County cricket 2014 March 22, 2014

Derbyshire impatient for recovery

Last year

8th (relegated), CC Div 1; Group stage, FLt20; 6th in Group B, YB40.

2013 in a nutshell

Any season that ends in relegation and the appointment of new coaching staff can only be considered a disappointment. Certainly Derbyshire's lack of progress in limited-overs cricket was frustrating and it might be tempting to conclude that, for all the talk and all the investment, their brief appearance in Division One was nothing but a blip.

But there were some encouraging signs along the way: Derbyshire won three Championship matches - more than Surrey or Nottinghamshire and as many as Somerset - and, in an impressive late-season run of three wins in four games, demonstrated admirable fight and character. It was telling that, central to most of their better performances, the batting of Wayne Madsen - the only man to pass 1,000 Championship runs or average 40 - and the bowling of Tim Groenewald were to the fore.

That it all turned out to be in vain was due, largely, to the batting. Only four times did they make 300 in the Championship and only twice did they go on to pass 400. Six times they failed to pass 120 with none of Wes Durston, Jon Clare, Dan Redfern, Ben Slater or Billy Godleman averaging more than 18. Karl Krikken might consider himself particularly unfortunate to pay the price for Derbyshire's relegation. Having taken the coaching role with the club in chaos and overseen a swift improvement that culminated in promotion, he might have expected a little more time to get things right.

Instead he was asked - and declined - to reapply for a rebranded role as "elite cricket performance director". His qualities - loyalty, commitment that stretched way beyond the norm, knowledge of the club and the players, and a quiet good humour that ensured calm on good days and bad - might not have been as eye-catching as some, but they were valuable nevertheless and will prove hard to replace. County cricket becomes more like football by the moment.

2014 prospects

With a strong seam bowling attack, Derbyshire should be able to challenge for promotion once again. The weakness of the batting remains a concern, though, and far more will be required of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the likes of Godleman if they are to prosper. It might be a worry, too, that while the club has lost the services of Ross Whiteley and Dan Redfern, two of the more talented young players at the start of 2013, they have attempted to mask it with the recruitment of 33-year-old Stephen Moore whose recent form is hardly overwhelming. Long-term, the club remain reliant on the success of their home-grown players, but there is a doubt whether many are ready to take-up key first-team positions at present. But if the change in the coaching positions such one thing at Derbyshire it is this: after years when mediocrity was accepted as inevitable at Derbyshire, there are now expectations and demands at the club. That has to be a good thing.

Key player

That Madsen, the first man in the country to 1,000 Championship runs in 2013 and the winner of the Championship Player of the Season award, has been at the heart of everything good in Derbyshire cricket over the last few years is obvious. Whether he can continue to mask the deficiencies in the rest of the team is less clear. It is hard to think of another side in the land that are so reliant upon one man for their runs. The club can, at least, take comfort in the knowledge that, in the face of interest from other counties, he signed a long-term deal to keep him with the club until the end of 2016.

Bright young thing

Chesney Hughes has long been admired for his talent and style with the bat. But, aged 23, it is time to start delivering on his promise. It is telling that not far short of half his first-class runs in 2013 (636) came in one innings of 270. Greater consistency is required. Perhaps surgery to his shoulder, successfully carried out during the winter, will help. It will certainly allow him to bowl more often. Tom Poynton, a fine keeper, is worth keeping an eye out for as well.


Graeme Welch, the new director of cricket, forged a fine reputation as bowling (and then assistant) coach at Warwickshire, but will find himself with more responsibility and fewer resources at Derbyshire. He should be more than capable of leading an improvement at all levels of the club, though he may require more time than was given to his predecessor. Madsen will continue to lead from the front and there is no reason to suspect the pair will not form a fine working relationship. Perhaps the key man at the club remains the chairman, Chris Grant, though. It has been his energy that has been behind the boost in recent times, but it is likely that his long-term patience and persistence will also be tested in due course.

ESPNcricinfo verdict

While promotion might prove just out of grasp, a position outside the top four in Division Two would be considered bitterly disappointing. A team full of all-rounders should be able to improve significantly in limited-overs cricket, though a place in the knock-out stages should be deemed a success.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 24, 2014, 21:37 GMT

    I'll be surprised and disappointed if we aren't promoted back to the top division of the Championship.

  • Dummy4 on March 24, 2014, 15:45 GMT

    Have to disagree with almost every aspect of this report. Derbyshire actually have a strong batting line-up. It is the lack of a quality strike bowler that may hinder them. As to last season Derbyshire played the first half of it like they didn't believe they belonged there. Once they won a county championship match they picked up and had they played the first half of the season like they played the second they would have been up amoungst Durham, Middlesex and Yorkshire. Derbyshire continue to be a well managed club and I hope the loss of David Houghton does not impair them this season. I look forward to seeing the continued improvement of the young players, notably Hughes, Clare and Wainwright and look forward to them being promoted again. I am actually a Lancashire supporter but I greatly admire the passion and gutsiness of this unfashionable club aswell as the professional attitude of the management. Good luck for the season Derbyshire!

  • James on March 24, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    Hi George, for once I have to disagree with parts of your analysis: Krikken was instrumental in drawing up the elite performance director position and it was his choice to not apply for it. You could say it is unforgiving for the club to announce the new structure and not give the role to Krikk, but this is not unprecedented and may the best man win. Hopefully this is what's happened with Welch joining, though fans will be sad for Krikk.

    Also if Derbyshire's position in Div 1 was a "blip", then the same logic must describe Stephen Moore's poor form - remember he was on the verge of England selection not long ago - as a blip too.

    I agree with the rest and particularly the overall verdict. We need to be more competitive in the shorter forms because, as a smaller club, this surely is our best chance of success (albeit that success would be to make the T20 QFs in the first instance).

  • Stewart on March 24, 2014, 10:32 GMT

    Perhaps a bit harsh to fault Clare for his batting average given that he's primarily a bowler...?

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