This morning’s announcement that Derbyshire will have a change of captain next season came as no real surprise.
Billy Godleman has held the role for the past seven seasons, for much of which he has led from the front with his unique, distinctive style of batting. He has been a run machine, not to put too fine a point on it, until the past two summers.
They have made for awkward watching. When Billy is in his best form, you would never hold him up as an example to others, never see him in the MCC coaching manual. But it works, for him and for the side. The slash through the offside, the rapier like square cut, the jumping pull and a hook that is remarkably effective, if ungainly.
Yet too often in these past two seasons his feet, head and hands haven’t worked together and the result has been an early dismissal. The averages don’t lie and the bottom line is that he would have struggled to hold on to his place were he not the club’s captain.
That role and the commensurate responsibilities must have weighed heavily on him and it is to the benefit of both the player and the team that he now steps down, back into the ranks and hopefully back into the form that have made him into a modern county hero.
Captaincy is not easy at any level of the game and I speak having been club captain for 9 successive seasons. It takes a lot out of you and the pressure at county level will be considerably more than that I faced.
As he goes into the final year of his contract, Billy will have enough on his plate. My Dad has told me several times about the consternation among supporters when Arnold Hamer was finally released by the county after a decade of stellar service. Time waits for no man and regardless of his many great feats as a Derbyshire player, it was time for Arnold to go. It comes to all in the end, as it may have done for even so great a county player as Darren Stevens this year.
Yet Billy is young enough, at 33, to entertain and to contribute for several more seasons, if his game can get back into the groove that saw him score so many runs. To score ten thousand at this level you need to be a pretty good player..
His replacement as captain is Leus du Plooy. While some, myself included, might have favoured the claims of Anuj Dal, Leus is a good cricketer who might move on to the next level with the responsibility of captaincy.
It is equally a strong bargaining tool when his own contract negotiations are up for renewal next season. There may well be no lack of suitors for his services, but few of them will be in a position to offer him the captaincy as well. He will have to bed into the role, learn on the job, but he is an intelligent and thoughtful young man who will likely do so.
I understand he is very happy at Derbyshire and if an appropriate offer was made, when the time comes, will be prepared to extend his time with us.
I wish him well and while that learning curve is ahead, there is no shortage of experienced support inside the dressing room.
In closing, I would like to thank Billy for seven years of sterling effort. Only five men have captained Derbyshire in more matches, only five have held the captaincy for longer in terms of years. In itself, that speaks volumes.
Now let’s get that run machine back. Because we all know that if it does return, our chances of success are all the greater.