Colossus Madsen shows the way
When the end came it was something of an anti-climax, nowhere close to the sterling efforts that had taken us close to an achievement perhaps even greater than the trophy of last summer.
Warwickshire were simply too strong and we didn't really show up, the stuffing knocked out of a young side by a ninth-wicket stand between a could-have-been English winter tourist and a wannabe county cricketer with a first-class average of five, before his first Championship half-century.
Derbyshire's late-season surge was too little, too late and the coaching staff, together with chairman Chris Grant, will be well aware that strengthening is required over the winter months. Too many of last summer's successful side found this level beyond them. Some won't get another chance - at least, not with Derbyshire - while others will hopefully return more aware of the demands of the top division.
There are a number of talented young players at the club, but they all have work to do over the winter months to ensure that they are in the mix for a starting place next April. They need to be fitter, stronger, mentally prepared as well as technically improved. The way in which the likes of Paul Borrington, Ben Slater, Alex Hughes, Chesney Hughes, Matt Higginbottom and others work at their games is crucial to our continued development.
As things stand, Wayne Madsen, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Tony Palladino, Tom Poynton, Tim Groenewald and the newly-contracted and substantially improved Mark Footitt will be the nucleus of next summer's side. All are good players, but for several others, most notably Dan Redfern, Jonathan Clare and Billy Godleman, it was a summer where they made little significant progress.
Of course, winter recruitment will be dictated, as ever, by finance. We don't yet know the impact of relegation, but we could lose membership, sponsorship and marketing money and will need to address that imbalance in some way. Ross Whiteley left, while in contract, in mid-season and I'd not be surprised if others were to go in the coming weeks, their reputations far from enhanced after difficult campaigns.
An experienced opening batsman would be appreciated, as it would be extraordinary if all three youngsters who tussled over the berths this summer developed simultaneously. A middle-order player, perhaps an allrounder, would make a big difference too, but we need to guard against bringing in a player of only modest talent, who might in turn block the development of the likes of Peter Burgoyne. At 19 he could develop into a genuine allrounder, blessed with the physique to hit the ball hard but needing to perhaps spin the ball more to trouble batsman consistently.
Likewise Hughes, much slighter of build, could be a regular in the side for the next ten years. His aggressive batting, bustling medium-pace and fine fielding can only get better now that he has finished his studies and a winter in the gym, building his strength, may bring rich dividends for player and club.
One of the biggest disappointments of the summer was the near-constant absence of Clare. On his day he can bowl around 85mph and hit a ball as hard as anyone in the side, yet he had too many injuries and his absence saw the side's balance badly affected. He needs to get fit for first-class cricket and, if he can stay that way next summer, as Footitt did this year, he can be a part of a major resurgence.
There's also a question mark over the spinners. David Wainwright was a major factor in last summer's promotion, but rarely looked like bowling out top-level players, while his allrounder status was threatened by a run of low scores. Many good judges see former England age-group spinner Tom Knight as a better long-term bet, the latter's improving batting and fielding a powerful argument for greater involvement next year.
While Chanderpaul was hardly a failure, he was not quite so prolific as was expected and there will be greater expectations next year. Bestriding them all, like a colossus, was skipper Madsen, the one batsman to come to terms with Division One cricket and the first Derbyshire player ever to be quickest to a thousand runs in the Championship.
Through it all he captained the side with authority and no little skill, while his batting looked on a different level to that of his team-mates. His able lieutenant, Groenewald, can also be proud of his efforts in a summer where he kept running in to bowl, irrespective of the format. He looked a bowler of quality and the two South African-born players have given sterling service to the club.
More of the same will be required next year. For all that the final act led to disappointment, there were enough reasons to be cheerful in the closing scenes to be optimistic ahead of 2014.
Steve Dolman has been a Derbyshire fan since 1967 and writes the award-winning Peakfan blog