Saturday, 27 August 2016

Cork latest to sign contract

Another day, another contract at Derbyshire, as Greg Cork signed a new one-year deal today, one that puts the onus on him squarely to work hard over the winter and next summer.

I always feel sorry for the sons of famous sports people, because they will always be compared, usually unfavourably, with their parents. It has been seen times many in cricket and Greg Cork, talented cricketer as he is, will always struggle to emerge from his father's shadow. Good a player as he was, Richard Hutton never emerged from that of Len, although in Derbyshire circles, Harold Rhodes managed to become an even better player than his father, which was quite an achievement.

The incentive to do so is clear. A left-arm bowler who can hit a ball hard and score runs would be a huge asset to Derbyshire and no one else on the current staff offers that. Greg now needs to score more runs and become more penetrative with the ball, things that would edge him ahead of the likes of Will Davis, Ben Cotton and Tom Taylor in his age group.

Next year will be a big one for him and he will know that there is a lot resting on the next twelve months. It is right that the club have given him that time to show his worth, and I hope that he realises his obvious talent.

There's been some good comments in recent days and thank you for them. Notoveryet questioned the results of Derbyshire's overseas players and suggested that only Cheteshwar Pujara, Martin Guptill, Usman Khawaja and Albie Morkel had been successes since Chris Rogers, with Jimmy Neesham and Hashim Amla, maybe Shiv Chanderpaul given the benefit of the doubt.

As a hard man to please - and remember, I grew up watching Barlow, Wright and Kirsten - I'd say that only Guptill earns an unqualified pass mark from me. Pujara wasn't here long enough, Khawaja will be remembered as much for his Hampshire last day knock, rather than what preceded it, while Morkel did OK but won us few, if any matches.

That T20 gig is tough though. Neesham's four wickets and composed knock against Lancashire won us the game, but in a format where two or three good overs and a quick thirty can make you a star, few of ours over the years have been standouts.

I'd agree that Shiv was past his best and Amla, like Dilshan, disappointed. It is a frustrating business, though I'd not agree we shop in the bargain basement for such players. There are world-class names in there, who don't come cheap. In signing them, an expectation of runs was largely unrealised. Would a good English-qualified player be a better bet? Yes, if you could guarantee a return, such as you get from Wayne Madsen, but remember Rikki Clarke? A top player for Surrey and also for Warwickshire, but his stint with us was a costly disappointment. There are no more guarantees in cricket than there are in life...

On the Chesney situation, logic suggests his contractual situation is the reason for non-selection. It could be his agent's valuation of his worth as opposed to Derbyshire's, in much the same way as Greg Smith and Tim Groenewald ended up leaving. It could be that he wants to winter back home, while we want him here to work on his game; he might not be fully fit for a four-day game, or it could be that they just want to try out other options. By the same token, his agent could have been very busy and just not had a chance to sit down and chat.

We shouldn't be too quick to jump to conclusions, but if Mark Footitt is earning the £150K that Huw Lloyd suggested last night, then expectations of Derbyshire competing in that market are unrealistic. Put another way, you'd need to guarantee a lot of runs and wickets for us to consider such an outlay - and you still have the rest of the squad to finance. Then what happens when player X and Y deliver better results on less money? I think you know the answer...

Based on Huw's figure, in Mark's injury-shortened season so far, each wicket is costing 7.5K. Were he playing for us, I'd venture there'd be a few dissenting voices on those statistics.

Keep the comments coming.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Tony Palladino signs two-year deal

If good preparation is worth anything, Derbyshire's prompt work in securing the services of another key senior player today should reap rewards in time.

Tony Palladino has been an exemplary cricketer for the club since his move from Essex and today's announcement, of his signing a new two-year deal, effectively ensures that he finishes his career with us.

That is especially relevant with his role including coaching responsibilities, something that will doubtless please a player whose experience alone suggests him as someone with plenty to offer the younger bowlers.

He has again done well this year, despite having to play the part of stock bowler due to the lack of strike options at the other end. Our rich collection of seam bowlers can only benefit from his experience and input and I am delighted that his involvement with a club that means so much to him will continue.

It does suggest, at least to me, that the person who will be in charge of affairs next summer and beyond is already at the club, or is in discussions about the way forward. Logically, one doesn't sign up five players for another two years or more, then appoint a coach who may or may not have wanted them on board. Securing the services of Billy Godleman and Shiv Thakor was a no-brainer, as was the deal for Will Davis. Rob Hemmings would perhaps have needed a decision, with little first team experience to judge him by, while appointing TP to some form of coaching role must have had input from the head coach they have in mind, or someone likely to be involved in some capacity.

