Thursday 8 March 2007 

Phantom's Stalwart Faces Lengthy Layoff

Derbyshire's Graeme Welch could miss the first half of the upcoming season after undergoing calf surgery.

The 34-year-old, who captained the side last year, was injured after returning for pre-season training last month. He has decided to have an operation to repair the muscle and has been told he faces a lengthy recuperating period.

Derbyshire director of cricket Dave Houghton said: ``This is obviously a big blow to both Graeme and the club, but we have discussed all the options available and by having the operation this will give him the best chance of not just getting back this season, but also extending his playing career.
``Fortunately we have strengthened the squad significantly over the last two years and we are in a position to be able to cope with an injury to a key player, whereas in previous years we would have struggled.''

Welch, who is now in his benefit year, resigned as captain to focus on his game, handing the role to Australian Simon Katich. He will work with the county as a coach during his recovery.

Houghton added: ``I fully expect Graeme to come back as strong as ever and add a fresh impetus to the squad when he does return later this year.
``In the meantime he will remain heavily involved during his rehabilitation