It is always sad to see the release of players from the club that you support.
If I'm honest, which I always try to be, there is no real surprise, however, in the departure of Tom Taylor and Rob Hemmings.
Both are talented cricketers, because you don't get on to a county staff without having that little 'extra' that is required. Hemmings rarely got near the first team and I was more surprised when he wasn't released at the end of last summer, the rationale presumably being the contract dates. He scored his runs in the second team and took wickets, but rarely in sufficient quantity to make people sit up and take notice. With a more established look to the senior middle order, something special was needed and it just didn't happen for him.
Perhaps for Tom Taylor, whose brother James has recently won a contract at the club, the situation was less clear cut. He can play all right and showed talent with bat and ball, suggesting that there is a good cricketer in there, trying to get out. He could get wickets and good ones too, but mixed up the occasional 'jaffa' with a few too many that required no attention from the batsmen, together with one an over that was a boundary ball.
I don't think he was ever the same bowler after he went away to work with the potential England performance programme and a stress fracture to the back resulted in a remodelled action. Sixteen wickets last summer in the mid-thirties was pretty much what he has sustained through his time on the staff and there was, I think, a fear that he hasn't 'kicked on' as we might have hoped.
His batting was useful, though perhaps without the expectation that he would develop into something more than a bowler who could handle a bat. He was a handy night watchman and, the next morning, often showed himself able to play some shots.
He may be one of the many late developers of course. He may ship up somewhere and, when it all clicks, he will become a county stalwart, like Paul Taylor did at Northampton. Then again, he may return to the leagues and once more come to our attention as a more mature player, as Colin Tunnicliffe and Tony Borrington once did.
Yet in the short term, I struggled to see when he would play in 2018. With the club chasing an overseas seamer who can bat for the start of the summer, and Hardus Viljoen and Ravi Rampaul two of the first names on the team sheet, openings appeared thin. Then there's Will Davis, hopefully fit and firing, with Ben Cotton ahead in the pecking order too, not to mention the evergreen Tony Palladino.
Later in the summer, when at least one spinner will play regularly, the opportunities were likely to be even slimmer and the parting, though sad, makes sense. The idea of a senior eleven primarily made up of youngsters making their way seems to have been abandoned, replaced by one of players justifying their place by a sustained level of performance. With young players elsewhere establishing themselves more quickly in their county eleven, patience with a lad who had sixty wickets in four summers probably wore thin.
I hope he uses the release as a catalyst for success elsewhere, but there will now be an expectation, I think, for young players to make a more immediate 'mark' on the county game. With a few talented seamers coming up in the academy and plenty of experienced help for them on the staff, there will be greater expectation on the next generation. More chances for them to play in the second team too, the only way that they can really hope to develop their game.
I wish both Tom and Rob the best in their future endeavours, as I am sure you do.