That's my take anyway. I do hope that an announcement on a future structure and that crucial coaching role is made sooner, rather than later, as the successful candidate needs as long as possible to sort his squad for a key summer next year.

The recent flurry of activity seems to leave two senior players in a 'pending' tray - Chesney Hughes and Wes Durston. Both have contracts up for renewal, each may or may not be offered or sign them. One can never tell and it will continually come down to one crucial question - is there someone out there who is better, younger and better value? Like the rest of you, I have no idea of our winter plans, but if the chairman is going on record about big improvements and changes, there has to be more in the pipeline than engaging our better young players long term, laudable as that is.

I totally 'get' the cynicism of one or two of you with recent comments on this, but would urge you to wait and see. If we get to next March with no new or bigger names then the knives will doubtless be out. For now, let's trust some very good people with excellent contacts to deliver on promises.

It does, as one or two of you have pointed out recently, feel like the end of the season already, despite there being a few games to go. I think those games will be important for some young players, gaining exposure at a higher level and staking a claim for inclusion, or a contract, another year.

Finally tonight, it is good to see David Wainwright back in the county game with Hampshire. He's done well in the Minor Counties this year and will have built his confidence up accordingly. A few runs and a couple of wickets has done him no harm today and it would be good to see a lovely bloke get another opportunity at this level.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Davis and Hemmings sign new deals

After the new contracts for Shiv Thakor and Billy Godleman in the week, it is good to see two of our younger brigade, Rob Hemmings and Will Davis, signing two-year deals today.

Hemmings produced some good displays for the second team this summer, but can bat and bowl, making him a potentially fine cricketer for us if his development continues.

Davis is a little further on in his development and his extra pace marks him as a player to watch. He will need carefully nursed as his body fills out, but in a handful of appearances he has shown himself capable of dismissing good batsmen. With plenty of time on his side, he could become the real deal as a strike bowler, if he listens to the right people and works hard on all elements of his game.

They are not signings to excite the doubters, but they have the right stuff and, with the right players alongside them, could help to build a brighter future.

Well done to both on their deals.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Well done to Northamptonshire

I am absolutely thrilled for Northamptonshire, who I spent yesterday supporting on finals day in the T20.

As the 'little' county of the four that participated, they were always going to get my support and they did all the little clubs in the country proud.

That one of their wins was against Nottinghamshire was especially good, a real David v Goliath battle. For all that Andre Russell had a good game, I think our East Midlands rivals erred in not selecting Imran Tahir, who is an especially effective bowler in this format.

Northamptonshire have some very good players, and let us not forget that they were missing Gleeson and Prasanna, two of their most effective bowlers in the competition.

Josh Cobb is a very good T20 cricketer, while Ben Duckett is a special talent who will doubtless play for England before too long. Alex Wakely played two important innings for them and handled his side competently and confidently in the field, aided by bowlers who kept good lines and fielders who held some blinding catches.

We're not that far away from them, on this year's evidence, but need to find, for another year, a means of producing our best more often, while getting greater and crucial input from the overseas role. In Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt, Northamptonshire have got two imports who contribute regularly and well. They win them matches, which, apart from a couple of games this summer, was something ours never did.

I hope that they can keep the predators at bay (unless we're chasing any of their players!) and continue to show that the little guys have a big right to be at cricket's top table.

Well done to everyone there.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Quieter than a winter week

It's been a lovely week of weather on the coast and family Peakfan has now returned home to be met by...rain.

Never mind, it's good for the grass and flowers.

The encouraging news, picked up from the times when the erratic wi-fi worked, is that we must have major winter plans. As Huw Lloyd picked up from his interview with Wayne Madsen, the players we are bringing in have to be of proven first-class standard. While not discounting the signing of a young player or two - and both Tom Wood and Charlie MacDonnell have given themselves a good shout of a contract - our major need is proven experience.

I remain convinced that our greater need is for an overseas bowler, especially in the four-day game, so another experienced batsman, together with a wicket-keeper who can bat high in the order, is a must for me. So too is ideally a strike bowler and spinner of experience. We were always going to miss Mark Footitt, while  we cannot rely on young lads to carry the spin side of the attack, especially as Wes Durston has slipped from the reckoning.

