During the celebrations which followed the confirmation of Derbyshire’s promotion to Division One of the LV= County Championship, chairman Chris Grant made one thing clear.
While they would support head coach Karl Krikken in strengthening their squad, neither he nor ‘Krik’ had any intention of tearing up the blueprint which had brought them success by blowing the playing budget on a couple of marquee signings.
So far the Club has been as good as their word. In the last couple of weeks the young players who contributed hugely towards the winning of the Division Two title, including Dan Redfern, Tom Poynton, Wes Durston, Ross Whiteley and Jon Clare, have been rewarded with new and improved contracts.
The quietly effective captain Wayne Madsen has signed a new three year deal, while batting coach David Houghton has agreed another year.
Even the two new players who have been signed, the 23-year-old batsman Billy Godleman, released by Essex, and Warwickshire reserve wicketkeeper Richard Johnson, now 25, fit into what Krikken calls ‘the mould’ - young, talented, but as yet unfulfilled.
Given one of their admitted priorities is to add to the seam bowling options, did they even try to open negotiations with one of the number of high-profile names on the market in recent weeks? Jack Brooks? Liam Plunkett? Ajmal Shahzad? Krikken laughs. “Different league. Well, not literally anymore, but you know what I mean.”
Instead he’s offered a contract to the tall Scotland international seamer Ally Evans, who made his Derbyshire first team debut against the touring South Africans earlier this summer and consistently impressed for the seconds.
“Hopefully there are more contracts in the pipeline, such as [teenage all-rounder] Peter Burgoyne, but so far the ones we wanted have all signed. We would like a top three batter - we’re talking to Usman [Khawaja] about coming back, and we have a back-up shortlist, but other than David Hussey committing to Notts, not many are making moves right now.
“But again, we’re not panicking because I’ve already got 16 players I believe to be wholly reliable, who complement each other’s abilities, and who instinctively put the team’s interests before their own –something that hasn’t always been the case at Derbyshire. Or elsewhere, come to that - there are some counties with plenty of talented players, but which don’t know their best team. ”
The prospect of playing first division cricket and more money are undoubtedly factors, but it also says something about Krikken that the group is staying together. As academy director and second team coach, and now as first team coach, it is he who oversaw their early development and then gave them chance to establish themselves as first class cricketers.
Krikken, whose career with Derbyshire began as a player back in 1987, and who replaced John Morris as head coach in 2011, acknowledges his is a very different regime to that of his predecessor.
“We felt there had been a lot of shouting and recrimination when players hadn’t performed when for me, one of the most important aspects of coaching is taking pressure off players.
“A game goes for six hours on four consecutive days and you just don’t need a lot of shouting and screaming. Sometimes a rollicking can work, but on the whole I find it doesn’t answer - it’s almost always more effective to treat someone like an adult.
“The best coach I knew was [former Derbyshire player and coach] Phil Russell – he rarely raised his voice but he was respected and got the best out of players. Giving players freedom to play doesn’t mean taking away a bowler’s responsibility to hit lines and lengths, or a batsman not to give his wicket away carelessly – it means trusting them to be self-disciplined because they want to get better, they want to play for England.”
Which Krikken is confident some of his current crop can go on to achieve.
“I know there’s not many that England seem to be looking at too hard right now – though it’s great Ross [Whitely] got picked for the Hong Kong Sixes - but there’s a hell of a lot of talent for all that, and they’re only going to get better, I’m sure of that.
“In fact in four years’ time these guys will be one hell of a side. In the short term I believe we’ll surprise some by being more competitive than they seem to think we’re going to be. After that the intention is to be more than that – and maybe have produced one or two full England players too.”
This article first appeared in The Cricket Paper on Wednesday 28th October. Click here for more information on The Cricket Paper >>>
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