Six to Watch: 2018

img_1408

It’s that time again. With the 2018 English county cricket season rapidly approaching (No it is, honestly!), Silly Point profiles six players to, as the name of the article suggests, watch this term.

Tom Fell (Worcestershire)

The one man on this list who was actually included in the 2017 edition of ‘Six to Watch’. Having battled back from cancer, Tom Fell sadly had a batting horror show in 2017. I guess you could say that his form rather ‘fell’ away! This year will surely be different for the Worcestershire right-hander. Still only twentyfour-years-old and with over 3000 First Class runs to his name, Fell’s most productive years should lie ahead.

Ollie Pope (Surrey)

Having dropped an extremely costly dolly off Alex Hales in the One-Day cup final last year, nineteen-year-old Pope bounced back to record a maiden First Class hundred at Hampshire before the season’s close. Highly regarded by those at Surrey, he should now expect more regular first team opportunities. Whether or not he’ll be required to do much wicketkeeping remains to be seen. That vocation may lie in whether or not Ben Foakes can squeeze into the England XI.

Hamidullah Qadri (Derbyshire)

Afghanistan born off-spinner Qadri arrived with an economical bang in 2017. His first 15 overs in First Class cricket cost a miserly 16 runs and he followed up that introduction with a five-wicket haul in the second innings of his debut match. Derbyshire may do well to retain his services but if they can and he can back up his early performances then the barely seventeen-year-old could help haul the unfashionable county out of the doldrums. Hopefully with him on board, they can avoid going another two years without a County Championship victory. No pressure Hamidullah!

Delray Rawlins (Sussex)

Having represented Bermuda, precocious talent Rawlins is now very much on England’s radar and having flirted with Sussex’s first team last season, will hope to cement a regular spot this term. He’ll want to be recognised as a specialist top-order batsman as well as offering plenty with his slow-left-arm bowling.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire)

A former England junior captain, it never really worked out for Rhodes at Yorkshire. There was a brief stint as a stoic opening batsman but maybe a lack of clarity over what exactly his role was. A capable all-rounder, Rhodes will hope to rekindle his career, like a few others, with Ashley Giles and co. at Warwickshire.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Hopefully fully recovered from injury, Stone, another Warwickshire recruit and one of those players mentioned in dispatches as being a genuine pace bowler and even future Ashes tour candidate, will be desperate to get playing regularly and be amongst the timbers. Having returned from injury last year, the former Northamptonshire man conceded a half-century of runs in the T20 cup final and will be eager to put that performance and his injury hell firmly in the past.

Silly Point will revisit ‘Six to Watch’ both during and come the conclusion of the 2018 county cricket campaign to see how the sextet have performed.

Transfer Saga

IMG_2978

This guy only ever played for one club, in reality and virtuality. The same can not be said of others.

More than ever, domestic cricket in England seems to be following its football counterpart, particularly in regards to the transfer market. I believe that there was a time, long before I discovered an interest in cricket, in fact long before I was even born, that players remained loyal to one county for the entirety of their career. Of course some still do but it is no longer necessarily the norm. That’s not to say that transfers didn’t happen in the past, of course they did but they’ve become far more frequent in modern times. More than a decade ago now, Jimmy Ormond, whilst on tour with England, famously posed with his new Surrey shirt following his move from Leicestershire. I recall there being suggestions back then that the cricket transfer market was becoming like football’s and it’s certainly the case today.

Last winter we saw the likes of Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman depart Durham for Surrey. This season Angus Robson went on trial with Sussex whilst some mid-season transfers have tasted a little bitter. Tom Kohler-Cadmore agreed to depart Worcestershire for Yorkshire and though it wasn’t supposed to happen until next season, it was clear that Worcestershire had no interest in fielding TK-C when his future lay elsewhere and so the deal was brought forward.

Meanwhile one-time England squad member Mark Footitt has returned to Nottinghamshire from Surrey. He has also previously represented Derbyshire.

Former England cap Ajmal Shahzad must be one of the most serial county swappers. He can now list Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Leicestershire as county teams for whom he has represented their first XIs.

Dominic Sibley, Will Rhodes and Adam Hose have all headed to Warwickshire while Rikki Clarke swapped with Sibley to go back to Surrey. Sibley wanted guarantees about batting in the top three in all forms of the game. Surrey’s Alec Stewart wouldn’t provide but Ashley Giles would and so Sibley arrived amid bitter frustration on Surrey’s part.

Jos Buttler of course moved from Somerset to Lancashire whilst my home county, Yorkshire, have acquired many players from other counties in recent years:

Gary Ballance (Derbyshire)

Jack Brooks (Northamptonshire)

Andrew Hodd (Sussex)

Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Worcestershire)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Ryan Sidebottom (Returned from Nottinghamshire)

David Willey (Northamptonshire)

Players such as six-hitter Ross Whiteley and England Lions spinner Ollie Rayner are among others to have migrated at one time or another during their playing days.

The midseason activity this term, complete with more than subtle hints of acrimony and contract squabbles seem to be taking the game of bat and ball firmly into football territory.

Should mid-season transfers be allowed at all?

Should loans be allowed?

Should squads have a maximum number of players like the Premier League?

Returning to Angus Robson, he was released by Leicestershire because they wanted play youngster Harry Dearden. After Dearden failed to set the County Championship alight he was firstly replaced by Arun Harinath who had arrived on loan from Surrey before another loanee, Michael Carberry arrived at Grace Road too. In a funny way, the domestic circuit is becoming like the England team with counties failing to invest in players and deciding it’s necessary to pinch from the competition… and don’t get me started on Hampshire! I’ve touched upon their South African acquisitions before and the effect it will have on local talent.

This is the point in the article where I’m supposed to provide some sort of summary but I’ll leave it to the cricket followers of the world to make of it what you will…?

… and who could forget Monty Panesar’s transfer sagas? (Errrr… Me!)