As they prepare to tour South Africa next month, England’s squad announcement has raised a few eyebrows. It may herald the end of Ian Bell’s international career, the resurgence of Nick Compton’s and the beginning of the career of Mark Footitt, who has been included in the squad just over a month after leaving Derbyshire.
If anyone has ever questioned the existence of “fashionable” counties and the belief that you can’t get selected for England unless you play for one of them, surely today’s news will have them reconsidering that position. Five weeks after signing for newly promoted Surrey, and leaving second-from-bottom Derbyshire, Footitt has been selected to represent his country.
In September 2014, Footitt told All Out Cricket magazine that he didn’t believe he had to leave Derbyshire to get a call up for England.
“I don’t think you do.” Footitt told AOC’s Peter Miller, “The work that we are doing at Derbyshire is about being a team and developing players to play for England. We are a team on the up and I don’t feel like I have to play elsewhere.”
Perhaps that was how he felt at the time, having just been named in the England performance squad, but clearly things have changed.
Early in August, Footitt was called in to the Ashes squad as a back up bowler for the fourth Test, but was not used. There was a feeling that, having played his best cricket in division two, the left-handed quick would struggle against higher quality opposition. It seems that story reached Footitt, because two weeks later he rejected the improved terms offered by Derbyshire and announced his desire to move on.
In five years at Derbyshire, Footitt, who is days away from his 30th birthday, became the side’s most valuable asset. He took 251 first class wickets and 14 five-wicket hauls; his ability to alter his pace and swing keeps batters guessing and takes wickets; he took the most wickets in division two in the 2014 season and the second most in 2015; he was named Opta’s Outstanding seam bowler of the season in 2014; he is capable of delivering the ball at eye-watering pace and has injured opposition batsmen with his power on more than one occasion.
It’s no surprise that first division counties fought to sign him.
Surrey won the battle for Footitt in mid-October, financially compensating the East Midlands side handsomely, and he has just been selected to tour South Africa. If the England selectors were concerned about Footitt’s lack of first division experience in August, they certainly aren’t any more.
The positive spin for Derbyshire is the knowledge that it was their coaching set up that is responsible for the quick bowler’s development. Last night, Falcons’ Chief Executive Chris Grant tweeted about his pride in Footitt and, rightfully, his satisfaction on behalf of his coaching and support staff.
Of course, Footitt deserves his opportunity to play for England. He has been impressing cricket fans and payers alike for the past two years, has matured under the tutelage of Derbyshire’s Elite Performance Director, Graeme Welch, and has the potential to become a truly great bowler. It’s only disappointing that he had to move away from the club that developed his talent in order for the ECB to take a chance on him.