There is often a lot of turmoil and bemusement to write about when constructing a Derbyshire CCC season preview, however it feels different this season. Yes there has been a change of coach with Dave Houghton leaving, but his replacement may have had some Derbyshire supporters checking it wasn’t the first day of April when the club announced that the hugely successful international coach of South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Mickey Arthur would be the new man at the helm. It came out of the blue, but already there has been a change in the club. Arthur is driving that change and the players are following.
Two players who are no longer following are Matt Critchely and Fynn Hudson-Prentice who have left for Essex and Sussex respectively and they have left big boots to fill. However every boot to fill is an opportunity for another player. Alex Thompson, signed from Warwickshire, and Matty Mckiernan who has been on the staff for a few seasons now will be competing and driving for the spin berth left by Critchley. The other all rounders in the squad will see the lack of Hudson-Prentice as a chance to stake their claim to show what they can do with bat and ball. Don’t be surprised to see Anuj Dal, Luis Reece and Alex Hughes all doing just that.
As ever Derbyshire will be looking to their old faithfuls in Wayne Madsen and Billy Godleman to score them runs, along with the exciting Leus Du Plooy, supplemented by overseas signing Shan Masood. Their bowling attack has pace and variety and lots of it too. Mikey Cohen is fast and offers left arm variation, Sam Conners is quick and skiddy, Dustin Melton is quick enough to get uncomfortable bounce for the opposition batters. When you add in the experience and wisdom of overseas signing Suranga Lakmal, and the youth and exuberance of Nick Potts, it is an exciting squad of players to look through.
How they will fare is never a certainty, but one thing is, and that is that there is something different about Derbyshire this season. Don’t be surprised if they surprise a few people throughout 2022.
Ins: Alex Thompson (Warks), Mark Watt (T20 Blast)
Outs: Fynn Hudson-Prentice (Sussex) Matt Critchley (Essex) Harvey Hosein (Ret) Nils Priestley (Rel)
Key Player Who to choose? Every single player in a squad as small as Derbyshire’s is key. However with the departure of Matt Critchley, to Essex, so went their premier spin bowling option along with 32 wickets and 1000 runs. If Derbyshire are to succeed it is vital to fill that hole and in Alex Thompson signed from Warwickshire in the off season, they may just have the man to do it. He will start the season as the number one spin bowler after impressing in pre-season. He can also bat too, not at the level of Critchley, but still decent enough. If Derbyshire do well this season, then Thompson will be key to that success.
Player to watch – When a player like Jimmy Anderson sits up and takes note of a player on the opposition and declares ‘he can bowl that lad, who is he?’ You must be doing something right and that is exactly what Sam Connors has done in his time since breaking into the Derbyshire First Team. He bowls quick, gets a bit of nip each way and can swing it too. In his 17 First Class matches so far he has amassed 44 wickets at a smidge under 30, but his average is dropping as he grows and learns. Under the tutelage of Lakmal this season, don’t be surprised if those returns improve again.
Overseas signings Dustin Melton (ZIM), Shan Masood (PAK), Suranga Lakmal (SL)
In the past Derbyshire’s approach to overseas signings may have appeared a little scattergun or devil may care. This season however it would appear there has been a clear thought and structure to who they have brought in. All signings are available for the whole season, so they will have consistency. All signings address an area of potential weakness in the squad too.
Melton has been with the club now for a while, firstly as a Kolpak signing and latterly as an overseas signing while his qualification period for UK residency is waited out. Derbyshire know what to expect from Melton – he is wholehearted, pacey and energetic. When fit he is a great asset to the bowling attack.
Last season Derbyshire had a battery of young exciting seam bowlers, but lacked experience. The signing of Lakmal, having retired from international cricket to take on this deal should fill that void. He has taken wickets wherever he has played, he knows Mickey Arthur and will enjoy some seam friendly pitches in England this summer for sure.
Finally Pakistan opener Masood is one of the most exciting top order batters in the game at the moment. In white ball cricket he has been brilliant, in red ball he is equally dynamic. He will also allow some of the Derbyshire batters who have in the past potentially been batting a place too high, to slide down and feel more comfortable in the batting order and benefit the whole team.
How they will fare You will never meet a pessimistic Derbyshire supporter. Every season they believe they can win it all and every so often they show they can. In 2012 when they won Division two of the County Championship, in 2019 when they reached T20 Finals Day, they showed everyone how good they can be. This season there is reason to be optimistic – Mickey Arthur, well thought out overseas signings, a lack of players going off to the Hundred. They should be aiming for the top end of the Division two table, and reaching at least a quarter final of a white ball competition, probably the Royal London One Day Cup when the vast majority of their squad will remain intact.
7 April – Middlesex vs Derbyshire, Lords, London
Season Odds (Skybet)
LV= County Championship – 10/1
Royal London One Day Cup – 33/1