Head of Cricket, Dave Houghton, is looking forward to seeing a talented crop of young Derbyshire bowlers get their opportunity in a packed summer of cricket in 2019.
The highly experienced former Test batsman believes it is time for the Academy graduates to be integrated into the first team, where he expects them to continue to flourish.
Sam Conners, who signed his first professional contract over the winter, joins Alfie Gleadall and James Taylor as the three seamers all under 20 on the Derbyshire staff.
Products of the Development Pathway, Houghton now wants to see the trio get their chance in competitive cricket to compliment what remains an experienced pace attack, with Logan van Beek joining the likes of Ravi Rampaul and Tony Palladino at The County Ground.
The release of Hardus Viljoen, which came at the pace bowler’s request, will further free up opportunities for youngsters, a path Houghton does not want to instantly block with a like-for-like replacement.
Houghton said: “The release of Hardus [Viljoen] means we’ve lost a guy who can bowl at 90 miles per hour and we haven’t replaced him with another like-for-like bowler.
“But we still feel that we have a good seam attack and because of the positive imbalance in our side, in that we have four bowlers in our top six batsmen, whatever team we put out has got enough seamers in it.
“The first team we pick in that opening game in April will comfortably be able to have have five seamers in it, including the overseas, backed up by our youngsters.
“There is more than enough in reserve for us to be able to cope with the loss of Hardus.
“There is now some money in the cricket budget should we want to bring in a high-quality cricketer of some sort.
“Although small, our squad is compact and useful so I don’t initially see the need to go out and get a replacement just for the sake of replacing.
“We will look after that budget and if the need comes, or if we see someone of value that we want to sign, we have money available to look into that.
“But we’ve got good youngsters coming through and we’ve been very impressed with what we’ve seen – particularly from James Taylor, Sam Conners and Alfie Gleadall as he returns to bowling after injury.
“These three guys have got more than enough skills. The interesting thing about coaching and running sides is they don’t leave your coaching setup as complete players. They become complete players once they have played.
“It is important that we don’t sign players who block their passage to play.
“Young players will go backwards if they’re not playing for a long period of time, so we will not just sign someone for the sake of bringing in a replacement.
“It is a key part of the Development Pathway which we are building here. It can’t be a case of the youngsters are coached and brought up ready to play and then they are left before they cross the ropes.
“These players will become the players they can be once they get out there and they start competing and learning the game on the right side of the ropes.
“For me, there’s no such thing as too young. Once you’re good enough, you’re ready to play.
“We have to try and bring these guys in, probably one at a time, in and around four senior bowlers to make sure they get the right learning environment and then the best of his talent will come to the fore sooner rather than later.
“They’re in training now, knowing they are going to get their chances and they’re excited and enthused. That’s what we want to see and we want to see them keep developing.”
Houghton also hopes to see all-rounders Luis Reece and Alex Hughes take further responsibility with the ball, after showcasing their abilities last season, during which Hughes finished as the Club’s leading Vitality Blast wicket-taker and Reece recorded career-best figures of 7-20 in the Specsavers County Championship.
Added to the returning Ravi Rampaul and the overseas signing of Logan van Beek, Houghton believes Derbyshire can compete across all three formats this summer.
He added: “Alex [Hughes] was a good example last year, and Luis [Reece] around his injury, of the fact that we’re blessed with a choice of seamers.
“I’d like to see both of them being used more, particularly in the four-day format. It also allows us to play a specialist batter a little further down the line, extending the middle-order by a couple of places.
“We will have to look at Ravi’s workload and give him rest as and when required, he has a heavy workload and has had a full season with Trinidad & Tobago already. But he really is a front-line bowler for us and will have a vital role to play.
“Logan [van Beek] is young, fresh and ready to play and I’m sure he’ll want to feature in every game.
“As a squad we’re promoting development and a real team ethic. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to win.
“That’s something that often gets labelled if you’re playing youngsters, but that isn’t the case. These are highly talented in and amongst an experienced and skilful squad.
“If you see the results and tables from last year the players were not far off. They were a couple of wins away in the County Championship from that top three spot, one win in the 50-over competition and not far off in the T20.
“If we can up that skill level by a few margins then we will be competing in every game and that is what we want to be doing.”
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