By Charlie Talbot-Smith
When Jade Dernbach says he carries Tom Maynard with him wherever he goes, he means it literally as well as metaphorically.
The Surrey seamer does after all have his late friend’s initials and squad number (TM 55) tattooed onto the middle of his chest.
And when the celebrations began at New Road three weeks ago as Surrey claimed their first County Championship crown in 16 years – Dernbach had his late great mate in his head as well as on his heart.
“Tom is never far from my thoughts, he was a massive part of my life and any time that we are successful and can share something – he will always be there sharing it with us,” said Dernbach.
“He was a part of this club, a part of this team and massive part of my life so, yeah, we share all these memories with people like Tom.
“This is the one thing I have always wanted to win in my career and it has eluded me up to this point.
“I have been lucky enough to win other things along the way, but the First Division title is something that you strive towards.
“Being here through the ups and the downs, through different building phases, you just felt that something was on the horizon.”
Surrey’s youngest debutant for 30 years when he made his first-team bow at the age of 17 back in 2003, Dernbach has been with the Brown Caps through thick and thin.
And considering their last title came the year before his debut – it’s fair to say it has been more thin than thick in that time.
But it reached its nadir in 2013-14 when the South African-born seamer, an Oval academy product, saw the Chris Adams revolution come undone amidst the Maynard tragedy.
His England career – 58 white-ball games for his country in total – was also coming to an end and Dernbach was sorely tempted to leave his boyhood club.
“There was obviously a lot of baggage which came from those circumstances, and I think I must be only one of three or four left from that time,” added Dernbach.
“I did think, ‘OK, is it best that I go off?’ having seen other Surrey players move on and reinvigorate their careers.
“There was a probably a point where I felt I had become stagnant and didn’t feel like I was really progressing.
“But ultimately, I had to have a look in the mirror and realise that it is not down to anybody else. It is down to me.
“I am the one that has got to make the change, make the difference and figure it out for myself.
“Running away from the problems was not the way to solve it so from my point of view, I took the more difficult decision at the time, which was to stay and fight for what I believe in.
“I had to take myself away, a winter away, and assess what it was that I needed to do to get myself back to where I truly believed I should be. And that, at the end of the day, is never away from Surrey. So that thought was soon dispelled, and hard work needed to take over.”
And work hard he has.
His head coach Michael Di Venuto calls him “the fittest he has ever been” and the 32-year-old has appeared across all three forms for his side – captaining in T20.
He has also developed a maturity that perhaps belies his easy-going tattooed party-boy exterior – he has settled down off the pitch and married his wife Anna last year.
The likes of Morne Morkel – who Dernbach calls “a wonderful person both on and off the pitch” – and Gareth Batty have gained much credit for guiding Surrey’s rich young crop.
But Dernbach’s influence – on the Curran brothers in particular – is clear to see.
He added: “As you mature and get a lot older and play a lot more, your role does change.
“Not with a conscious effort really, but you just find yourself helping where you can.
“People are all of a sudden coming to you because you have that extra experience, I guess when you are young guy you are expected to go and seek out the information.
“But then you find people are coming to you and it is a role that I have happily accepted and am actually quite enjoying.
“With the two Curran brothers, I have been lucky enough to see their progression into what now everyone is seeing on the international stage.
“They are two exceptional cricketers and to have played any part in their career is a great feeling for me and, hopefully, I can continue to do so with the other young guys coming through like Conor McKerr, who is a great talent.
“I want Surrey to be successful, not just while I am playing but for many years to come.”
And that influence has clearly paid off, as Surrey stormed to the title with a breathtaking balance of youth and experience.
But one crown is not enough for Dernbach, who also has ambitions to turn their white-ball form around.
He added: “Just before I came in was when the club had that golden period with Adam Hollioake and all that talent they had then.
“They produced trophies and First Division trophies at that. The goal we have set ourselves, the conversation we have had is that good teams don’t just win one trophy.
“Good teams are remembered for doing it often. Talent can maybe get you one trophy but if you want to be truly remembered, you have to be consistent over a number of years. That is the challenge we have set ourselves and there is no reason why we cannot.
“Now that I have been lucky enough to take over the T20 captaincy, that is something we have not really challenged in for a while.
“I would certainly like us to get that trophy in the cabinet, and 50-over stuff with the signings that we have made – Liam Plunkett and Jordan Clark these are two guys that will be key assets in our white-ball game.”