Derbs, Northants plan Barbados pre-season
Derbyshire will head back to the Caribbean to prepare for their first season in Division One of the County Championship since 2000 and have vowed to maintain their youthful selection policy.
Last season's pre-season trip proved successful as Karl Krikken's young side, featuring several homegrown players, went on to win promotion for the first time. They will fly out to Barbados for the fourth consecutive year on March 11, 2013 for 12 days, playing practice matches against local opposition and other counties, including Northamptonshire. Two two-day fixtures, a 40-over match and a Twenty20 tournament at the Kensington Oval are scheduled.
"Barbados is a tried and tested pre-season venue and it provides ideal preparation ahead of a challenging domestic campaign," Kirkken, Derbyshire's head coach, said. "To be guaranteed good weather and consequently time on the field is extremely important for our players at this critical time of year. We've certainly felt the benefit from previous visits.
"It's an intense itinerary and one that gives us the best possible chance of hitting the ground running for first division cricket in 2013."
Despite the step up in the Championship, Derbyshire will trust their young squad and resist temptation to greatly increase the playing budget. During his time as academy coach, Kirkken nurtured many of the players recently given a chance in the first team - such as Dan Redfern, Ross Whiteley and Tom Poynton - and who have now signed extended contracts.
"Hopefully there are more contracts in the pipeline," Krikken said. "We would like a top-three batter - we're talking to Usman Khawaja about coming back, and we have a back-up shortlist, but not many are making moves right now.
"But again, we're not panicking because I've already got 16 players I believe to be wholly reliable, who complement each other's abilities, and who instinctively put the team's interests before their own - something that hasn't always been the case at Derbyshire."
Captain Wayne Madsen also signed a new three-year deal as Derbyshire look to continue the careful management that has seen consecutive years of profit under the chairmanship of Chris Grant, and gradual improvement on the field, culminating in last season's Division Two title.
They reeled off four wins in the opening seven matches of their successful campaign and put the bright start down to their pre-season tour. Derbyshire were not the only county to reap the benefits of a West Indies warm-up: Hampshire, the CB40 and FLt20 champions, Warwickshire, who won the County Championship title and promotion-winning Yorkshire all prepared for the 2012 season in Barbados.
Joining Derbyshire next year are Northants, who will be hoping for a similar early season boost to the one they enjoyed after touring South Africa in 2011. Despite not winning a match on the trip, they blazed a trail in both the County Championship and CB40, going unbeaten in 12 matches before the FLt20 badly derailed their season. A similar trip was cancelled at the start of this year, with Northamptonshire ultimately finishing second-bottom in Division Two.
Newly appointed captain Steven Peters told BBC Sport it will give them a "noticeable advantage" for next season. "We're at a disadvantage if we start the season and we haven't been away," he said. "It's more valuable than seven or eight sessions back home."
Northamptonshire's trip is being partly funded by the players, as well as donations from the Northants Supporters Club. The squad will fly out on March 11 and return on March 23.
Head coach, David Ripley, added: "Once again there will be an early start to the season, which means it is crucially important that the lads can get as much cricket as possible beforehand. With uncertain weather conditions in March, sometimes outdoor practice can be limited in England. We all saw how the team hit the ground running following the last pre-season tour to South Africa in 2011."