Derbyshire skipper Madsen eager for first taste of match action on Barbados tour
IT will be straight into match action for Derbyshire, with the first of two days of cricket against Northamptonshire at North Stars tomorrow.
With only one outdoor training session behind them, there may still be more than a little rust to polish off their game for the players but, after a winter of indoor nets in chilly Derby, there will be no complaints.
As good a facility as the Gateway indoor nets are, there is a limit to how useful they can be and skipper Wayne Madsen says he has noticed the players have been itching for a change of scenery prior to flying out to Barbados.
"We were starting to get cabin fever a little in the indoor nets," he said.
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"It can get a bit wearing for a batsman just batting against a bowling machine but it's tougher for the bowlers because they are not able to run in hard on a surface that has no give in it when they land.
"We are ready to get outdoors.
"It might have been nice to get a couple of days training before the first game.
"If we could have had an extra day's training, that would have been great but match practice is good and I'm sure we will be fine. It will be a good chance for our guys to get back into it."
This is the start of the chance for players to show they are worthy of being involved in Derbyshire's first Championship squad bound for Edgbaston on April 10 but these are early days and Madsen will make it clear to the squad that expectations are not unduly high.
Derbyshire were dreadful in the first day's play on tour last year but improved steadily until they returned home ready to hit the ground running when the action started for real.
"We got hammered in our first game last year against Leicestershire, then got beaten again in the first t20 and it was panic stations!" recalled Madsen.
"Of course, we would love to hit the ground running but it is not about the results at this stage.
"It's always preferable if you win but this is about time in the middle for the batsmen and overs in the legs for the bowlers.
"It's a chance for guys to compete for places but results are not the be all and end all in pre-season because it can take time to get into it and we did improve as we went on last year.
"I'm sure the action will be competitive but rather than playing an actual match against Northants, we'll look to set something up where we bat one day and bowl the other.
"That way, everybody gets something out of the game and the beauty of having two two-day games this time is that it gives you a second bite of the cherry. If a batsman misses out in the first game or a bowler doesn't feel he has got into a good rhythm, he has the second game to get it right."
Madsen himself may have to be content with watching the action from the other side of the boundary as he continues to recover from a groin strain he picked up in the nets on the trip to Sri Lanka last month.
"I may be able to play. We will assess it on the day," he said.
"I saw the doctor last week and it is improving. I have been able to have a bit of a net and so I might bat and not field in the first game.
"I'm not sure about the t20s yet because I'm not sure I'm willing to risk playing t20 cricket now and the groin going again, then struggling for the start of the season.
"It might be wise to hold back until it is 100% better. You can't rush back from a muscle injury because you can push them and end up doubling the length of the time out."
The match puts Derbyshire in the rare position of facing lower-division opposition and Northants, making the trip to Barbados for the first time, are sure to be keen to show they are good enough to challenge for promotion themselves this season.
Northants have made several changes over the winter. The mainstays of their seam attack, Jack Brooks and Chaminda Vaas, have now gone and in have come off-spinning all-rounder Matt Spriegel from Surrey, seamer Steven Crook from Middlesex and seamer Azhar Ullah, born in Pakistan but now a British national.
Stephen Peters has taken over as captain following the decision of Andrew Hall to step down.
This will be Derbyshire's one and only meeting with Northants this year, unless the counties are drawn together in the later stages of a cup competition, and Madsen says he thinks their opponents are capable of making a big impression in Division Two.
"They have made quite a few changes and I think that gives them the basis of a good team this year," he said. "They will go into this with something to prove but so will we."