Saturday, 5 December 2015

Academy intake key to the future

For anyone as passionate about the county of Derbyshire, and specifically its cricket club, as I am, the number of county-reared youngsters currently in the senior squad is gratifying.

Ben Slater, Alex Hughes, Tom Taylor, Tom Poynton, Matt Critchley, Harvey Hosein, Ben Cotton, Greg Cork and Tom Knight played with varying degrees of success in 2015, while Harry White and Will Davis both made debuts of promise against the touring Australians.

The key to all these players is in 'kicking on' this winter and next summer. All have shown, though not consistently enough at this stage, that they have what it takes at senior level. The secret now is in developing the mental toughness to do that on a regular basis.

It is one thing to score good and attractive fifties that can make a score respectable and help a team to compete. It is another altogether to turn that fifty into a century that will in turn become a match-winning score. For bowlers, it is one thing to be able to bowl tidily and keep first-class batsman quiet, but something extra is needed to get them out and become an established county player.

I have been lucky enough to talk to many former Derbyshire players over the last eighteen months, some of them going on to become stars in the international game. All said that the key moment in their careers was when they realised they could do it and were not just making up the numbers  on the team sheet.

It takes hard work, both in getting fit enough to play and in maintaining that standard throughout a six-month season. It takes the work in getting your technique to sufficient standard, then your powers of concentration such that you can bowl six good balls an over, not four and two gifts. It takes realising that you have to be switched on for the first and every consequent ball of a session, not switching off for a little while, which is when the ball comes that gets you out, or goes for four, or results in a dropped catch.

It is that mental toughness that is the hardest. Going in as an opening batsmen to face two lively opening bowlers with a new ball, the fielders 'chirping' away at you, looking for signs of a weakness that they can exploit. Some will fall by the wayside, unable to master one of the above requirements. Others will get there, but take time in which to do it.

The new intake is: Cameron Ball (17, seam bowler), Tom Ball (19, wicketkeeper/batsman), Ryan Bramwell (17, batsman), Archie Gleadall (16, batsman/off-spinner), Harry Killoran (18, off-spinner/batsman), Hamaiz Mahmood (17, batsman/off-spinner), Callum Parkinson (19, batsman/left-arm spinner), Robert Peat (18, seam bowler), George Sellers (18, batsman).

I have heard good things about some of these lads, while others are less well-known. There is a good cross-section of the cricket disciplines and each has an opportunity to force a way into the second team and ultimately the senior side. It would be unfair to single out any one of them, but each has known and earned success in local and age group cricket.

It must be tough for the ones who just missed out, too, as there are some good young players in the county age groups. They proved that in their sterling efforts last summer

For them the challenge is clear - work and be a part of next year and those to come.

I can smell that fresh-cut grass already...

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