After the conclusion of the domestic season, lasting six months and containing over 40 fixtures, the players finally enjoy some time away to recuperate after a busy campaign.
But many wonder and ask; what do professional cricketers do during the winter months?
Each individual will have their own off-season schedule, usually consisting time spent with family and friends, before the hard work starts again at the start of November.
We spoke to several Derbyshire players to talk us through their winter plans.
The world number three Test batsman has a jam-packed winter schedule as he resumes his international duty with the West Indies.
After the conclusion of his first summer with Derbyshire, the 39-year-old flew to Orlando to enjoy a few days at home with his family. But his time-off was short lived as the dedicated batsman travelled to Miami a week later for a training camp with the national side.
The County Ground, Derby – also known as the Racecourse Ground – has been widely mocked over the generations; windy, cold and depressing are the principal adjectives used to describe Derbyshire’s headquarters ground.
And yet, there lies a history behind this sporting location that belies the views of many and places the County Ground firmly in the higher echelons of sporting venues within the United Kingdom.
So, what is the real history of the County Ground and what can it have hosted to allow this boast to be remotely true?
Well, as the 125th anniversary of Derby County Football Club’s first ever home game falls on Sunday 15th September; I thought it prudent to take a broader look at the history of the ground.
Derbyshire County Cricket Club was formed in 1870 and started playing county games on the ground in 1871 against Lancashire. In 1884, Derby County Football Club was formed to give the cricket players an opportunity to stay fit during the winter, offer more sport for spectators, and provide additional revenue for the cricket club. Initially known as Derbyshire County Cricket Club, the Derbyshire Football Association demanded the ‘shire’ be dropped.
You see, Derbyshire’s absence from the First Division of the County Championship and the vagaries of the draw in the one-day competitions means that Derbyshire has not played there in a competitive fixture since 2007, since when, major redevelopment of the ground has taken place.
Accordingly, until we enter the old ground for the four-day game tomorrow, I won’t know if it has retained those special features which gave it that topmost place in my cricketing heart.
My first experience of Taunton was in 1979 when, as a 17 year-old, I traveled on a Derbyshire Supporter’s Club coach to see a Gillette Cup Second Round match in mid-July.
Derbyshire made 224 in 60 overs with David Steele scoring an unbeaten 81, but Somerset chased it down for the loss of just two wickets with Brian Rose batting throughout the innings for 88 not out, with the great Vivian Richards making 73.
The scores, though, aren’t what linger in my memory. That honour goes to the atmosphere created by a crowd of around 6,000 in a ground designed to hold about 5,000 in any degree of comfort. We were jammed in and the noise was deafening every time Somerset did anything half decent - which was most of the game.
I’ve seen some turnarounds in the fortunes of Derbyshire cricket over the years, but the victory at Hove this weekend was one of the more stunning - and totally out of context in what has been a challenging season, to say the least.
Arriving at the Eaton Road gates on Friday morning we were greeted by Sam, one of the regular stewards, who glumly revealed that the home side had not won any competitive game at their headquarters since August 2012.
And various Sussex members repeated the statistic over the ensuing three days as they watched their sides’ Championship ambitions thwarted by a resurgent Derbyshire side.
A heavy downpour at just before 9am on the opening day provided no delay in proceedings and Wayne Madsen didn’t hesitate to insert the opposition when he won the toss, handing Alex Hughes his first-class debut and Matt Higginbottom his Championship debut. With Ben Slater making just his fifth Championship appearance and Peter Burgoyne his second, the Derbyshire side was hugely inexperienced - and especially so in comparison with their opponents.
Ed Joyce, Luke Wright and Mike Yardy are three hugely-experienced county players with international pedigree, while Steve Magoffin and Chris Jordan went into the game as the country’s joint leading first-class wicket-takers. Add to the mix their Test match slow left-armer, Monty Panesar, and it was no surprise that Sussex were firm favourites to consign Derbyshire to another defeat and strengthen their own hand near the summit of the table.
During the 143 years since the club’s formation, just 47 double centuries have been scored for Derbyshire by 28 players. Many of the names of those double centurions are writ large in Derbyshire’s long history, most notably Peter Kirsten, who scored a remarkable six, and Kim Barnett and Chris Rogers who both scored 4.
I’ve had the privilege of watching 27 of those 47, and the first – Eddie Barlow’s 217 v Surrey at Ilkeston in 1976 - was as thrilling as the most recent at Headingley Carnegie by Chesney Hughes.
In between there have been some outstanding double hundreds – John Morris’ 229 on a fast and bouncy Cheltenham track against Gloucestershire’s fiery pace attack which included Courtney Walsh and David Lawrence in 1993; Chris Rogers’ 200 at The Oval in 2010 in the opening game of the season; Kim Barnett’s 210 against Yorkshire at Derby in 1997 as part of a record 417-run 2nd wicket partnership; Mohammad Azharrudin’s 205 at Chesterfield against Durham including 6 sixes in 1994. And each of Peter Kirsten’s double centuries still animate Derbyshire supporters of a certain vintage.
Only five times in over 140 years has Derbyshire won a trophy.
There have been times since 1993 – when Derbyshire beat Lancashire at Lord’s to win the Benson and Hedges Cup – when it seemed unlikely that there would ever be another piece of silverware to display at The County Ground.
But during the 2012 season, from the gloom, cold and dampness of early season, through the gloom, cold and dampness of high summer, to the gloom, cold and dampness of the season’s end, Derbyshire’s side played dynamic, positive, courageous and skilful cricket and were deservedly promoted as Champions of the LV= County Championship 2nd division.
With the well-earned fanfare that the Derbyshire class of 2012 are enjoying after the historic achievement of their first promotion into the top tier of the LV=County Championship, I thought it appropriate to look back at the championship campaign as a whole, and the five season-defining moments that came along the way (if you can’t reminisce after a season like this one, when can you!).
Derbyshire v Northamptonshire, the County Ground, April 5-8 2012
I will start rather unimaginatively with the first LV=CC match of the season. With the winter planning and preparation complete, and a successful pre-season tour behind the squad, the arrival of Northants up the M1 represented the first opportunity that new captain and Robin Van Persie look-a-like Wayne Madsen had to showcase his leadership skills.
By Chris Airey
Many sporting schools up and down the country are delighted if one or two of their pupils go on to play their chosen sport at a professional level.
But one Derbyshire school has successfully produced 132 sporting professionals, and that is just in one sport alone.
Repton School, Derby, are celebrating their 132nd pupil who has represented the school to go on the play first-class cricket in England and overseas.
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