A comment from the always readable notoveryet caught my attention the other day.
He is a knowledgeable man and his opinions, like those of everyone who contributes on a regular basis, are respected and valued.
In the post in question, he suggested four players that may be worthy of Derbyshire's attention come the end of the season: Graham Onions, James Tredwell, Rolof Van der Merwe and Max Waller.
On the face of it, they are all players with things to like. Onions is one of the finest seamers in the county game, Tredwell an experienced spinner who can bat, Van der Merwe likewise, while Waller is a leg spinner who has found a niche in the 20-over game.
But would they really enhance our squad and would they really be available?
Onions is a very good bowler, another who has been unlucky with the timing of his county career, but at 35 I would be surprised if he left his home county. Another contract, primarily for the red ball game, is on the table and after an injury-hit summer I suspect that potential suitors will be wary. He has played little one-day cricket over recent summers and I think is too old for a contract elsewhere now. We may think otherwise, but our target market has surely to be among younger bowlers with more to offer? Something between what we have and Onions would be my preference and surely not someone older than Tony Palladino?
Tredwell? Not for me. 22 wickets at 42 in 2016, 3 at 76 this year. They aren't the figures of a bowler enjoying a golden Autumn to his career and I see little merit in any interest. Hamidullah Qadri needs cricket and will only kick on if he gets it. Whether Matt Critchley's leg spin falls by the wayside as his batting develops is anyone's guess, but both will have learned from Imran Tahir this year, a player I would be happy to have engaged next season in any capacity, for the record.
Geoff Miller's early career was blocked a little by the signing of Venkat years ago, just as one might argue that Tahir has done the same for today's tyros. Yet both overseas players were/are of world-class stature, something you couldn't really say about Tredwell, I'm afraid.
Max Waller? Again, no from me. With two young spinners on the staff and Matt Sonczak looking worthy of investigation in the seconds, I don't see enough in a player who would realistically play only T20 and who has today signed another deal with the county anyway.
Finally, Rolof Van der Merwe. On the face of it, I would rate him worthy of further enquiry, but he has played little four-day cricket in the past two seasons and only two games this year. He is, as notoveryet pointed out, a good hitter of a ball and a tidy spinner, certainly a handy number seven or eight and especially useful in the one-day formats, where he has produced his best.
Yet he signed a contract extension that keeps him at Taunton until the end of next season. We all know that these can be broken and frequently are, but I suspect that Somerset pay him more than we might be prepared to, based on his track record, so he would see things out there.
Daniel Bell-Drummond was also mentioned, a young player who is mentioned often in despatches as a future England player. Yet the figures again make interesting reading.
Bell-Drummond is currently averaging 25 for the four-day season. Probably not a true indicator of his talent, but how many cricketers would claim to be 'better than their average'? For what it is worth, that would leave him twelfth in our averages this year. As a comparator, Ben Slater, a 'rival' if you like, averages 31, Billy Godleman 40, Luis Reece 35.
As I have written before, our targets have to be better than what we have. Of course you would have a chat with an agent if the season was written off as one of those things for a player, but I remain convinced that we only need two or three players to improve next year.
If we're talking figures, look at these:
Critchley 41 24
Hughes 35 33
Slater 31 28
Godleman 40 37
Each has improved on last season, Matt Critchley dramatically so. The biggest issue with our batting has been the decline of Wayne Madsen, from 59 to 26 and the absence of Shiv Thakor, who had gone from 67 to 33, before his enforced omission.
Both are such fine players that their decline can only be temporary and Wayne had such a fine one-day summer that something had to 'give' somewhere, in a season where he has also had to handle the commitments of his benefit, as well as being a father for the first time.
So for me, let's bring in the men we need, but be aware that existing personnel, in the batting ranks, are moving in the right direction.
As always, I welcome your comments. And suggestions of potential targets as future talking points!