DERBYSHIRE CCC skipper Luke Sutton believes his young charges have made big strides in 2011 – and laid down the foundations for future success at the County Ground.
Speaking after the culmination of the LV=County Championship Division Two season last week, in which Derbyshire finished fifth - a vast improvement from propping up the table 12 months earlier, Sutton said he was pleased with his side’s competitive performances during what he admits has been a challenging year both on, and off, the field.
“I think it was a very encouraging season, with some very significant positives. We’ve certainly progressed from where we (the squad) was last year,” the 34-year-old right-handed batsman and wicketkeeper assessed.
“Clearly we have got to make improvement in some areas and we are aware of that, but certainly a lot more positives than negatives.”
In the County Championship, Derbyshire picked up five wins, against Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, Kent and a double over Glamorgan. They also fared better at the limited-over form of the game, finishing an encouraging third in their Clydesdale Bank 40 group, but could only muster four wins in the group stages of the Friends Life t20.
Sutton said: “We beat some good sides in the Clydesdale Bank 40, but lost games at really crucial times. We were also very competitive in the t20, so overall I was very pleased.
“The nucleus of our one-day side is very strong, we just need to improve in certain areas, and I think those key games we lost this year we could well win next year.
“There’s no doubt this year has provided a good platform from which to continue our progress, but we need to do key things, to improve our current players, we need to be smart in the off-season, be smart with recruitment, and I think those sort of things need to be put in place for us to continue making those steps forward.”
Among the key performers for Derbyshire this season has been all-rounder Wes Durston, who was recently named Derbyshire County Cricket Club Player of the Year.
“We’ve been fairly strong overall,” Sutton admitted. “We’ve had two stand-out bowlers in Tim Groenewald and Tony Palladino. Wes (Durston) had an exceptional year with the bat, and we had some excellent performances from our all-rounders such as Johnny Clare and Ross Whiteley.
“I think the strongest point of the season has probably been the emergence of some of our young players, the likes of Ross Whiteley, who have really come forward and look really good prospects.
“We believe we have got some very talented young players and we want to give them the right opportunities. The nature of someone being inexperienced and young will mean that they might be a bit inconsistent at times and we have to be patient with them, but I think we feel pretty confident with what we are doing and there will be more opportunities for young players as we go forward.”
The skipper added: “It has been an extremely challenging year. Being captain of a young squad is challenging anyway, and obviously halfway through the year there was the departure of John Morris and Andy Brown which was hugely challenging as well, so I’ve really enjoyed it but it has been very, very tiring.
“The squad will now take a break for the next six weeks before returning for physical training, and begin playing a little bit of cricket before Christmas. We’ll map out our winter quite specifically and make sure that our preparation is really good for next year.”