Worcestershire CCC’s Academy players are reaping the benefits of the County’s stronger ties with Shropshire and Herefordshire.
Several of Worcestershire’s most promising youngsters were able to play National Counties (formerly Minor Counties) cricket this summer.
It provided a strong standard for them in which to learn their skills and also filled the gap admirably given the fact there was no official Second Eleven programme due to the impact of COVID-19.
As a result, they were able to play a lot of cricket in the 11 weeks available once the game resumed.
Academy Coach Elliot Wilson on behalf of Worcestershire CCC has been working on growing the existing relationships with the two counties.
There is also a positive link formed by David Banks, the Academy’s lead Under-18 coach, being part of the senior Herefordshire coaching set-up.
Wilson said: “It has been a really busy 11 weeks for lots of reasons but satisfying in terms of the amount of cricket we ended up seeing all of our age group squads playing from Under-10s through to under-18s in both the boys’ and girls’ environment.
“We were fortunate in that we had time to organise a programme for the summer holidays where all of the squads had some form of activity, whether it was inter-squad games or county versus county games.
“The Academy had some extra contact time with more games and more sessions, and it was good to see those guys be involved in cricket.
“Having had a productive winter with them and with the trip to India, we were excited to see how they would go this summer.
“We were so well supported by Herefordshire and Shropshire in terms of our players – current and ex Academy players – involved in their first and second team games. We managed to get a lot of cricket into a short period.
“Ben Parker, Harry Cooke, Ben Lees, Xavie Clarke and Pete Clark played for Shropshire, and Henry Cullen, Zain Ul-Hassan and Nick Hammond played for Herefordshire. It’s ‘men’s’ cricket, with some old professionals.
“It’s been terrific to see the work that has gone on in growing the relationships with Shropshire and Herefordshire which has, in turn, benefitted the players.
“We can’t provide all the cricket they need, and between their clubs, National Counties Cricket and the Academy programme, the players haven’t been short of cricket.”
Wilson added: “We are doing more and more each year to support young cricketers in both the Herefordshire and Shropshire pathway and the reason for doing that is for the Academy players to benefit from National Counties Cricket.
“If they are not playing in our Second Eleven, they are playing in our Under-18s but playing National Counties Cricket is excellent because it will ask more questions of them.
“The more cricket we can see Henry Cullen (wicket-keeper-batsman) playing next year for Herefordshire when he is not playing in our second team, the better, especially for a cricketer we think highly of.
“We’ve been working on relationships with both counties over the last two years, but the benefits of that work is more opportunities.
“David Banks is now a member of the Herefordshire coaching team for the National Counties team, so that provides a good link between our Under-18s, where he is lead coach, and Herefordshire’s first eleven.
“Several Shropshire and Herefordshire players are involved in our Academy-County Age Group Programme and a similar situation with the girls’ squads.
“The benefits are massive to all parties. The National Counties pathway players are getting support, and we can access more opportunities for players to have an involvement in top-end cricket which is brilliant.”