Ahead of the 2018 season, Cricket Advisor Kim Barnett outlined the Club’s strategy in creating a balanced and competitive squad, whilst allowing developing players opportunities in the first-team.
Barnett was appointed in 2016 and after a review of previous campaigns, he began to implement a new strategy going forward to improve performances.
The Club saw an improved summer in 2017, recording three Specsavers County Championship wins and reaching a first T20 Blast quarter-final since 2005.
There were standout performances from the likes of Hardus Viljoen, who claimed 15-170 in the win over Sussex at Hove, the fifth best bowling figures in the Club’s history. Similarly, 16-year-old Hamidullah Qadri took 5-60 in the win over Glamorgan and Alex Hughes enjoyed a career-best campaign.
Looking ahead to this summer, the Club has reduced its playing staff and Barnett believes the approach will give more players opportunities within a balanced and competitive squad.
He said: “In 2016 I came in and was asked to report on what was going wrong with our cricket over a number of years. I think the size of the staff has been an issue. If you have 23 players and can’t give a number of them opportunities, that’s a problem. If you have others who have had opportunities and not made it, then that is also an issue.
“We’re now down to more manageable numbers, not only to give people opportunities, but also for the finances moving forward.
“We’ve got 14 first-team players and on top of that we’ve got four who have joined the staff from the Academy – Hamidullah Qadri, Callum Brodrick, James Taylor and Alfie Gleadall. Then we have Charlie Macdonell who will come in in the summer after his University commitments, making a total of 19 which is a good mix of juniors and seniors.
“There are 11 within that who are 27 or under, but I do accept we needed to bring skills in from outside to make up for the fact that we weren’t playing good enough cricket and didn’t win a Championship match in 2016.
“We would rather have 14, 15 or 16 players genuinely competing for a place in the 11, than 23 and the hope is not there for playing all of them in a season.
“There were limited opportunities for the players who have left and going forward we must be able to say this is our first-team squad and these are our development players.
“For our supporters, Members and sponsors we need to be winning cricket matches, so it’s a balance between performing now and also what we are going to do in the future.”
Alex Hughes became only the second Cricket Derbyshire Academy in partnership with the University of Derby graduate to be awarded his County Cap last summer, a success story which Barnett wants to see the Club replicate more frequently moving forward.
He added: “You must be able to see the difference between the first-team and the development players, but that is not to say that the development players won’t get opportunities in the first-team. Hamidullah Qadri is a prime example of a development player who has had an opportunity and will continue to have opportunities, as will the others going forward.
“The Academy has been going since 2003 and we have had two capped players in that time. That is part of what we are aiming to address in the future, but this coming season we have a nice balance of those under 27 and those with more experience.
“Over the winter the England under 19s have not done as well as they would have liked and England were beaten in the Ashes and that inevitably puts emphasis on what is going on in English cricket.
“The ECB have long been looking at the success of English Academies, but in many respects we were ahead of that by bringing in 14, 15 and 16-year-olds into our Academy with a view to developing them into first-team players.
“By 20 or 21, you need to then be genuinely pushing for a first-team place and then going on to become a capped player. Alex Hughes is the current example of the type of success you want, trained up, in the first-team and then he earned his cap.
“We need to do more of that and Mal [Loye] is working hard so the Club can produce these players who can take strides in their development to the first-team, and do it quicker.”
A number of changes within the Club, from new off-field cricket staff to a shift in coaching model, have taken time to settle, but Barnett believes the short-term solutions will enable greater success in the future as the Club continues to strengthen it’s setup.
Barnett said: “We have brought around seven off-field cricket staff into the Club and they’ve been with the Club for about a year. Now these staff have come in and players have come in, over the next few years it will settle into the model we want and become fruitful.
“Last season the loans we brought in were a signal to suggest that a number of the players on the staff were struggling to get selected.
“We now have a core first-team squad of 14, with the four development players as mentioned. If there is a problem with injuries, or the need to look elsewhere for players, we can always look at loans again.
“However, that would only be in the short term and in the long term we need to produce our own players who are good enough to consistently push for a place and good enough to perform for the Club.”
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