One thing that delights me about the re-signing of Usman Khawaja is that in an age where counties find it difficult to secure overseas stars for more than a few weeks, Derbyshire have secured two of the best young batsmen in world cricket for a second season. This, of course, speaks volumes for the dressing room environment, one in which the players were accepted and assimilated last year. It also says a lot for the players, who are keen to return and help their young team mates to realise their ambitions.
Earlier I wrote about Usman Khawaja's need to convince in T20, but for me that competition is not our number one target. I felt last year and do again now that our best chance of success lies in the County Championship, where our array of bowlers could be enough to win plenty of matches, assuming the batting fires as it can do. With the addition of David Wainwright to a hostile pace attack, we now have bowlers for all conditions, including two in Mark Footitt and Mark Turner who are as quick as any in the country when their rhythm is right.
Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja are both capable of scoring between 650 and 800 runs in their respective Championship stints with us and if they do so will give us a better chance of success. 1300 to 1600 runs from the overseas role would see few complaints, with the likelihood that both would do well in the Pro40 league.
The big question then is our T20 target for the second role, with the club saying they are seeking a "match-changing" player. For me, we either have to sign an aggressive batsman to whom Khawaja could act as foil, or someone who offers something different, either as an all-rounder or bowler. Someone like Herschelle Gibbs to take advantage of the first six overs would do harm, but I suspect we are now targeting a bowler, given that we already have a lot of batsmen at the club.
I'll be honest, the best I've seen is Brett Lee, though whether we could persuade him to come over is debatable. I can't see any South African bowlers coming over, as their Cricket Board would be unwilling for them to risk injury before the important England tour. Shaun Tait's ongoing issues with his elbow have seen him pull out of a stint in the South African T20, while the sometimes erratic nature of his bowling could carry an additional element of risk. Dirk Nannes apparently is lined up elsewhere, so you then either look at a fringe South African like Theron, or bring in another spinner, or batsman who can bowl a bit.
Any ideas? As I wrote recently, the best spinner in the Australian Big Bash was Brad Hogg, though it would be a brave decision for any county to offer even a short term deal to a man of 40. I don't think Hogg would let anyone down, to be fair, but the limitations of the international calendar make the pursuit of a second player a tricky bit of work.
I wish Messrs Krikken and Grant the best in their pursuit and look forward to news in the not too distant future.