As the countdown to the 2018 season ticks on, guru Kim Barnett has outlined Derbyshire’s strategy in creating a balanced and competitive squad, while giving a chance to youngsters.
The club have shown a marked improvement since Barnett was appointed in 2016, recording three County Championship wins last summer and reaching the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast for the first time since 2005. Now he is keen for more, and he says that a reduction in the number of players at the club is key.
He said: “When I came in. I was asked to report on what had been going wrong with our cricket over a number of years. The size of the staff was 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.
“We’ve got 14 first-team players and 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.
“We would rather have 14, 15 or 16 players genuinely competing for a place in the 11 than 23 and the possibility that not all will play during 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 academy graduate to be awarded his county cap last summer -- a success story that Barnett wants to see the club replicate more frequently.
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, as will others.
“The academy has been going since 2003, and we have had just two capped players in that time. That is part of what we are aiming to address in the future.
“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.”