Can Derbyshire build on last season's promise and make 2018 a memorable one for supporters?
Yes, they can.
Will they do so?
Now that's a subject for discussion.
On the face of it, we go into the summer with what appears to be our strongest-looking squad in years. Whether or not you agree with the winter cull on the playing staff, you would have to say that it has left us with a lean playing staff in which every player could pull his weight, if called upon to do so.
While there have been suggestions that we were an experienced batsman light, I disagree (except for the T20) and think there is considerable potential for runs. The experienced and reliable Billy Godleman and Wayne Madsen will, as always, anchor a batting line-up in which I expect to see Alex Hughes, Luis Reece and Matt Critchley build on impressive summers last year.
Indeed, they may thrive, with the attention firmly fixed on big-name signings and all are young players capable of going further in the game. Ben Slater has a big summer ahead of him and will need to show that he can turn classy starts into innings of substance, while Gary Wilson, the vice-captain, has a fight to get into the four-day side and faces a similar challenge. If one of these steps up and makes a top six place his own, we will do just dandy, thank you.
I expect the wicket-keeping role to go initially to Daryn Smit, for no other reason than he is a superb wicket-keeper, up with the best in my fifty-years and counting viewing experience. The robust challenge from the talented Harvey Hosein will do him good and the latter will doubtless have opportunities before September. Yet I expect Smit to be a key member of the side and nurse a lengthy-looking tail to important runs, as well as being a sage counsel to the respective skippers.
The bowling? As has historically been the case for Derbyshire, it should be our strength. We have signed the highly experienced Ravi Rampaul to work alongside the towering and fast Hardus Viljoen. Their experience should aid the development of the very talented but thus far equally fragile Will Davis, while the evergreen Tony Palladino will let no one down when opportunity knocks.
The signing of South African Duanne Olivier could turn out to be an inspired one, as a good first half of summer will enhance his international chances back home. No one will fancy batting against that attack on early season wickets and we should not struggle to bowl sides out. To be honest, it is probably going back to Barnett's own playing career since we fielded such a fine line up, at least on paper. Now, they all have to cut the mustard on the pitch.
Perhaps the key member of staff this year is Fran Clarkson. Her ability, with the strength and conditioning team, to keep the squad fit will be a major factor in our quest for success. If we can field some combination of that attack regularly at the start of the summer then we will win a good few matches. If we can't, and we are bringing academy lads in before they are ready, we won't.
Last year we didn't see Viljoen before the T20 and hardly saw Davis after it. Rampaul is a bowler who benefits from playing regularly, while Olivier has a good fitness record. We can only hope that all get through the summer relatively unscathed, the side can reap the benefits and supporters can enjoy a golden summer of entertainment.
The acquisition of Mitchell Santner for the T20 and second half of the summer was a fine bit of business. Sadly, a knee injury knocked that one squarely on the head and his adequate replacement is yet to be announced. Given that we do not yet know that, nor the overseas players for the T20, it is hard to give a considered opinion on prospects. A quality spinner in the second half of summer could make the difference that I expect from Olivier, but there aren't many available in the world game.
For what it is worth, IF we get luck with the weather, IF we hold our catches, IF we get the other overseas roles filled well and IF we keep people fit, I think we can have a good season. I fancy us to fare well in the RLODC, to be top four in four-day cricket and to battle for the knock-out stage in the T20.
If we don't, with the squad that Kim Barnett has assembled over the winter and the processes put in place, I suspect we won't for some time.
It is a squad of very good cricketers. To use that word again, if they maintain focus and play to potential, they are eminently capable of getting results, so let's all get behind them.
Time to deliver, gentlemen.
And hope those 'ifs' turn out the right way.