All smiles | Derbyshire County Cricket Club greatly benefited from Essex CCC’s losses. (Image | Derbyshire CCC)

The 2012 season will not live long in the memories of the players, management and supporters of Essex CCC. A forgettable County Championship campaign saw them achieve a mid-table finish, while the side’s previously limited overs form at fortress Chelmsford deserted them. However, for three players deemed surplus to requirements at the County Ground, it was a year they would never forget. Tony Palladino, who jokingly claimed the Essex chairman did not even know his name during his time at the club before leaving in 2010, claimed 56 wickets, fired Derbyshire to promotion into Division 1 of the Championship.

27-year-old Chris Wright was another man released from Essex who prospered in 2012. Wright’s 62 wickets were a significant contribution towards Warwickshire winning the County Championship for the first time since 2004.

Another to taste Championship glory with the West Midlands club was Varun Chopra, who left his county of birth three years ago. Chopra was one of only two English-qualified batsman in 2012 to score 1,000 Championship runs, and perhaps unlucky not to gain a place in the England squad for the test tour of India. Instead, both Chopra and Wright have been awarded with a place in England’s Performance Programme squad, purposely based in India should any injuries occur to members of the test squad.

Like grandfather, like son

In a “summer” where ball well and truly dominated bat, Nick Compton’s 1,191 runs at 99.25 were figures his legendary grandfather (1950s England batsman and Arsenal winger, Denis Compton) would have been proud of. A classical batsman of typical English stock – which is ironic considering his South African heritage – Compton proved his 1,010 runs at 56 back in 2011 was no flash in the pan.

He is a throwback to a former age. Educated at Harrow and Durham University and prepared to play innings of patience and longevity in the era of crash, bang, wallop, Compton fully deserved his call up to England’s test tour of India.

Compton’s selection will prove refreshing to county cricketers approaching the middle of their careers. Too often impressions in the county game are shunned behind performance in various England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) camps, academies and programmes aimed at the brightest English talent under 25-years-old. Compton will hope to follow the likes of Jonathan Trott, Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior in having a successful England career following a significant apprenticeship in the county game.

Too many tweets make a fractious England dressing room

Offence | Kevin Pietersen has caused no end of controversy this year, particularly with “his” parody account. (Image | The Guardian)

Following a crushing innings defeat at the Oval in July, England were optimistic at regrouping and presenting a united front against a powerful South African line-up for the second test at Headingley. During the encounter, few would have predicted the events that rocked English cricket to its core. Details emerged of a parody Kevin Pietersen account, followed by some of his team-mates.

Pietersen, not surprising of a walking PR machine, did not take kindly to an account ridiculing his self loathing and critique of the inabilities of team-mates.

While others may have seen the account as light-hearted humour (young Yorkshire seamer Moin Ashraf has a parody account with more than twice as many followers as his real one), Pietersen took the issue up with ECB, demanding an investigation into rumours England players may be connected to the account.

The South African has a history of his social networking endeavours working against him. In 2010 he was fined by the ECB for taking to Twitter to lament their selection policy which saw him dropped from the English limited overs squad. In May this year, Pietersen was again disciplined by the ECB for criticising Sky commentator, Nick Knight.

His bull in a china shop approach to the parody issue, in addition to rumours Pietersen had been sending texts to members of the South African squad with advice on how to remove his captain, Andrew Strauss, only served to increase factions between Pietersen and his team-mates. Despite the best efforts of new captain, Alastair Cook, relationships had not cooled significantly for him to be reinstated for the test tour to India.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow

As seen in a plethora of US-based teenage comedy flicks around the turn of the century, there is nothing like a quick, montaged makeover to transform an unsightly, perennially unpopular figure into an attractive, confident character and the envy of all their peers.

While the link between Derbyshire’s model over the past three years and hit teen films such as “She’s all That” and “Mean Girls” may be rather tedious, it is undoubted that Karl Krikken’s side have gone from the ugly duckling of county cricket (Baghdad seems a more attractive proposition than the County Ground in April) to a side which have proved that success was attainable without a box office budget.

Elated | Club captain Wayne Madsen holds the trophy aloft. (Image | Derbyshire CCC)

Over the most recent decade, Derbyshire have consistently finished in the nether regions of the County Championship second division. Through his role as a player and later academy coach, Krikken saw his side wind up bottom of the 18-county heap in 2003, 2005 and again in 2009. The late 2000s saw an influx of Kolpak signings for Derbyshire, giving further clout to their “unfashionable” name tag.

A marked change of policy over the last couple of years (combined with a tightening of ECB regulations) has seen the majority of Derbyshire’s new recruits heralding from Derby, Chesterfield and Stafford, opposed to Johannesburg, Natal and Cape Town. This – in addition to the astute acquisitions of many shunned by their original counties (the cases of Palladino, Wainwright and Durston in particular) – have seen Derbyshire rightly elevated to Division 1 status for the first time since the turn of the century.

By Mark Tripp

Have your say | Tweet the author | @marktripp103

Back to Cricket

Twitter | @armchairpundit2

Facebook | The Armchair Pundits


Interested in writing for The Armchair Pundits?

We’re always on the lookout for aspiring journalists, click here for details on how you can start contributing.