Essex interest as Smith opts to leave Derbyshire

Greg Smith will not be offered a new contract by Derbyshire and will leave the club at the end of the season.

At the end of several months of trying to tie the 28-year-old all-rounder to a new deal, Derbyshire have decided not to attempt to match a rival offer from another county, which they say is considerably more than they feel Smith is worth.

It now seems the South African, whose attempt to become England-qualified has been a long-running saga with still no immediate end in sight, may be set to join Essex after also attracting interest from Sussex, Nottinghamshire and Kent.

Had Smith decided to accept a lucrative contract offer at the end of last season, when John Morris was head of cricket, he would now be Derbyshire captain but that role was passed to Luke Sutton when Smith said he wanted to put himself on the market.

By the time the player decided he would prefer to stay at Derbyshire, the regime had changed and he could not attract the kind of deal he thought he deserved.

“I was looking to stay and I told them I wanted to stay but they have told me they are not going to renew my contract,” said Smith. “They said the money I was looking for was too much, which I don’t think was the case because I know what other people have signed for.

“I’ve had a few counties interested. I made no secret that people wanted to talk to me but I kept them on hold because I told them I wanted to stay at Derby and see how things were going here but it hasn’t worked out that way.

“They are looking at people like Collingwood, who are coming to the end of their careers and would be on a lot more money than me, but I’m just coming to my peak.

“Fair enough, if that’s the way they want to go but it’s disappointing because the chairman has said the club is trying to keep its best players and I consider myself one of the best players in the side for the last couple or three years. I haven’t asked for any more money than the contract I was offered by John.”

Derbyshire chairman Chris Grant, who has initiated a policy of developing young home-grown talent supplemented by experienced older pros, said the money was available to pay Smith what he asked for if they had been willing to pay it.

“It’s not a question of whether we could or could not raise the money to pay Greg Smith, it’s just that our estimation of the player’s market value is less than he can get elsewhere,” said Grant.

“In that case, good luck to him. I don’t blame him for wanting to land the best deal he can but we are not going to get drawn into a bidding war.

“We were waiting for Greg to come back with offers from other counties and, if there was a realistic chance of us signing him, we would have put a contract on the table but we were not that close.

“I don’t know what figures he and John were talking about but that’s irrelevant. That was then, this is now. We have a different budget, different aims and different ambitions for where we are looking to put our limited resources.”

Smith made his Derbyshire first team debut in 2006 but first played in the seconds in 2004, when he arrived in this country from South Africa to play in the Birmingham League for Coventry and North Warwickshire.

He has played 72 first-class matches for the county but a tally of 3,626 runs at an average of 32.66, with four centuries, and 129 wickets at 35.86 points to a player who has never quite fulfilled his potential at the club.

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