Derbyshire have dropped their captain, Billy Godleman, from their T20 Blast side despite an injury crisis which has stripped the squad back to its bare bones.
Godleman has captained in T20 since 2019, when Dominic Cork took over as their Blast coach, and led the side to their first-ever Finals Day that summer, but has suffered a chronic lack of form this season, with 47 runs in eight innings and a top score of 15. He shuffled down to No. 3 in the absence of Wayne Madsen, the club's all-time leading run-scorer in T20 cricket who tore a hamstring in the opening game of the season but has struggled to make any impact.
Cork confirmed on Wednesday that Matt Critchley, the legspinning allrounder, would take over the captaincy for the remainder of the T20 season and that Godleman had been left out of the squad to play Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston on Thursday. Godleman remains the club's County Championship captain though has managed only 236 runs in 11 first-class innings this season, averaging 23.60.
"Now is the right time to pull him out of the cauldron," Cork said. "It's been a tough time for Billy. He hasn't shirked any responsibility, but as a coach, it would be unfair to just keep letting him go on and on. I've spoken to him, and he will come out of the squad to recharge his batteries."
With Godleman left out, Derbyshire have only 11 first-team players confirmed to be fit and available for Thursday night's game, with loanee Alex Thomson ineligible to play against his parent club, though Tom Wood and Anuj Dal will both take late fitness tests as they look to return from injury. Harry Came, the top-order batter, was signed on a three-year deal at the start of the Blast following Ben McDermott's call-up to the Australia squad on the eve of the tournament, while Thomson and Conor McKerr have been brought in on loan from Warwickshire and Surrey respectively.
The club confirmed last week that Madsen's injury was more serious than first feared, keeping him out for a minimum of eight weeks and making him a doubt for Manchester Originals in the Hundred. Alex Hughes, Ben Aitchison, Dustin Melton, Nick Potts, Sam Conners and Nils Priestley have also been injured, along with Wood and Dal.
"I understand the frustration, and I understand the criticism on social media, but Billy has been an integral part of this team for some time," Cork added. "With nine injuries, it's not easy, but we've just tried to get on with it.
"Maybe if there had been players fit, this decision would have been made a little bit earlier, but without having those players available, you have to hope that a player with the pedigree of Billy pulls through. Unfortunately, it hasn't, and I've had to make this decision."
Derbyshire have won only two of their first eight Blast games, and their chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals are minimal. "You need your senior players to be pushing these young lads and showing them the way, especially in T20 cricket," Cork said.
Elsewhere, Somerset's club captain Tom Abell has torn a hamstring and has been ruled out for an indefinite period of time. Leicestershire have signed Abi Sakande, the former Sussex seamer, on a deal until the end of the season.