Of course, targeting such players and getting them to sign on the dotted line are different things, but Madsen, Godleman and Thakor must have reasonable grounds for expecting such signing to be landed to do so themselves.

Plenty to think about over the coming weeks then, and ahead of our next game, at Derby against Gloucestershire in the championship.

More on that in the near future.

In closing, I read today that Niall O'Brien is leaving Leicestershire 'with immediate effect' to pursue an 'exciting new opportunity'.

He's a very good, combative cricketer, with a mid-thirties batting average to match his age, one who would buy time for Harvey Hosein as he makes his way in the county game.

If that new opportunity is within the game, he would be a more than useful addition to our squad, beyond doubt. 

And as always, I welcome your thoughts...

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Derbyshire v Essex day 4

Derbyshire 303 (Critchley 43, MacDonnell 35 not)

Essex won by an innings and 62 runs

A few minutes to spare until we go out for the evening, so just a few comments on today's result, which was never really in any doubt.

Matt Critchley played another nice cameo, while Charlie MacDonnell dug in nicely for the second time in the match and finished unbeaten at the end.

In other news, it is pleasing to see the chairman's comments today, suggesting that there are plenty of irons in the fire. This is neatly reinforced by the announcement of new contracts for Shiv Thakor and Billy Godleman, two men who are very much key to our future plans.

I don't think they would have signed up for the immediate future without an indication of the club's ambition, perhaps an idea of the players we are chasing and the coaches who have expressed an interest in the Derbyshire role.

I'd also suggest it as very clever and sensible marketing by the club, getting the news 'out there' at the end of a game where we largely outplayed after the first session.

More from me soon.

Derbyshire v Essex day 3

Essex 530-9

Derbyshire 165 and 213-5 (Godleman 100)

Derbyshire trail by 152 runs

Having finally managed to get my wireless dongle to work in this neck of the woods, a chance to say a few things about yesterday and reply to notoveryet, as I promised I would do.

Credit to Alex Mellor and Matt Critchley in their battling efforts in the morning, while Billy Godleman's century gave us something to hang on to, even if it is, in the grander scheme of things, not amounting to all that much. We're left with the youngsters to battle through the final day, though logic suggests that it may not take too long, based on the evidence that precedes it.

It has been depressing fare, especially for those who sat through and endured it. That it is not good enough is undeniable and, as notoveryet says in his piece below my previous comments, a captain fielding in the deep is not the way to go about it. A skipper needs to be near his bowlers and to be within reach of his wicket-keeper for ideas to make the batsmen work. That is hardly likely in such a position and needs thought through.

Going back to those comments, I won't argue with what people see at games that I haven't attended. It is well known that I live 300 miles from the club, see them as much, over the course of the season, as I can and apart from those occasions, write comment pieces, not commentary.

These are based on match reports and other sources and I don't pretend otherwise. What I do know, however, is how much work will be going on behind the scenes to put it right.

I would be surprised if anyone, inside or outside the club, felt that the elite structure of the past three years had worked unconditionally. In principle it was fine, but was dependent on our bringing on young players, introducing them to the first team and watching them grow, aided and abetted by overseas players of quality.

Having a director, batting coach, bowling coach and fielding coach was overkill. That we introduced young players to the senior side is a given, as is that some have made decent progress. Aside from Ben Slater and Shiv Thakor, none would be said to have set the world alight this year, but there is promise in the likes of Davis, Critchley, Cotton, Parkinson and Hosein. Others may come into the mix, but it takes time, which the average member or supporter is loathe to give.

There is no option though. There are ten to twenty slower developers for every Root and Stokes, some never making it at top level. We still need to find a system, or a coach, to accelerate their progress, as Durham, Lancashire, Worcestershire and Northamptonshire seem to do more frequently.

There were few dissenting voices when Graeme Welch took over and while he did a solid job in some areas, we have been let down by overseas imports of some reputation, together with poor decision-making at times. In that, I agree with notoveryet.

Where I disagree is in his assertion that 'the advisory board cannot simply be trusted to get on the field decisions right any more'. They don't make those decisions, they appoint a coach to do so. That mistakes have been made is a given, but that will always happen and the board's task now is to find someone who can take the club forward, then leave them to get on with it. With the right person in place, you shouldn't need to do anything else.

