David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
When you stand alone, as Derbyshire do, as the only county never to have reached T20 Finals Day, perhaps what you need more than ever is somebody imbued with extraordinary positive thinking, somebody who probably imagines he could also sort Brexit in the gap between innings just by an overwhelming believe that the force was with him.
Derbyshire used to have company in the list of T20 also-rans, but Worcestershire's victory in the Vitality Blast last September left them alone. They have a chance to put that right against Gloucestershire in Bristol on Saturday, and in the process reconfirm county cricket as a great democracy at a time when its future has never been more uncertain.
Proclaiming that they can do just that is Dominic Cork, installed this season as their Twenty20 coach, and a former England allrounder whose manic energy and epic sense that, whatever the situation, and sometimes whatever the evidence to the contrary, he was possessed with the magic touch was another characterful contribution to English cricket's largely unrewarding 1990s. Considering his 21-year career as a professional cricketer, including 37 Tests, it would be a surprise if he didn't have something to offer other than a sharp sense of nostalgia.
One of Cork's many roles is as a cricket analyst and there will be no more meaningful shake of the head than that provided in front of the TV cameras by his one-time England team-mate, Mark Butcher, when Cork was introduced as "Derbyshire's successful coach." Tongue-in-cheek and kindly it might have been, but it also conveyed a nonplussed response that a cricketer once held to be full of bluster - even by those who admired him - was now the reliable guiding hand behind Derbyshire's Vitality Blast challenge.
Derbyshire's season looked over against Leicestershire in mid-August when they collapsed to 24 for 6 on their own ground on the way to a 55-run defeat. With Derbyshire supporters disgruntled, Cork's first season as a specialist T20 coach (he had also served as a T20 bowling coach in 2018 under the New Zealander John Wright, a yin and yang partnership if ever there was one), looked to be heading for failure.
Instead, they won their next three matches culminating in the defeat of Lancashire, already confirmed as North Group winners, on their own ground at Old Trafford. "24 for 6" has become something of a mantra for Cork, proof that even in the depths of despair anything is possible.
"That was the sort of moment when you saw a young side trying to win a game lose all focus. I think that was the biggest kick up the backside they needed. People said there was no chance of Derbyshire getting to the quarter-finals and that 24 for 6 was a disgrace. I wasn't bothered by that even though I was hurt as a coach. Nobody came into work saying we are going to be 24 for 6 to annoy our supporters. How did we get into that position and how are we going to get better?"
Cork has supervised Derbyshire's qualification for the quarter-finals with only one overseas player - and Logan van Beek is hardly a player of world renown. Kane Richardson withdrew after he was added to Australia's World Cup squad and his replacement and fellow Australian, Billy Stanlake, was ruled out because of injury.
Perhaps that was fortunate, because the cancellation of a planned pop concert starring Rita Ora because of poor ticket sales meant they didn't really have the money anyway.
"Obviously when the club decided we couldn't afford to have anyone it was frustrating for me coming into a new job, but it helped me focus on the need to get a little bit more out of other players," Cork said. "If you are too desperate to win something, your focus is on the stat of never having been to a final. The one thing I wanted to do when I came in was to take the pressure off the players. It's a game of cricket. The sun goes down at the end of the day.
"People look at us and think we're an easy turnover. I watched Paul Franks talk about the Nottingham derby being our biggest game of the year. I'm glad we help make their videos. We will give it a go against Gloucestershire but we will also try to be one step ahead of the opposition, to try and outwit them."
Far from being an easy turnover, Derbyshire's T20 record compares favourably since they turned to Wright then Cork as a specialist T20 coach, but the habit is yet to take hold. Middlesex had less success with the appointment of Daniel Vettori, who never seemed integrated into county cricket, but somehow just stuck onto it. Cork might have spent some of his career at Lancashire and Hampshire, but his time with Derbyshire goes back to when he was a teenager on a Youth Training Scheme.
"I don't see myself as just a T20 coach, I see myself as a coach," he said. "but I had enjoyed my two years as a bowling coach and an opportunity came along. A few have tried the role of specialist T20 coach and a few have failed. I think it's difficult for a coach to come in for six weeks when he doesn't know the ins and outs of the club or how the side is set up. But I have an affiliation at this club; it means a lot to me."
Watching passively does not come naturally. It was no surprise to learn that he would quite like the chance to get more actively involved. He would like the Blast to adopt strategic timeouts. If they ever did, he would not be short of suggestions, but would dominate the screen like Gene Hackman in the American college basketball movie, Hoosiers, shouting: "I don't care what the scoreboard says." Especially if it said 20-odd for 6.
"When you come into the role you can set the team up as well as you want but you can't do anything about it really," he said. "I still think we should follow India and have strategic timeouts. I would genuinely like to see that even though it might lengthen the game at a time when people want to squeeze the game with The Hundred.
"It's been difficult for me because occasionally I can see things that I think we could be doing better. Without standing up there and giving it the Brian Clough, I don't do that, I just sit down and we discuss it afterwards.
"I would love to win the Blast. As a player I always felt I could win. Contrary to a lot of people's opinions about myself it wasn't about me. I just loved winning. It would be great for the club to get to Finals Day and get the monkey off our back."