It's been a long cold, wet, dark winter. Come to think of it, a long cold, wet, dark Spring, but cricket is here again and to mark its arrival, Derby has once more been transformed into Derbados. I'm sure that Duanne Olivier and his new wife arrived in the city wondering what on earth they had done, but I am sure that both will enjoy their spell in God's own county now that the sun has remembered that it shines here from time to time.
If Duanne delivers, as part of a four-pronged pace and seam attack that promises much, we will all be very happy. Because despite what the doom-mongers of the media may say, in suggesting we will be lucky to finish tenth in the division, I still disagree.
IF Messrs Viljoen, Olivier, Rampaul and Davis, with assistance from Tony Palladino or anyone else, hit their straps early, no one will fancy batting against us. Especially if we have backed it up with pitches that offer assistance. If the batting can graft their way to totals that offer them something to work with, who knows?
The initial twelve effectively picked itself, the only question, for me, being whether Gary Wilson or Daryn Smit got the gloves. The vice-captain got the gig, which is hard luck on arguably the best keeper on the county circuit, who scored an unbeaten hundred the other day. You could say, of course, that Harvey Hosein can also feel unlucky, but therein is a measure of the strength of this Derbyshire squad.
There have been times, in the not too distant past, where you looked at a named twelve and had concerns in certain areas. I don't here, save for there being no top spin option, but that's not an issue at this time of year and Matt Critchley and Wayne Madsen can fill that gap if required. A spinner might have been the reason for preferring Smit behind the timbers, as a better all round glove man.
Here's the squad:
One assumes Palladino will miss out, but that depends on the expected wicket and he knows Derby tracks pretty well, besides lengthening the batting order.
As for the visitors, they are fresh off their first win last week, against Northamptonshire, but it is no bad time to be playing them. They have a few players missing, including Steven Finn and Nick Gubbins, as well as Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan.
I see Middlesex as the most likely winners of the division, so this is a chance for us to make a statement and benchmark ourselves against the best. They have a very strong seam attack, but will be looking at ours and thinking 'this might be a test'.
All very exciting and I look forward to seeing how the game unfolds over the next four days - or less, if the wicket is anything like those of last week around the country.
I hope the club gets the support it deserves and that 2018 is a year we can all be proud of.
Let's get going gentleman.
Maybe it's the year of the Falcon...