Is that man John Sadler? At one point, in the honeymoon period enjoyed by new coaches in most sports, a lot of people would have said yes, but injuries and poor performances more recently have undermined his case. I don't doubt he is an excellent coach and he is a lovely bloke, but in any sport a coach will be judged on results, often irrespective of mitigating circumstances. Doubtless a robust recruitment and interview process will take place to identify interested parties and I hope that happens soon and we can get the right man  in position with a remit to take us on to the next level. If we get that role right, the successful candidate should then be left to get on with it as he sees fit.

I also disagree that 'two of our younger players will be wanting to leave'. That is just scaremongering. How do you know that? No more than I can say that X's innings was the best I have seen. I don't say that, when I haven't seen it; by the same token, people should not make assertions in such a manner when not privy to individual thought processes and plans.

Bringing in new people is always a challenge for a smaller club, but the right coach with good contacts helps, as does having people involved who are on good terms with agents and individual players. As his interview in my recent book confirms, Chris Grant is very confident that 'there is no player in the game that we could not sign at Derbyshire' as the resources are, with prudent and innovative work off the field, in place.

There's a big winter of work ahead on that front, that's for sure.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Time for reflection

Yesterday I wrote that I wished we could fast forward to the end of the season. Quite honestly, I feel that more this year than any before it.

I think that there is a need to regroup and plan such as we haven't seen for some time, with a new- look side increasingly likely for another summer.

We haven't been helped by injuries of late, with most of our young seamers incapacitated in one way or another. Cotton, Davis, Taylor, Thakor - all would have gone into contention for yesterday's game without question.

The irony of Andy Carter bowling out Nottinghamshire in Hampshire colours yesterday was not lost, no less than seeing Luke Fletcher do the same thing when he returned to his old club from his stint at the 3aaa County Ground earlier in the summer. His departure left the club with little more than youngsters and the admirable workhorse that is Tony Palladino to work with, something that next year I hope will change.

I think that Cotton, Davis and Taylor will all, in time, be good county bowlers at the very least, but it was telling to hear Michael Johnson on the Olympics coverage say that sports stars don't really know their game and their bodies until 25 or 26. Jessica Ennis-Hill said the same thing and I know from many discussions with former and current players that it is the same with cricketers. Our 'problem' is that we have too many youngsters and we need more players of proven quality alongside them, to guide, support and take the pressure off.

Back up and assistance is needed for the seamers, just as it is for Matt Critchley and Callum Parkinson. While they will produce the occasional fine performance, it is unrealistic to expect them to regularly bowl out sides at 19 or 20, because players rarely do at that age. Likewise we simply have to bring in a top wicket-keeper/batsman. If we could bring in a player who could bat in the top six, it enables the coach to play an extra bowler if he chooses, or lengthen the batting.

I have no idea why 'Ches and Wes' are currently out of the side, but can only assume that it is for valid cricket reasons. Chesney started the summer well, but has started to creep back into old habits as the season has gone on with the usual detrimental effect on his average. He should be kicking on more, over a full season, and could be really special if he manages to do so.

Wes just seemed to be out of sorts to me this summer and no doubt discussions on his role next year will take place come season-end. As I have mentioned recently, if there was someone better out there, a 'junior Wes', that player would be under consideration. For what it is worth, as his four-day involvement is now minimal, I suspect that any offer to Wes for next summer might be for one-day cricket only. We'll see, but it has been a tough year for a fine player, beyond argument.

Neil Broom? He's had a tough year too, one that he probably didn't expect. Ask any 'new' overseas professional the toughest part of their role, though and they will tell you it is the weight of expectation, together with an amount of cricket, way in excess to anything they have played before. It has affected plenty before him and has done the same to Broom this year. Yet his pedigree is there on the statistical websites and I am sure that he will benefit from this year's exposure to the county game and return stronger in 2017. He will want to make amends and I think he will. The signs are there of improvement in recent weeks and he will have learned a lot this summer.

I don't think there are major issues behind the scenes, other than people hurting after the one-day disappointments, so don't, as one or two recent emails have suggested, see senior players throwing their toys from the pram. In talking to them, I still get a feel of enjoyment from the people we would all see as crucial to our future plans and am sure that the likes of Shiv Thakor, Billy Godleman and Ben Slater will be at the club another year and for more to come. So too will Wayne Madsen, whose benefit offer and recent contract suggest that he will see out his career at Derbyshire. Amen to that, I am sure you all say...

