I had into double figures of teams sent to me for the NatWest T20 Blast - thank you for that - and two things stood out.
One was that you mostly feel that spin - and taking the pace off the ball - is the way to go. The second was that there were no two teams the same. Which all goes to show, of course, that Graeme Welch has a tricky job.
Does he go with experience and include, for example, Wes Durston, our most consistent T20 player of recent seasons? Or does he bow to the growing claims of similar and younger model Scott Elstone? Then again, does he include them both?
Marc suggested a few days ago that he wouldn't pick Shiv, which wins the award for boldness but nothing else as far as I am concerned. It's not his forte, I agree, but he still averages 25 and played some good knocks last year. His average and strike rate are almost identical to those of Marcus North. Ideally I suppose a bona fide boundary clearer would have been perfect for while Chanderpaul is away, perhaps one who could bowl a few overs, but we've a solid and long batting side on paper.
Choosing a side is problematic, as much depends on the wicket, but I agree that spin is the way to go. Given we're blessed with people who can twirl (or fire in medium pace darts...) and bat pretty well, the choice is wide and varied.
I do feel that we need some young legs in there though. The top six pretty much picks itself, but with respect to all concerned, none of them are greyhounds in the field. The best T20 sides have fast, lithe fielders for the crucial long-off and long-on positions, positions that have become what cover point once was.
Watch the IPL and marvel at the speed and agility of the likes of Kieron Pollard, Faf du Plessis, Steven Smith and Virat Kohli in those areas. They hold crucial catches, make breathtaking stops and effect run outs that are beyond the compass of ordinary fielders, with their speed over the ground and fast, flat throwing arms. We need players in the side to do that, which accounts for my final lineup.
So, after much thought, here's my first choice side:
I can't split Durston and Elstone. They're similar players but Durston has proven explosive ability and would get a chance for me, despite his early form. As any cricketer will tell you, you're only an innings away from being in nick, even if runs are proving elusive. Shiv will be away after this game and I'd then be inclined to pick either Tom Knight or Jon Clare, depending on the wicket. Knight is much improved as a batsman, as evidenced by his top score in one match against Yorkshire today, while I see him as our number one spinner for some time to come.
As for Clare, I'd be surprised and very worried for his long-term career if he's not able to bowl a maximum four-over spell. His ability to reach and clear boundaries in the later innings would get him into my squad for most games, his selection subject to conditions and his fitness
Alex Hughes is a must, offering niggling variety with the ball, explosive qualities with the bat and fine fielding - a must for one of my distant straight fielders, along with Elstone. Cross is a very able number nine and Groenewald is capable of clumping with the best of them. I accept that Footitt can be erratic at times, but pace can be a match-winner and he has it.
With four spinners, North a much better bowler than in his previous spell with the county, as well as being a fine batsman, there's a steady attack that can be switched around by Wayne Madsen.
Is it a side that can do well? I think so, but we've hardly impressed in T20 and I'll hold fire for now. Last year we started well and finished awfully, the latest in a long series of disappointing short form seasons.
A low-key start to the season needs enlivened and perhaps tomorrow is when it all starts.