Kim Barnett returns to Derbyshire cricket
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 April 2017
As the county cricket season opens, Derbyshire Life meets the returning Derbyshire cricketing hero...
AFTER a disappointing 2016 season, Derbyshire County Cricket Club has turned to one of its most celebrated batting heroes in order to revive its fortunes.
In more than 20 years at the crease, Kim Barnett wrote himself into the county’s history books. He scored 23,854 first class runs for Derbyshire from 1979 to 1988 and more than 12,000 in one day competitions – more than any other batsman for the county. He was Derbyshire captain between 1983 and 1995. He skippered Derbyshire to a Benson and Hedges Cup Final victory in 1993 and the Sunday League title in 1990 and was part of the Natwest Trophy winning team of 1981. Of the five major trophies claimed by the county in its 147-year history, Kim has played a key part in three.
So with Derbyshire finishing bottom of the second division of the County Championship without securing a single win and failing to make progress to the knock-out stage of either of the two one-day competitions in 2016, Kim was asked to step in.
He had returned to the club as president but last autumn was appointed Director of Cricket. The 56-year-old has accepted the challenge and hopes that his one-year plan will bring the county more success on the pitch in 2017.
He says: ‘It was obviously deemed by people higher up in the club that the cricket wasn’t looking great so as president I was asked to do a report looking at everything – the ground, signings, coaching, you name it. I looked at the structures that were there and not there and where the club was putting its money.
‘The board then asked me to take over this role of Director of Cricket – you get these grand titles but it’s really about strategy and planning – and as we have done what we needed to do over the winter it has now become about co-ordination of the departments.
‘It’s all very well making a report – what’s important is turning it around. But I was always reasonably confident that from September 2016 to September 2017 things could be done to make a major change and point it in the right direction for the future. I said I would do this for a year and then leave it with the relative departments to drive it forward. I’m trying to put a lot of effort into one year to give the players the best chance to sort it out on the field.’
Batsman Billy Godleman will take responsibility for the 50 overs and four day games but another Derbyshire hero has returned to give the T20 campaign a better chance. New Zealand international John Wright, who notched up nearly 15,000 runs for Derbyshire between 1977 and 1988 will bring his expertise to the 20-over competition.
Kim believes that despite the poor showing last season, Derbyshire weren’t as far away from success as results might suggest with opportunities to win games in the limited over matches being thrown away all too often.
He says: ‘Getting over the line is part of being tough and professional. A win is a win in any circumstances. The good part of that is that if you are getting in a position to win cricket matches, if you can get the right mentality then you would expect to get over the line more often. Certainly in the one day game that would be the case.
‘In the County Championship we hadn’t got enough assets in the bowling department. If you are scoring 400 then letting the opposition get 500, it’s a long game and you are often on the wrong end of it.
‘We drew 11 games and we only needed to win four or five of those to be challenging. We were out-played in four or five matches but the rest we had chances and we need to turn good positions into wins. It was pretty easy for me to say to Billy, if we get you an international spinner that will give you a chance and an international fast bowler. Then you think that if we can get the runs gain, these guys should bowl people out this summer.
‘That’s the theory. Although Billy is very aware that if the pitches do a bit more it might be harder to get the runs. We don’t want to get in the situation of having the right bowling attack and not getting the runs, so it’s always a balance.’
South African fast bowler Hardus Viljoen and international leg-spinners Jeevan Mendis and Imran Tahir have been signed for 2017 to further those ambitions.
Kim says: ‘We have put a lot of emphasis on Billy taking control of the destiny of the players on the field. Our T20 has notoriously not been good and we have brought John Wright in to show us the way in that format.
‘I didn’t want to bring in people for the sake of it. If we brought in big players it would also be as mentors and/or assets to what we have already got. We have very good young staff – they just need leadership and guidance to bring them on.
‘Imran Tahir will lead the spin department, Hardus Viljoen the seam bowlers – they will be that senior person on the field you can turn to in a crisis.’
Imran Tahir is the top rated bowler in both the T20 and ODI formats. Kim said: ‘He was one of my first targets as I have known him for 14 years. He’s a fantastic cricketer, a great competitor and hard working. He will bring more to the club than the obvious talent he has on the field. Getting Imran and John Wright for the T20 were two key things for me as I wanted people to see we were doing something and they were two major signings.’