Having thought about it overnight, I don't see team selection being done by anyone other than John Sadler and Billy Godleman. Both are proud and strong men and, while they will get selection wrong on occasion (what coach doesn't?) they will do their best and are very much their own men. I know, from talking to him in the interview for my recent book, that Chris Grant works tirelessly off the pitch to improve matters, but leaves the on field matters firmly in the hands of the professionals. He will express an opinion, which is his right as chairman, but that will be all it is.

Which brings us, neatly, to Kim Barnett and his role. As a former player of great distinction, together with some coaching involvement in his native Staffordshire, Kim's counsel will undoubtedly have been sought and given. I am sure that he will have cast an eye over the current set up and told it like it is, when asked. If that leads to a better Derbyshire side, moving forward, I have no complaints and nor will anyone else. I don't think any of us can say that we have got it right as things stand, so an informed opinion is another to be thrown into the melting pot. The Advisory Board will be working very hard behind the scenes and I am sure that things will improve.

Indeed, I think that the winter months will be more exciting than the summer this year. There is a coaching role to discuss, presumably as a matter of urgency, then players to bring in. A lot have gone out of the door already and others may yet do so.

That yesterday was intensely disappointing is beyond dispute, yet the acid test will be in how the players and the club respond to such a day. A better effort over the next two days, a determination to do much better next season.

Watch this space.

Postscript: family Peakfan are off on their holidays today and we will be away until next weekend. I will check in when I can, subject to wifi availability, and will put up comments as soon as I am able.

Keep them coming, but as always, ensure there are no personal attacks and no 'rants'. Thanks!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Derbyshire v Essex day 2

Essex 530-9 (Browne 229 not, Milnes 6-93)

Derbyshire 116-6 (Broom 31, Mellor 20 not)

Essex lead by 414 runs

On a day when Mo Farah won his third Olympic gold medal to enter the sporting pantheon, Derbyshire were sadly like one of the runners that he lapped last night.

Nick Browne made his predicted and predictable double century, Essex amassed the expected runs and then our early order collapsed like a pack of cards on the same wicket. It was horribly frustrating to follow from afar and must have been awful and inexplicable to watch.

Neil Broom batted a while but got out when set, Charlie MacDonnell dug in, as did Alex Mellor and Matt Critchley, but we are hopelessly outclassed here.

I don't think we have helped ourselves with the team selection and order though. Alex Hughes bowled first change, but only got twelve overs in an innings that lasted 145. Then he bats three, which isn't his position, while MacDonnell batted six, instead of his usual first wicket down. It is all a little messy and the end of the season cannot come fast enough right now. Surely Greg Cork's left arm swing might have, at least, given another angle? Certainly the two spinner option didn't work, the youngsters taking a combined 2-277.

There is so much work to be done this winter, but a squad like ours can ill afford the number of injuries at present. The only bright spots were the grafting ability of the younger batsmen, together with the bowling of Tom Milnes.

Sometimes the burden of responsibility sits well on a player and Milnes has bowled increasingly well in the past two games. His earlier appearances have been marked by erratic lines and lengths, but 6-93 in 32 overs when your team is hit for 500 is a splendid effort by any standards.

As things stand, he is one player who can leave this game with his head held high.

With fair weather forecast, we look like losing this one by an innings and plenty.

You'd have to say that's pretty poor fare.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Derbyshire v Essex day 1

Essex 291-4 (Browne 116 not out, Westley 73, Milnes 2-48)

v Derbyshire

Essex's day, largely thanks to another (predicted, I thank you) century from Nick Browne, who now averages 227 against Derbyshire in a relatively brief first-class career.

With Greg Cork omitted from the side, our seam attack was Milnes and Palladino, with Alex Hughes perhaps bowling first change seamer for the first time in his first-class career. They all bowled tidily, Milnes much improved on his control from Leicester and seemingly impressive. Had Neil Broom held what was described as a regulation slip catch after tea, we might have deemed it a decent day from a young attack.

Callum Parkinson again impressed and I like what I have seen of Alex Mellor, who held one very good catch and from what I hear looks a compact and able wicket-keeper. I have no idea when we last bowled three spinners before lunch at Derby on the first day, but reckon that it must be a long time back.

I predicted a draw last night and we have the batting to ensure that happens. Browne may well go on to his second double ton of the summer from our bowling, but we must dig in, continue to bowl with the control shown today and see what happens.

More from me tomorrow.