#UAE15: Bon voyage Derbyshire as Champions Yorkshire land in Abu Dhabi

Cricket Badger’s editor, James Buttler, is currently out in Abu Dhabi and has been watching Derbyshire in their pre-season preparations – here is Blog 3…

In my second blog, I told you that much of the early part of my trip was centred around following the pre-season preparations of Derbyshire County Cricket Club.

It’s going to be a sad time for the Cricket Badger on Sunday as the Derbyshire squad head to Abu Dhabi airport en route to their return to the UK.

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium now has two nursery grounds adjacent to the main oval

By the time their team coach rolls out of the Hotel Rotana on Yas Island I will have been here for exactly one week. In that period the Derbyshire team have impressed me greatly on the pitch and been excellent company off it.

Pre-season trips are not the team bonding holidays you may imagine. Of course, getting to know how your teammates tick is one advantage of jetting to warmer shores. And when a high number of your squad are youngsters, as Derbyshire’s are, the chance to blood the babies into the squad ethic is priceless.

But make no mistake - the counties I’ve watched in Abu Dhabi, so far, are not here for a holiday.

I’ve met a number of the Derbyshire team and staff before, either on other pre-season excursions or during an English cricket season.

Wayne Madsen scored a fine century in Derbyshire’s two-day game against Worcestershire

It’s not a ‘fashionable’ club – whatever that means. Their trophy cabinet is not brimming with recent additions, their public image may be of a ‘small county, but if you expect that to continue forever, then it will be a rather soul destroying self fulfilling prophecy.

Led by the passion and business acumen of their chairman, Chris Grant, the obvious desire of their head coach of one year, Graeme Welch, and their charming captain, Wayne Madsen, you sense the tide is turning.

I’ve sat and chatted with coaching staff and players over the last seven days and a number of things have struck me, maybe even surprised me.

The coaching team is a very driven unit - precise in their preparation, love what they are doing and have a genuine belief that they are going to take the club in the right direction.

You could be forgiven that a county cricket coach lobs a few balls up before practice and then sits on a balcony sipping a cup of tea. Yes, both are essential duties, but spend a few days close to a county setup and you will know the planning, the coaching and fitness strategies for every player and the many hours of hard work, sometimes the blood sweat and tears, happen twelve months a year, away from prying eyes.

Young Derbyshire bowlers like Harry White (pictured), Ben Cotton, Greg Cork, Tommy Taylor and Will Davis have all shown they could have a bright future in the game

The kind of feel Derbyshire’s coaching staff are generating can be very infectious. Not only has it infiltrated my psyche and reminded me very much of the impact Jason Gillespie had when he first arrived at Yorkshire, and he’s not done bad, it is a contagion that has swept through the dressing room. You get the genuine feeling the players are starting to believe that the hard yards this winter will pay off.

It doesn’t mean Derbyshire are going to win a trophy this year, maybe not next year either, but sometimes the cobwebs left by previous hierarchies take a bit of getting rid of. You may need to stand on a chair, might even topple over by overstretching your duster a couple of times, but with a genuine desire to sweep clean you can ultimately start painting and decorating that trophy room once again.

The reason I described Wayne Madsen as charming was by no means flippant. He’s undoubtedly one of the good guys of county cricket. Always eager to help, determined, a genuine smile and a maturing skipper – Derbyshire are lucky to have him.

Derbyshire opener Ben Slater made an unbeaten 62 in the two-day game against Worcestershire and looks the part

My dealings with Wayne tend to occur this time of year when I record our annual, sometimes bi-annual, video interview on Derbyshire’s hopes and aspirations for the coming season.

When I first asked Wayne to spare me a few minutes in Barbados, I think it was 2011, he immediately impressed me. There are many times I grab a player, stick a microphone up his nostrils and part company with a handshake without a lot more to follow. I get busy, they get busy - it’s no big deal.

Wayne saw me in the hotel a couple of days later in 2011 and asked me how I was, remembering my name. I thought – that’s pretty good of him. To cut a long story short, every time I’ve seen him since, and until this week I’ve not spent more than ten minutes at a time in his company, he’s come over, shook my hand, called me by my name and been courteous and friendly. The fact he doesn’t have to do any of that makes him a class act. He’s a bloody good player too!

Both Wayne, and Tom Poynton, have told me that their club is in the best state of health they have ever know. From my brief but enjoyable foray into all things Derbyshire I can see what they mean.

So, it’s with a longing for a bit more Derbyshire I will shake their hands and wish them all well on Sunday.

18-year-old Harvey Hosein excelled with 92 in the two-day game against Worcestershire and kept tidily too

As the aforementioned Jason Gillespie used to say ‘we are a work in progress’ when talking about Yorkshire, Graeme Welch could say exactly the same thing about his Derbyshire charges. But the message is progress is being made and I wish them all the best for the season ahead.

They will leave me with a few cricketers in Abu Dhabi to keep me busy. Although Worcestershire has already left, Yorkshire and Middlesex are here now and Sussex and Lancashire will be here soon.

It’s time to say ‘goodbye’, but also ‘hello’ to plenty more cricket over the next fortnight. Sussex will be defending their Twenty20 crown in Dubai on 20 March against MCC, Yorkshire and Lancashire.

It’s going to be fascinating to judge the look of the Yorkshire side, the reigning County Champions, as they prepare for their title defence. The Champion County game in Abu Dhabi the last stop for your Cricket Badger before it’s back to the UK and the ‘real’ action of the summer can start.

James Buttler

James has been working as a journalist and broadcaster in cricket since 2006 and was an avid fan for many years before that.
As the editor of World Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
He is also the presenter of the Cricket Badger Radio Show on Radio Yorkshire every Tuesday evening between 7-9pm UK time.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author, a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications and a complete cricket badger!

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