Saturday, 3 February 2018

Cotton goes as county work with leaner squad

At the start of last season, I wrote that it was a big season for four young Derbyshire bowlers - Tom Milnes, Tom Taylor, Greg Cork and Ben Cotton.

There were times when each appeared on the verge of a breakthrough, moments in the sun when, in turn, they walked off to pats on the back and the knowledge of a job well done. It will doubtless happen to them many more times somewhere, but sadly, it would appear, for none of them in Derbyshire colours.

Today's announcement that Ben was going the same way as his erstwhile team mates was not entirely a surprise, given his record was not that far ahead of them. It is the one about which I am the most sad, however, because I felt he still had a role to play this summer, at least in the T20.

The bottom line is that he didn't take enough wickets on his first-class appearances. Thirty-seven wickets at 44 in twenty first-class matches was simply not enough in his 25th year, especially when Will Davis, as a comparison, has more in just twelve matches at the age of 21.

What he usually did was bowl tight lines and he was always difficult to score from, but I always felt he was too 'nice' to be a real fast bowler. There were times when the batsmen rocked forward in impunity and played him off the front foot, when with his height he should have been better able to push them back, then leaving them groping as he fired one outside off, or in the block hole.

Professional sport is unforgiving. I cannot think of many other careers in which you would be expected to make a major contribution in your early twenties and certainly by that stage in football you need to be established or be playing lower levels. There was a time when cricket could accommodate the late developer and one has only to look at Les Jackson, 26 before he made his county debut and Brian Jackson, his namesake, who was 29 for quality examples. Both became county legends, but in the modern game that simply won't happen. Patience may well be a virtue, but in the modern world of sport it is also a commodity in short supply.

Maybe Ben, like Tom Taylor, will get an opportunity elsewhere and do well. If so, I will be pleased for a genial lad, but putting personal loyalties aside, there were just not enough signs of progress from any of them for the county to justify continued spend in a tight budget, especially when their opportunities will be limited.

Former player Wayne White was very critical on Twitter yesterday, calling the club 'a ghost' and saying that there was 'no affiliation' between Derbyshire people and the club. His suggestion that they should 'scrap the age groups' and that the club 'will never develop an England player' meant it came over as more of a rant than it should have done. As much as anyone, I would have thought him aware of the way of county cricket, after stints at three clubs, including Derbyshire twice.

My suggestion is that the club are now trying to do the right thing by the academy, which has only produced a poor two capped players in fifteen years. Perhaps by offering early exposure to working with experienced professionals, they are in less of a 'cocoon' than was the case before. The likes of Alfie Gleadall and James Taylor, both seventeen, as well as Sam Conners (18) should now be opening the bowling in second team cricket and stretching themselves, rather than dominating and coasting in age group cricket. The latter did well last summer before an injury finished it prematurely and playing with Kevin Dean at Ockbrook will do him no harm.

It is a lean squad now. Yes, it is an experienced, some might say old, seam attack, but I reckon there's two or three good summers ahead for Hardus Viljoen and Ravi Rampaul, while Tony Palladino will play when wickets suit his style. A seam bowling overseas and Will Davis make up a good attack and will allow the young players to emerge, hopefully, to join them over the next couple of seasons.

Of course injuries will hurt them, but you could say that about any side and, as Kim Barnett said yesterday, we can always use the loan market, as we did successfully last year with Conor Mckerr. There is young talent there though and I expect Harvey Hosein, Callum Brodrick and Hamidullah Qadri to get opportunities this summer. If Alex Hughes and Matt Critchley can push on from encouraging 2017 seasons, then the long-term future can be an exciting one, fueled by greater input from locally-reared players.

In any business, succession planning is key. We aren't there yet, but, ahead of the announcement of overseas roles, it looks a solid squad at this stage.

For me, those announcements may well be summer-defining ones and now the IPL squads have been decided, there is a greater awareness of who will be available.

Watch this space.


  1. Good luck to the lad. I would have preferred he stayed on for white ball but first class his record wasn’t good enough sadly. Wish him well. Now we need these overseas sorting. Barnett had said he hoped for news in January so I do hope something hasn’t gone wrong.

  2. Like Mark says I thought he handled things well in the white ball game where batsmen are taking more risks in their stroke play, thus more susceptible to error, but in the 4 day game batsmen just bide their time and unfortunately Ben was not quick enough and didn't deviate the ball enough. But we should wish him well and hope he finds a suitable position in whatever he wants to do.
    With 4 junior bowlers going from the staff, it is of concern, but if one wanted to be cynical hopefully an announcement on a top' overseas player has been delayed to encouraged those who are hovering on membership (after the early bird discount) to sign up, rather than a problem in obtaining the signature of the one that Kim wanted.
    Kim and his team have done a good job up to now, lets give him our support and look forward to a season of progression.

  3. Another sad indictment of our academy. I think the last international it produced was Ian Blackwell, and the last international it produced while they played at Derbyshire was Dominic Cork! The club needs to find out and sort why it is so far behind that of other counties. One thing to start would be for the academy to play in the ECB Premier League. For all the bluster about our strong academy, it is our academy that has been our major problem - for years.

    On Cotton specifically, I was excited when I first saw him in his first season, but by the second he looked overweight and had lost his nip. Was his potential coached out of him? I say pay whatever it takes to get Steffan Jones - whether full-time or if not then on a consultancy basis.

  4. I notice Rashid kahn has joined Sussex. My money is on Mahraj the South African. Pretty sure he played with Smit at the Dolphins. Would be ok with him for second half of season

  5. Forgot to say be more than happy with Jeevan Mendis

  6. Both good calls Mark. To be honest I can't think of anyone else who would fit the bill, now Rashid Khan has gone to Sussex.
    Maharaj a good player. Fine spinner and decent bat too...

  7. Due an announcement very soon I'd imagine with regards to incomings. If not can we start to flap?.


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