Elite Cricket Development Manager Paul Greetham is confident that Warwickshire will fulfil their objective to have at least half the professional squad made up of home-grown players by 2020.
That objective, which is enshrined in the Academy’s Strategic Performance Plan, has been brought into sharp focus by the Bears’ disappointing start to the Specsavers County Championship season.
There are no short cuts. We can’t pitch players into the first team just because they are from our Academy. They have to be good enough and possess the mental strength to meet expectations at a county at which expectations are higher than many.Paul Greetham
After the defeat to Yorkshire this week, Sport Director Ashley Giles outlined his view that the Bears’ first-team squad is heading for a period of transformation – and that home-grown players must be a big part of that.
There are encouraging recent signs with Academy graduates Mark Adair, Matt Lamb, George Panayi, Liam Banks all awarded professional contracts, with Lamb and 20-year-old spinner Sunny Singh having made their first-class debuts in the last year.
And the club’s commitment to, and investment in, producing its own talent has never been greater, says Greetham – as the Academy embraces the challenge of producing first-team players at a club where expectations are high.
“This club has always taken its Academy seriously,” Greetham said, “but I sense a sharper than ever focus on it in the last 18 months, since it is had taken the Player Pathway fully under its wing and really invested in it.
“For that greater investment the club wants a return, of course – and we will provide it. I am confident that we have talent coming through our pathway and also the means of identifying talent from outside the county, perhaps late developers, to bring in so that we will meet the objective in 2020.
“But there are no short cuts. We can’t pitch players into the first team just because they are from our Academy. They have to be good enough and possess the mental strength to meet expectations at a county at which expectations are higher than many.
“One might say it is a different environment at Edgbaston to many counties. Our young players have to deal with that extra pressure and increased competition – and if they do they are well-placed for a good career and hopefully to go on to play international cricket as Ian Bell and Chris Woakes have done.
In a new initiative this year a Warwickshire Academy XI played in the Graham Williamson Trophy last weekend and, although beaten by Kidderminster, acquitted themselves well.
“It was a really positive day,” Greetham said. “The lads made 215 for eight with George Sellers scoring 57 and Harry Johnson 47 but then came up against two experienced former county players in Matt Pardoe (88) and Neil Pinner (72).
“Even then the lads hit back hard and, though they lost by four wickets, got some great experience from the day. It is great that the lads will play regularly for Birmingham League clubs this season and we really value our partnership with local clubs in developing the best young talent in the county.”