Worcestershire CCC’s promising left-arm spinner, Josh Baker, has become the third player this summer to sign a rookie professional contract for the County.
Baker, a 2020-2021 Worcestershire Academy intake, has put pen to paper on a contract until the end of the 2022 season.
He has just completed five years at Malvern College and will now focus entirely on cricket with Worcestershire during his ‘gap’ year before continuing his education at Leeds University.
Redditch born Baker, who has been part of the Worcestershire pathway since first playing for the Under-19s, has made a favourable impression in the Seconds this summer.
He topped the averages and finished as their leading wicket-taker in the SET20 with ten wickets in six games at 14.10 apiece, including 3-7 in four overs against Northamptonshire at Barnt Green.
On Tuesday, he became the first Worcestershire Seconds player to take a hat-trick in a Second Eleven Championship match for 19 years against Nottinghamshire Seconds.
Baker follows paceman Mitchell Stanley and all-rounder Jacques Banton in signing rookie contracts during the past few weeks.
Head Coach Alex Gidman said: “Myself, Paul (Pridgeon) and Alan (Richardson), we felt it was the right time to offer Josh a rookie contract.
“He is just finishing school but, the way he has performed in the second team this year, he has shown a considerable amount of improvement and quality, very quickly.
“It is a no-brainer to get him on the staff on a rookie contract and get him around the professionals and in that environment and to try and keep his improvement heading in the right direction.
“He has performed really well and is a very exciting prospect.
“Kadeer (Ali) has been full of praise for him, and Elliot Wilson has done a very good job in the Academy of upskilling him mentally and technically to get him up to speed.
“A huge part of this cricket club is trying our best to bring on our own players, and to have another Worcestershire boy come through and join the ranks, albeit on a rookie contract, is really exciting for the club, and we are all looking forward to watching his development.”
Josh Baker is delighted to be joining the professional staff at New Road.
He said: “It was quite a shock when I got the phone call from Alex (Gidman). Absolutely over the moon to be given this opportunity.
“With not knowing what I was going to do next year, either a gap year to Australia or university, to be given that security with the contract is brilliant and gives me a lot of confidence in my cricket with people believing in me.
“I first played for Worcestershire at Under-9s, playing district cricket, then right through the county age groups and onto the sub academy and then the Academy this year.
“Elliot (Wilson) has been with me since I started with Worcestershire and has been a real influence.”
Baker found himself playing alongside one of his cricketing heroes when he made his Seconds debut against Warwickshire Seconds at Barnt Green.
He said: “I hadn’t played a Second-team game until this year, and it’s moved quite quickly, and I’ve played quite a few games.
“It’s quite a step up, in terms of the intensity, from what I’ve been playing in the past, but I think I’ve adapted quite well.
“My first game for the Seconds, I was playing with Moeen Ali and Riki Wessels, people I’ve seen playing on TV and then I was stood in the same dressing room with them.
“They were excellent, really, really good. Moeen came and talked to me about bowling and different plans when bowling, which was really, really good.
“I’ve seen him playing for England, and then I’m in the same dressing room. It was incredible. You can learn so much from him about field settings, general knowledge about the game.
“He was one of my heroes. I’ve always looked up to him.”
Baker follows a long line of Malvern College pupils who have gone onto play for Worcestershire, including Alex Milton and Jack Haynes amongst the current playing staff.
He said: “I played with Jack Haynes for two years in the first team (at college). We are excellent friends.
“Jack gives a lot of inspiration, going from Under-19s and breaking into the first team and doing well.”