Elite cricket development manager Paul Greetham has described as “pleasing” the string of national and regional call-ups for Warwickshire players at various levels this year.
Greetham and sport director Ashley Giles have attached the highest priority to recruiting the best talent at Edgbaston – both from within the county patch and from outside.
The strategy is yielding rewards. At last week’s Under 17s Super-Fours tournament at Loughborough, the Midlands squad included five Bears – Ethan Brookes, Jacques Banton, Robert Yates, Ben Griffin and George Garrett (reserve).
That followed the selection of five Bears – David Burnell, Ben Langdell, Jack Holloway, Awais Mohammed and Arthur Garrett (reserve) – in the Midlands squad for the Midlands Bunbury Under 15s squad.
It is vital that we have these lads coming through from a young age, but just as important that we keep our eyes and ears open about talented young cricketers beyond the county.Paul Greetham
Further up the pathway, Henry Brookes, George Panayi and Liam Banks played for England Under 19s for India this summer in Test and ODI cricket. Brookes signed his first professional contract in June while other academy players Harry Johnson, Ben Griffin, Mohammed Ahmed and Robert Yates have played for the Bears 2nd XI, the latter scoring his maiden 2nd XI hundred vs Nottinghamshire in only his second match. Warwickshire U19 players Nick Hammond, Khayam Khan, and Calvin Harrison have also represented the 2nd XI in 2017.
Everything is, of course, geared towards producing players for Warwickshire’s first team and for England. So it has been gratifying for the Bears to see Chris Woakes remain at the heart of England’s planning in all formats while his successors from the Edgbaston academy, Aaron Thomason, Matt Lamb, George Panayi and Sunny Singh, have played for the Bears senior team and acquitted themselves well.
Plenty of progress has been made – though Greetham is determined that the club’s focus on recruitment, and determination to be a magnet for the best young talent, will be sustained.
“It is pleasing that we are getting recognitions at all levels,” he said. “And we have some impressive talent coming through our younger age groups so it is looking hopeful for seasons to come.
“It is vital that we have these lads coming through from a young age, but just as important that we keep our eyes and ears open about talented young cricketers beyond the county. Our scouting network around the universities and clubs is becoming a lot more effective.
“Ashley and I receive many calls and emails about players so we have to evaluate each one and make a decision as to how best to monitor or involve them. Of course we can’t pursue every one but it is great that people contact us and I think that’s because we now have that recognition, as a club, and trust from our scouts and wider cricketing network.
People know that players who come into our pathway and squads will prepare well and be treated well.
“Another huge factor is that so many of our young players are playing good league cricket with adults on a Saturday. A lot are playing in the Birmingham League and local feeder leagues and we encourage lads, even down to Under 12s and 13s, to play third or fourth-team cricket at their clubs because it is such a great environment, not just for developing their cricket but in terms of maturing as people.
“All our lads in the Midlands team at Loughborough last week made an impact at some stage and I think it all shows that the way we have tweaked our various programmes is starting to pay off. The lads play more across all the formats now. We have adapted our fixture programmes to try to get their T20 cricket to another level, as well as offer earlier exposure to two and three day cricket.”
A lot are playing in the Birmingham League and local feeder leagues and we encourage lads, even down to Under 12s and 13s, to play third or fourth-team cricket at their clubs because it is such a great environment, not just for developing their cricket but in terms of maturing as people.Paul Greetham
Among those to have emerged into the first-team this year is Ed Pollock. The 22-year-old former Shrewsbury School pupil has batted superbly at the top of the order in T20 but also remained highly-focused on his batting against the red ball.
“He has gone into the first team in T20 and played brilliantly,” said Greetham. “That attacking style has always been a big part of Ed’s game, but he has worked very hard in recent summers on his red-ball cricket also.”
Pollock’s future could be very bright indeed – and he is a classic example of the talent that exists around university, minor county and club cricket, all areas on which Warwickshire are keeping an ever-closer eye.
“Ed is a great example,” Greetham said. “He played for Durham MCCU and Herefordshire. Alex Thomson, who scored a century for the 2nds last week, played for Cardiff MCCU and Staffordshire. Ryan Sidebottom and Grant Thornton are examples of players who just ‘banged the door down’ in club cricket week after week. We need to have eyes and ears everywhere.”