Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Academy Coach Wilson Relishing Challenge Of Maintaining Conveyor Belt Of Young Talent

Academy Coach Wilson Relishing Challenge Of Maintaining Conveyor Belt Of Young Talent

New Academy coach Elliott Wilson is relishing the challenge of trying to ensure the conveyor belt of young talent being produced by Worcestershire continues after the sad death of Academy director Damian D'Oliveira in June.

The legacy left by D'Oliveira is evident in the current first team squad with 10 of the 11 players who have signed new contracts since the beginning of August being products of the county's Academy.

Wilson is working closely with the new promising intake of 15 Academy players who reported for their winter duties at Malvern College at the start of November.

But Wilson's focus is also on developing the age groups below that level so that they will be ready to replace the current Academy group when, if all goes to plan, they are ready to progress into the senior squad.

He has been working for the past 18 months with Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes, assistant coach Matt Mason, second eleven coach Kevin Sharp, coach Gavin Haynes and D'Oliveira in ensuring a "pathway" is in place from the ages of six to 19 to ensure Worcestershire spot, attract and recruit the best young cricketing talent.

Wilson and the other coaches are working closely with independent schools such as Malvern College, Royal Grammar, Shrewsbury, Bromsgrove and King's who support and enable players to develop via their scholarship schemes.

But there is also a continuing strong link with the Worcestershire Cricket Board who are responsible for the recreational side of the game with youngsters but also have the ability tp spot the player who may have the potential to make progress.

Wilson said: "As we all know, the great man (Damian D'Oliveira) who looked after the Academy for the last 15 years has passed away.

"He knew the job back to front and he knew it ever so well and it can't just be a case of luck that we've got so many good players on the Academy at the moment but also so many players in the first team squad from the Academy.

"We've got a large group on the Academy, 14 last year, and similar numbers this year. too much. Most Academys don't have that many so we have an abundance of riches at the moment and that can only be credit to Damian and the staff that supported him."

Five of the intake have been selected for the Under-17 'super fours' regional side which is part of the ongoing selection process for the England Development Programme (EDP) run from Under-16s to Under-19s.

The successful quintet are Freddie Wynn, Ollie Westbury, Ben Twohig, Nick Hammond and Josh Dell.

Westbury's performances in the 'super fours' – held at the Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough – led to him being selected in the England Development Programme Invitational X1.

That consists of players that currently are not part of the EDP and Westbury, who goes to Shrewsbury School and plays for Himley, was chosen to play against England Under-19s and Pakistan Under-17s.

In addition another Academy intake member Josh Haynes was selected to captain the Bunbury Midlands side.

Wilson said: "It means there are six players there from the Academy involved in regional cricket at 15s and 17s which was a tribute to the hard work they, the coaches and the support staff have put in."

Leg spinner Twohig has already appeared for the Second Eleven and Wilson said: "He has had an outstanding summer (in second team cricket). He's not looked out of his depth and done himself proud."

But now comes the challenge of finding the next group of potential Academy players – and the signs are encouraging given the infrastructure that has carefully been put in place.

Wilson added: "We are blessed at the moment. As well as the talented players we have always produced within Worcester, the opportunity out there is in conjunction with your independent schools in terms of Shrewsbury School, Bromsgrove School, RGS and Kings School and Malvern College who do support players with scholarships and have brought extra players into the talent pool.

"It has given us a wealth of riches currently from 16-18 years of age. My challenge is to make sure, through an improved programme from 10 to 16 and through the continued suport of these schools, that the next batch of players are there in 18 months-two years time.

"Hopefully that it is the time for the current Academy players to move into the first team and for these players currently in the age-group cricket below to move into the Academy programme.

"It is a conveyor belt and I've been asked to be responsible for the Academy programme. I've spent the last 18 months, in conjunction with Steve, Matt, Kevin, Damian and Gavin putting in a pathway from six years of age through to 19.

"It is a real extensive programme so that we can shape and have a real control of what goes on underneath us in terms of young cricketing talent."

Wilson recognises the importance of the Worcestershire Cricket Board and not just in terms of helping to discover possible first team talent of the future.

He said: "Obviously we have the Cricket Club, which is the professional side of things, and the Cricket Board, which is the recreational side of things, and they are two separate organisations and it is quite challenging because they have their own aspirations and their own plans.

"To fit those two together is always a challenge and my role jumping from one to the other has allowed us to shape what goes on beneath us to fit the needs of the county cricket club but also to fit the needs of Worcestershire cricket on a wider scale as well.

"It's about keeping guys involved in cricket, not just representative cricket, not just county cricket. They have a fantastic experience which encourages them to stay engaged in the game of cricket.

"We do spend a lot of time and energy and money in age group cricket and that can't just be in the interest of the one player who might become a professional cricketer. We've got all those kids we want to keep involved in cricket – umpires, coaches, scorers, pressmen, all sorts of roles. That is boys and the girls."