This was his eleventh century of the summer, three of them for Bedfordshire and he has approached his desire for a county career in exactly the right manner - score runs, then score some more. Wes Durston did the same and was a fine player for us over several seasons.

The first-class game contains the creme de la creme, as Jean Brodie once referred to her pupils. That's why I have little time for those who denigrate the efforts of players, because by definition they are in the top one per cent of players in the country. Some will fall short, despite their best efforts, and that is harsh, but true. All will experience barren periods, because that is the game, as anyone who has ever played it will testify.

Others, either up and coming or plying their trade elsewhere, will come in over time and replace them if they don't meet expectations. Because professional sport is an unforgiving business.

Yet I don't think, echoing the comments of notoveryet last night, wholesale change is required. Budget permitting, we need a quality batsman and a decent seamer, maybe two. Tahir for the second half of the summer and an overseas who can bat and bowl for the first.

Oh - and progress, coupled with improved fitness, for key personnel.

2018 will be big and the planning starts now.


Martin Edwards said...

Very good analysis, Peakfan. I'd just add that the captain deserves plenty of management support. The club should go to great lengths to avoid creating the perception that four day cricket doesn't matter very much.

David Woolley said...

Wholesale change is definitely not what is required between now and the start of next season.
I often hear this call saying ship 'em out and bring in new players, but nobody ever quantifies by saying who the players out/in should be.
The management started this season with a brief to improve our T20 performances. This has been achieved. Let's hope that the same management can set about improving our longer format cricket for 2018.
Personally, I would like our overseas next year to be a batsman. Somebody like Ross Taylor or Tom Latham would be ideal.
In my opinion we have the basis of a good side, which with a bit of tinkering here and there would lead to improved performances in the championship/RL cup.

Mark said...

Kettlebrough would be a good addition, rate him highly.

Peakfan said...

I think the overseas role will be dictated by who else we pick up, David. I don't see Taylor wanting it and he has had a poor T20 for Sussex. Latham a good call though!

notoveryet said...

I tend to think the real focus between now and the end of September is that more than a quarter of the 4 day season is left, and as things stand, we are (point deductions aside) bottom of division 2 and heading for our first back-to-back wooden spoons since 1971-2. We have lost 70% of our championship matches, and if we maintain that, it will be the worst ever performance during my time of supporting Derbyshire, beating even the grimmest days of 2001-3 and the early seventies. Regardless of the improvement in T20, history is going to say that this is the worst Derbyshire side ever in 4 day cricket.

Of course, we know it isn’t. The performances against Notts at Trent Bridge, Glamorgan, and the first couple of days against Durham at Chesterfield showed the quality of the side but the rest of our 4 day performances have been so limp that it’s stupid to talk about them as if they are an aberration or an exception to the rule, or can be corrected by a couple of new additions.

The struggles of the bowling aren’t surprising, given the absence for most of the season of Viljoen, Davis and Thakor, even if the failure of any of the younger bowlers (with the arguable exception of Taylor) to develop, Palladino’s loss of the metronomic accuracy that gave us a modicum of control, and the inability of either of our overseas spinners to turn in match-winning performances, is disappointing. Less understandable is the collapse of the batting. We shipped out almost 2,000 runs with the departure of Hughes, Broom, Rutherford and Durston, and haven’t got close to replacing them, with Reece, Wilson and Smit barely reaching half of their runs. Reece is gradually becoming a more reliable contributor, although an average in the low 30’s is hardly a matter for celebration.

The biggest single problem though, is Wayne Madsen. Suggesting that he’s barely worth his 4 day place is akin to suggesting the slaughter of Bambi, but less esteemed batsmen have been dropped for much the same level of performance. You can track his decline back into last season, so I don’t see this as being a matter of benefit-itis. The impact isn’t just the loss of his runs, it’s the galvanising effect his dismissal has on the opposition when they get him (or more often, he gets himself) out, and the deflating effect it has on the remainder of the batsmen.

For me, the issue is that he’s lost the ability or the inclination to bat time, and faced with a tough situation, will try to hit himself out of it in T20 style. His dismissal in the first innings against Durham was typical – it was a good full length ball that bowled him but he was in no position to deal with it, having the ball before gone down on his haunches to try to uppercut the bowler over the slips. With Derbyshire 2 down and vulnerable, it was a reckless piece of batting that opened up the middle order to a rampant Durham. It seems to me that his model technique and strong mental approach to crease occupation has been scrambled by the focus on T20 cricket, and he’s not alone in this, Slater being another example where a solid technique has been compromised by an eagerness to play shots.

Perhaps the last few weeks of the season, free of one day distractions, are the ideal opportunity for our key batsmen to refocus on the needs of 4 day cricket, and make sure that they don’t finish the season with the unwelcome and undeserved tag of the worst Derbyshire team in 50 years.

Mark said...

William Porterfield anyone?, just been released by Warwks.

Ash said...

I live over in Sutton Coldfield and the news is that Porterfield will be returning to Ireland and will be test captain so if any CC side picks him up they will lose him for a large chunk of the season like we have with Gary Wilson this year, dont think we can invest in player we may only see for 50% of the season, teams are starting to make moves for players now so we're better off seeing who is available. Amazing how Leics part with their coach one day and the next day they sign someone and offer another a contract for next season. I read that upto 6 players were willing to walk out if PdB had of stayed, I wonder who they would have been?

notoveryet said...

I think the bigger issue with Porterfield is his form. Averaging 15 in the championship, 21 in T20 with a scoring rate of 130, it's difficult to see what he'd bring. I've always been a bit puzzled that he's lasted as long as he has in the first division, having not exactly set division 2 alight when he was with Gloucs. And, you'd have to say, do we really want yet another 30+ in what is beginning to look like quite an elderly squad? With such a big squad and so few out of contract, I'm not in favour of bringing in marginal players who aren't demonstrably better than we already have, or have real potential that isn't being realised where they are. If we can't do that, I'd prefer to focus improving on what we have.

jasper said...

Some years ago i believe he played in our second XI but then went to glocs. That's when he would have been useful for us. In my opinion not now... so it's a no from me!