Derbyshire is the only county that has not made the latter stages of the T20 so is it is a particular target for Kim?
He said: ‘Commercially it is one of the big things we can do to fill this ground for T20 and with Northants and Leicestershire there is proof that the shorter the game the more likely the upset. Northants have done it on a regular basis and that shows in a 20-over format that even as a division two side, if you have your game sorted out you can do well.
‘In the four-day competition if you have a bad day it’s a long haul and a tough thing to win. So it makes sense to target the 20-over game commercially, financially and the fact that somebody like John will show that with the right concept and planning you can have the edge that will help you win games instead of saying “how did we lose that by five runs or how it is that we only needed 20 off four overs but didn’t get them”.’
There has been a lot of success off the pitch at Derbyshire in improving spectator facilities and preparing the ground to host women’s international cricket this year which makes the cricketing performances even more frustrating.
Kim says: ‘People on the board were saying we have invested in the ground and it’s almost amazing to see this place growing from where it was. But it was seen that the results on the field over the last six years weren’t matching the developments off it.
‘I wouldn’t aim all the criticism at the players as part of it is strategy and planning – and bringing in the key players. Over the last six years that hasn’t happened and without wishing to appear arrogant I was confident that in one year, if I targeted the right people to interact with the young players at the club and give Billy some assets to go out there with, it could quickly change. Talk is cheap but I am hoping we will see some immediate growth.’
Derbyshire being successful is just as important to Kim now as it was back in his playing days.
He says: ‘I think that’s why the board turned to me as we have been in this position before and built what we did. That’s in the past but most of the ex-pros with associations with Derbyshire have a great affinity with the club. You still see Alan Hill, Tony Borrington and Colin Tunnicliffe watching and when you look at John Wright, he taught me a lot when I first started. Even though he was born in New Zealand he is part of Derbyshire really – Mike Holding is the same.
‘In those days your overseas recruit played for you for six months in all competitions, these days people are in and out. But in terms of the furniture of this place your Wrights, Holdings, Barlows are part of Derbyshire – they have a great desire to see us do well.’
Consistency is what Derbyshire needs and certainly that was the hallmark of Kim Barnett’s game. He notched up 16 seasons where he scored 1,000 runs – the benchmark of a top player – and 11 of those in a row.
He says: ‘The great thing about cricket is that the stats are always there. They also didn’t make pitches for the batsman but for the bowlers – that put me in a position as captain where I had to say “well if we are going to play on pitches that are doing all sorts of things then I need to lead from the front and go and open”. It was about mental strength and that commitment to winning matches. I’m lucky that I played with great players at this club and you could test yourself against the world’s best.’
So can the current crop of Derbyshire players bring back those times?
Kim says: ‘I believe these players can go out and win matches and I hope the people we have brought in can instil some confidence. I hope teams in the second division will think we have a decent attack now to go with some very good batsmen and young people coming through. I am optimistic but it’s not about me but about the players going out there and reacting to what’s happening. It’s about saying “we need a wicket now, or we need some runs, how are we going to do that?” not coming off having a post-match analysis when it’s too late. It’s being in charge of their own destiny.
‘It would give me great delight to see the players go out there and do it for the club and themselves. Your playing days are different – you have a direct influence on what is going on out there. Doing this job I can just tell the guys to go out, have fun for starters as they are lucky to have the privilege of playing professional sport for a living, then show some panache and win some matches. If they do that I won’t be saying that’s down to me but to those players we put out there on the field.’
At the 3aaa County Ground - NatWest T20 Blast fixtures
Yorkshire Vikings – Saturday 8 July, 2.30pm (Chesterfield)
Lancashire Lightning – Tuesday 25 July, 7pm
Northants Steelbacks – Friday 28 July, 7pm
Leicestershire Foxes – Sunday 30 July, 2.30pm (kids go free)
Notts Outlaws – Friday 4 August, 7pm
Durham Jets – Tuesday 15 August, 6.30pm (£10 tickets)
Worcestershire Rapids – Friday 18 August, 7pm
Tickets: NatWest T20 Blast tickets for all seven home games are on sale now, and supporters can save £4 by purchasing ticket tickets in advance. Call 01332 388 101 or buy online at derbyshireccc.com
Membership: Watch all 43 days of home cricket in 2017 for only £159 with Club Membership. Call 01332 388 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information