For an emerging young leg-spinner, a session with Shane Warne is as good as it gets unless it’s followed by coaching from another legendary Australian twirler.
After a winter in Australia playing club cricket and training with Stuart MacGill, it comes as no surprise that Derbyshire can see an improvement in Matt Critchley who from June onwards will tap into the considerable pedigree of Imran Tahir.
Director of cricket Kim Barnett believes the Preston-born Critchley is a more consistent bowler and the 20-year-old appreciates the advice that has come his way in the last six months.
“In September I went down to Lord’s and had a couple of hours with Shane Warne. He gave me a few tips about mannerisms and bowling, just thinking about leg spin plus some technical points which was really good.
“ It was an honour to meet him and for him to say ‘you’re a decent bowler’ is not too bad. We had half-an-hour just talking and then he had a look at me bowl and pointed out a few things.
“He talked to me about my alignments, running in straighter and not as wide on the crease so that my bowling is forward at the batsman rather than veering off and having to come in at different angles. It seemed to make an impact straight away and it’s something I’ve kept in my game.”
A season playing premier grade cricket in Sydney with Randwick Petersham delivered more vital experience plus the chance to work with MacGill who would have played more than 44 Tests had his career not coincided with Warne’s.
“Working with Stuart was again excellent - another Australian icon trying to help a few English boys! - and I feel I’ve improved as a bowler.
“It was certainly challenging playing all forms of cricket, training down at the SCG two or three times a week and bowling a bit at the New South Wales boys.
“It’s definitely tough and you’ve got to grow up but it was good fun and you have to learn to do things yourself rather than relying on the coach.
“It went better in the white ball stuff although I improved my red ball skills. I didn’t get as many opportunities as I would have liked with the bat but I think it went alright.”
Critchley struggled in the four day game last season and with Derbyshire signing Sri Lankan leg-spinner Jeevan Mendis until Tahir arrives in June, he faces a fight for his place.
“It’s definitely something I want to crack and I worked with Stuart a lot on red ball cricket so I’m really trying to nail that.
“I had a little session at the end of last year with Imran, he has all these variations and he’s the number one white ball bowler in the world so it’s not a bad person to learn from and hopefully I can bowl at the other end from him.”