Friday, 20 December 2013
Huge debt of gratitude due to Karl Krikken
Yet Krikk opted not to apply for the new role, for reasons known only to him. Maybe his pride was hurt, maybe he didn't want the hassle of interview preparation, maybe he has something else lined up already. The usual confidentiality clause over the parting means we shall perhaps never know, but the undeniable truth is that we are losing the services of a loyal and admirable club man, one who has served us well for twenty-seven summers.
As a wicket-keeper, he was unorthodox in much the same way that Kim Barnett was with the bat, but equally effective. Ignoring the edgy, non-stop technique behind the stumps, with a rolling gait that compared to a farmer in wellingtons trudging through a muddy field, he had as good a pair of hands as any of his contemporaries. That goal-keeping stance, the subject of disparaging comment among cricketing purists, enabled him to get across to some catches, especially down the leg side, that others wouldn't have got anywhere near. His agility, allied to that glove work, made him a worthy part of an illustrious lineage that went through Harry Elliott, George Dawkes and Bob Taylor.
He was as good a batsman as any of them and played a number of pugnacious knocks, often against the clock or as declaration approached. He batted selflessly and an average of 22 was respectable for a player who generally batted at seven or eight in a side with some handy players.
After retirement as a player he took over the club's fledgling Academy and was responsible for the start of a procession of players into the first-class game. Critics would say that few of them have become established county cricketers and that's a fair point, but Krikk's affable persona, his passion for the game and his technical knowledge served him and them well.
Much as it did when he took over the senior role from John Morris in 2011. Taking over such a position mid-season was never going to be an easy gig, especially when the role saw him dropped into a dressing room where a few people were unsettled. It is to Krikken's eternal credit that he poured oil on troubled waters, smoothed ruffled feathers and turned things around sufficiently to enable the memorable division two title a year later.
He was aided by some shrewd overseas recruitment. Martin Guptill had a massive influence on early-season fortunes, while Usman Khawaja, while perhaps just short of international class, played important knocks when they were most needed. Last winter saw the signing of a genuine legend in Shivnarine Chanderpaul and all three, importantly, proved to be team men with talent, a combination that not all counties manage to secure.
Last season saw relegation confirmed in the last game and Krikken had his share of issues to contend with, before a late-season resurgence almost saw an escape of Houdini magnitude. Injuries to key personnel didn't help, there were off-field issues with a couple of players and the team seemed surprisingly in awe of their opponents at the start of the summer.
Crucially, there were a few occasions where we seemed tactically naive or undercooked, the team outflanked as much as outplayed by opponents of negligibly greater talent. Some of it could be written off to inexperience, but there were occasions where strong situations were squandered and the undeniable fact was that, despite those sterling late-season efforts, we were relegated.
Ongoing naivety - some might call it carelessness - also cost us in the one-day game. Having looked a decent T20 side in the early games for just about the first time since records began, good bowling efforts left victories there to be had against Lancashire at Old Trafford and especially against Yorkshire at Chesterfield. We only needed to work it around and rotate the strike to take the points, yet it proved a task too far. It was a disappointment, especially when large crowds turned up, encouraged by early displays, then it all went horribly pear-shaped against Leicestershire, in a display that could only be described as awful.
Such issues are, I think, behind the change to the coaching set up. There's not that much between Derbyshire and the better sides, as some of the cricket we played last year suggested. Perhaps it comes down to better preparation, a change in emphasis, a different approach, better use of technology. Had he thrown his hat into the ring, Karl Krikken might have been a strong candidate, with a wider-ranging remit and a different structure. So that it is clear, I fully support the move to overhaul the coaching set up, further evidence of an ambitious club that is not prepared to simply make up the numbers. To fault the process is to accept mediocrity and I think our squad is better than that. We needed to get the best man for the role and this exercise should ensure that we do that.
Of the expected candidates, my choice would be Graham Welch, a coach of growing reputation who is known to make innovative use of technology as well as being a fine coach and excellent man-manager. I think that 'Pop' would be the man to build on the ground work of Karl Krikken and it will take a good man to top him in an interview process. Chris Adams will have his supporters and did an excellent job at Sussex, but external events conspired against him at Surrey and ultimately cost him his job.
More on that in due course, but for now, it is only fair to say thanks to Karl Krikken for a job well done. In the evolutionary process of our club, John Morris started the ball rolling from some pretty dark times, while Karl Krikken gave us a first taste of success and our highest championship placing for some years.
The next man has to take it on, but for now it is time to thank Krikk. He gave it his all and no one can ask for more.