Another Season, another coaching set up for Derbyshire as former director of cricket David Houghton has returned as head of cricket, while MCC head coach Steve Kirby has joined as assistant and bowling coach.
T20 bowling coach Dominic Cork has stepped up to take the head coach role in that format, replacing John Wright, who has taken on a new advisory role including recruitment and strategy.
These moves will see the players getting more high quality and consistent coaching than under the previous regime. There has also been a change at the very top, with chief executive Simon Storey leaving to take up the same role at Kent and being replaced by Ryan Duckett.
Duckett did not have an easy start to his tenure with club principle sponsor 3aaa going bust, owing the club thousands of pounds, but he has moved quickly in securing a new principle sponsor in Pattonair and for the 2019 season Derbyshire will be playing their home games at the Pattonair County Ground.
For once, there has not been great upheaval on the field in the off season at Derbyshire. A few players have left, Gary Wilson returning to Ireland, Hardus Viljoen coming to a mutual agreement to cease his contract and make a living in the T20 franchise leagues around the world.
The most irksome is the departure of Ben Slater to their nearest rivals Nottinghamshire. While those three have left, others have been secured on long term deals, messers Wayne Madsen, Tony Palladino, Alex Hughes, Luis Reece and Harvey Hosein have all signed extensions, while youthful prospects Sam Conners, Anuj Dal and McKiernan have all been rewarded with contracts, following successful second team appearances last season.
The club have also acted to reinforce the squad too, with Tom Lace coming in on loan from Middlesex to open the innings in place of Slater and Scottish spinner Mark Watt has arrived to bolster the sides slow bowling department.
Derbyshire will be hoping for a successful summer, their batting looks strong with the ever reliable Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman in the top order, supplemented by loan signing Lace and ever improving Reece. Throw in a middle order of Hughes, Hosein and Critchley and runs should not be an issue.
It is with the bowling where some have raised concerns, and Ravi Rampaul will have to contribute more than he did last season, although the overseas signing of Logan Van Beek looks a sound, if not inspiring, one to lead the attack. Palladino took over 50 wickets last season and he may be required to do so again if Derbyshire are to challenge for the promotion places in the county championship.
With Worcestershire winning the Vitality T20 Blast last season, Derbyshire are now the only county to have never reached finals day, and will be looking to break that duck this season. They have brought in Australian Kane Richardson to hopefully bowl them to Birmingham and expect to see Dal really come to the fore in the shortest form of the game for the Falcons.
It is a season of much potential and many opportunities for Derbyshire, they have a squad of undoubted potential and ability, a mixture of youth and experience. If they are to succeed they must bring consistency to their game, but that is not beyond them.
There is every chance Derbyshire can improve massively this season and be in the mix for promotion in the County Championship and qualification in one of the white-ball competitions.
Ins: Tom Lace, Middlesex (Season long loan), Mark Watt (Lancashire)
Outs: Ben Slater (Nottinghamshire), Will Davis (Leicestershire), Gary Wilson (REL), Callum Brodrick (REL), Hardus Viljoen (REL)
Missing for most of last season with a broken metatarsal, Luis Reece left a hole in the Derbyshire side that nobody really filled. He showed how much he has been missed when he returned to the side late in the season and, in only his second game back, scored a half century and took seven wickets for 20 runs in one innings.
Reece will bat at the top of the order, probably at three, in the first-class game and open in T20, his technique making him well equipped to play the moving ball, but he also has the range of shots to score quickly in the shorter formats of the game.
Reece also offers a genuine all-round threat too, his fast medium left arm pace bowling adds depth to the attack and a genuine wicket-taking threat and balance to the side that other counties would love to have. If he can stay fit throughout the season then Derbyshire’s chances of success will be greatly enhanced and Reece may even find himself pushing for England Lions recognition.
Player to Watch
In 2014 Harvey Hosein burst onto the Derbyshire scene, making his first-class debut against Surrey at the Oval, taking a Derbyshire record 11 catches by a wicketkeeper and also equalled the world record for dismissals by a wicketkeeper on debut aged 18.
Since then he has made just 30 more first-class appearances, his path to the first team has been blocked by the signings of Gary Wilson and Daryn Smit, despite his undoubted talent. That path is now clear however and Hosein is now first choice keeper in all formats and has been told as much – it will be interesting to see how that responsibility weighs on him.
He has shown great promise with both bat and gloves, an average of a touch under 30, with nine 50s and one superb century, in a rear guard action against Worcestershire, in 52 innings backs this up. Throw in his 75 catches and two stumpings, it is clear that he has safe hands for the Derbyshire wicketkeeping gloves this season and beyond.
When Derbyshire announced the signing of Logan Van Beek as their overseas signing for the season across all formats, many supporters went running for the Playfair annuals and Cricinfo site to conduct a player search and see who he was.
What they would have found is a fast bowler with great promise, one who bowls a lively pace, one who moves it away from right hander and one who is striving to break into the New Zealand first team, after having cut his teeth on the international scene for the Netherlands. Van Beek is available for the whole season, in all competitions, and will be looking to add to his 111 first-class wickets and make the Kiwi selectors sit up and take notice.
For the Vitality T20 Blast overseas signing Kane Richardson, Derbyshire fans would not have had to do much searching. He has spent the winter winning the Big Bash League with the Melbourne Renegades and was the leading wicket-taker across the whole competition, taking his 24 wickets at an average of 17.7.
How they’ll fare
The honest answer is “who knows?” they have a very talented squad, capable of beating anyone on their day, but for the last few seasons they have not shown the consistency required to challenge for trophies.
If that inconsistency continues then another frustrating season beckons. However if they can find consistency and stay injury free then, with three sides being promoted this year from Division Two, Derbyshire could be one of those three and may even reach Finals Day of the Vitality T20 Blast for the first time.
Opening Fixture: SSCC Division Two v Durham at the Pattonair County Ground – Friday 5th April 11am
Season Odds (Sky Bet)
SSCC Division Two: 20/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 40/1
Vitality Twenty20 Blast: 33/1