Derbyshire have had a few ups and downs in the past four years, including a trip to Division One, some surprise victories, the development of a promising England bowler, a few well known international names on the books, a decent finish to 2014 and then a not so promising season last year.
Seeing the side through it all has been the much-revered captain, Wayne Madsen.
With more than 8000 career runs to his name and a fair bit of interest from other counties, Falcons fans were unsurprisingly delighted when Madsen signed on with the county for another three years and quite possibly to the end of his career. There was less delight, however, when just weeks later he announced that Billy Godleman would be replacing him as captain.
Asked why he had chosen to step down, Madsen replied: “I felt the time was right.
“At the end of last season, I considered it. We had a tough year last year and as captain you naturally take it to heart sometimes. I had a think again over Christmas, then spoke with Graeme [Welch] when we got back and I decided in early Feb to step aside and let Billy take over.
“I felt I’d served my time as captain,” he added, “and I feel that I can do more now as a player over the next few years.
“There’s a fresh take on the captaincy now with Billy stepping in, with new ideas. I think it will be really good for the team.”
While Madsen was out with a finger injury during the 2015 season, Godleman was acting four-day captain. Having had a difficult couple of years with the county that even lead to him reconsidering his future at one point, it seemed a surprising decision. Once again, however, Graeme Welch proved he knows exactly what he is doing.
Godleman rose to the occasion and proved himself a mature and very capable batter and leader. Madsen has no doubt that he is the right successor to the role of captain:
“He’s a natural leader in our team anyway and that [his time as stand-in captain] just showed what he can do as a leader and as a captain of the team. That’s why he was the natural person to take over.
“He did really well with the bat last year and he took the responsibility on really well.
“It’s not just the captaincy; he’s a leader in the dressing room anyway. He’s got some great ideas and I think a fresh start with the captaining is going to be extremely beneficial to the team”
After several years with Madsen at the helm, the young side could be forgiven if they were struggling with change. It seems as though nothing could be further from the truth, however.
Tom Poynton, who has been at the club since childhood and has worked extensively with both players, is confident Godleman is the right man for the role:
“I played under Bill last year at Kent and I personally enjoy his communication and his style of captaincy,” he said
“Billy is a big character. Yes he may have had a few run-ins in the past, but I think you need that – you need a little edge about you. That’s what we’re about in terms of our style of cricket and the boys will all stand behind him 100%.
“His style is very clear; he’s very good with the youngsters, with the communication and with what we want to achieve.”
Shiv Thakor, who is about to start his second season at Derbyshire, has nothing but good things to say about both men:
“Firstly, I will say that I played here for a year under Wayne and he’s brilliant. It was great to be with him in the changing room, and be around him because he is a natural leader.
“But Billy is very popular in the changing room as well. Everyone is backing him fully and I’m sure he’ll do an absolutely fantastic job.
“He did a few games last year and for him to have such a good year, someone that everyone in the changing room looks up to, is great.”
Godleman himself seems very happy and content with his new role. He feels the change has come at just the right time for him. While last season was poor for the side as a whole, the 27 year old stood out and finally staked his claim as a central player at Derbyshire.
“I’m at an age where I’m a lot clearer about my own strengths and about my own game,” he said, “I’ve obviously played quite a bit of cricket now, and you can’t buy that experience.
“Alongside that, I’ve been involved with Graeme’s set up at the club. He’s been incredibly supportive both on and off the field and that’s really come together with the other things I’ve mentioned.”
With a new season about to begin, Godleman’s new role as captain means his preparation for the season has changed. He is confident, though, that he has it all under control:
“It’s about being very clear on what I need to get done as an individual batsman, because there are now a lot of other commitments both on and off the field. I’m just trying to be very clear about what I need to get done.
“We played some really good cricket last year,” he added, “We obviously played games we didn’t win, but there were games we lost that were very tight and very close; where we didn’t quite have the experience and the know-how to win; and sometimes the skill level wasn’t quite there to win tight games.
“With us being a year older and a year wiser, hopefully when there are games in the balance we’ll be able to take wins this season.”
What of the former skipper and his preparations for the season?
“I feel an extreme weight off my shoulders in this last couple of weeks since the announcement,” he says with his trademark smile.
“I’ve considered everything and it took a while to come to the decision, but I felt from a personal point of view it would mean I’ll be able to focus more on my batting and hopefully score even more runs.
“From the training point of view, I have a buzz in my step and I think that bodes well for the season.”