In a rollercoaster summer, I think there will be a lot of Derbyshire supporters of a similar mind to me this morning.
Do we have a good cricket team that too often lapses into mediocrity? Or a poor one, that sometimes plays above itself?
For what it is worth, I think we are two good players away from a side that could be promotion contenders in four-day cricket, as well as one that does well in one-day formats. Yet we are also the loss of two players away from also-rans.
Hardus Viljoen was brilliant in the game at Hove, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to be fit enough to do that from April to September. Perhaps the fact that he played hardly any cricket early season accounted for him being able to run in with the zest of a young gazelle. If he had four hundred overs in his legs, maybe the spring and zip that was too much for good batsmen may not have been there.
I am old enough to recall the September when a young Alan Ward arrived on the county scene and ran through county batting line-ups with some sizzling displays. Sadly, Alan was rarely fit enough to do that over a full season, though it was magnificent when it came together. Hardus is far more robust in build, and I suspect mentally tougher than Alan was, but 90mph for six months, with the body fit and the radar always locked on, is a huge ask for anyone.
In his interview for my last book, Harold Rhodes told me that he quickly learned that you cannot give it all every time you bowl, and quickly have to learn to put in that lightning spell when conditions are in your favour, or the match is in the balance. Sage words from a man who would have enjoyed another quick bowler cutting a swathe through a batting line-up. Like Harold, Hardus is a canny enough bowler to be awkward when the wicket is slower and he has to cut down his pace and bowl an occasional quicker ball, itself a threat from shock value alone.
We saw the impact he had in this match, yet have seen the ineffectual nature of our attack in his absence. Without his whole-hearted approach, I doubt we would have come close to winning yesterday and the need to find quality support over the winter is clear.
Although I would have him back without question, I'm unsure if we have seen the best of Imran Tahir this summer. He bowled tidily in most T20 matches, won us one with a brilliant spell but has played little four-day cricket through injury and international duty. The prospect of Viljoen and Tahir together is a mouth-watering one, but for improvement another year we need to field three bowlers who can take wickets.
Shiv Thakor has been missed in that respect. Will Davis is a fine prospect, but raw, while Hamidullah Qadri is perhaps a decade from anything approaching a peak. Good players all, but addressing that missing link in the winter will determine if and how we progress.
Harry Podmore did his chances of a contract no harm at Hove. His batting was a revelation, while he overcame the disappointment of a dropped catch with the last two wickets. As Ash mentioned below yesterday's post, his frustration after that drop was obvious from video footage on Twitter, something he will need to handle better. No one deliberately drops catches, but it happens and you rise above it. Les Jackson used to shrug his shoulders and say 'catch next 'un', though Cliff Gladwin could be more volatile...
I'd like to see us sign a seam bowler who bats a bit for the early season overseas role. For all his expensive bowling in the T20, Matt Henry would be the type of player we need and would likely thrive in early summer here, with a spinner again for later season. Chris Morris would be terrific, but since he and Henry are normally involved in the IPL, that 'type' of player would be the target, those players themselves likely elsewhere.
Another player I like is Ben Raine at Leicestershire, sadly under contract until 2019. A combative cricketer who bowls good fast medium, battles with the bat and has the 'edge' that you want in a player. I'd see Raine as a player who would thrive in the right environment.
We're not far away. With continued progress from young players, better luck with fitness and sound 'tweaking' of the squad, 2017 may be seen as the year it all began, the watershed of Derbyshire cricket.
What do you think?
Postscript - I was amused yesterday to see that 87% of those voting felt Viljoen the star man for Derbyshire in the game just finished.
Turn that around though and 13% felt he wasn't...as I wrote on Twitter, what did he have to do to convince them?