'Another poor overseas signing with no excitement pull'.
So went a comment on Twitter yesterday, in reaction to the news of Jeevan Mendis joining the county. Over several Tweets, the 'supporter' reckoned that his (misquoted) averages weren't very impressive and that from a fan's perspective it was 'hardly exciting'.
Really? Some cricket fans must be getting quite blase. This is a player who has been signed in Australia, Bangladesh, the West Indies and India to play in their showpiece T20 competitions, where he has produced some stirring displays. He has kept getting signed too, suggesting he has done plenty right along the way.
Wickets in England aren't generally conducive to spin in the early season, but then again, English county players aren't especially used to facing quality spin. There was a time, back in the 1950s and 60s, when almost every county had a spin bowler of quality, one who gave the ball a real 'rip'. Increasingly, the modern spinner 'rolls' the ball, leaving the occasional purveyor of something special as a somewhat mythical figure who delivers something akin to a hand grenade.
Derbyshire has acquired two such bowlers in the past week or so. Leg spin is a difficult art to master and suggesting that the limited English returns of Mendis are disappointing rather misses the point. He was a young man, working on his skills then. Now, he is an experienced and wily cricketer who has done well across the globe and has much to offer.
I don't think Derbyshire will bat him too high in the order. Six or seven seems right to me, keeping him away from a new ball that zips around in the early season, but leaving him able to play his natural attacking game against an old ball and tiring bowlers. We all saw how Neil Broom, an equally experienced player, struggled last summer, so expectations of Sri Lankan carnage should perhaps be tempered. If he comes off, and counter-attacks with success, the effect of such batting on opponents cannot be overestimated.
His signing made me think back to the two overseas spinners I have seen in my time as a Derbyshire supporter. The Indian off-spinner, Venkat, was a joy to watch and a bowler of high skill. He contributed a few runs and was a fine close fielder, but his bowling was by some distance the stronger suit. Notwithstanding it being a strange signing, for a team that was often badly short of runs, he did pretty well, yet the truth was that a return of 6-98, while impressive, looked less so when we had made 130 all out yet again.
The same went for Shahid Afridi. He was young when we signed him, had the 'boom or bust' mentality that limited his batting career and was capable of bowling his fair share of awful stuff. I still recall the frustration of Dominic Cork, skipper at the time, in a limited over game in Edinburgh, when Afridi seemed incapable of bowling to a field. If Cork packed the off side, he bowled short on leg stump; if he moved men across, the next ball was a wide long hop outside off.
It is a tough skill to master, but in engaging two men in their thirties with proven records, Derbyshire have the best chance of success. Yet we can no more rely on Mendis than Tahir to win us matches on their own. It can only be a team effort and the onus is on the batsmen to score big and give the spinners something to work with. Then, as was pointed out yesterday, we need to back that up in the field and behind the stumps. I'm sure that Gary Wilson and Harvey Hosein will have a few sessions with both bowlers to help them pick their many variant deliveries.
In Billy Godleman, Ben Slater, Wayne Madsen, Shiv Thakor and Gary Wilson, we have five players who I think will score good runs. There is a question mark at number three, albeit with several competing candidates, while Neil Broom showing his Otago form is essential if we are to progress and he is to retain a place in a competitive squad. If he plays as he finished the season, Harvey Hosein will be hard to omit too.
I'm excited and the 'feel' of this week's comments is that this is shared by most of you. Imran Tahir and Jeevan Mendis may join the Derbyshire cricketing pantheon of overseas success, or may join a sadly lengthening list of failures, but I applaud the club's rationale and forward thinking, which is hard to fault.
People around the county circuit will now be thinking that they wouldn't fancy batting on the last day at Derby, or anywhere else for that matter, so batting first might be a preferred option.
At least, of course, until we have a confirmed strike bowler who may just change their mind.
Kim Barnett was quite clever in saying that the club have a 'non-overseas' bowler lined up. Some have taken this as therefore being an English player, but for me it is a means of differentiating between the overseas role and, I think, either one with a dual nationality passport or who qualifies as a Kolpak player.
The former could be from anywhere, really, but the latter has to be from either the Caribbean, Zimbabwe or South Africa. Given the dearth of fast bowling talent in the Caribbean and the absence of it in Zimbabwe, I'd suggest that we either have a Kiwi or Aussie flying in on a UK passport, or there will be another South African accent in the Derbyshire dressing room.
I'm not going to start hares across the park with names, because I have no connections in the UK Passport Agency, but if we could find a bowler who does for us what Rory Kleinveldt, for instance, has done at Northampton, we'll have few complaints.