Warwickshire's Emerging Player Pathway and Academy are back up and running with a vengeance thanks to an "unbelievable collective effort" from the cricket community across the region.
The Bears’ youth system was halted by lockdown on March 18 but resumed very swiftly after recreational cricket was again permitted. Boys and girls from Under 10s level all the way through to the Academy are now back training and playing matches, eager to make up for lost time.
Much of the activity is based at the Edgbaston Community Sports Ground at Portland Road, Birmingham, while clubs across the region have lent a hand by putting their facilities at the Bears’ disposal and hosting games.
The response of the whole cricket community, pulling together to get youngsters again playing the sport they love, has been heartwarming, says Warwickshire high performance manager Paul Greetham.
“It’s been an unbelievable collective effort from so many people, both at the club and beyond. Claire Daniel and Gary Barwell at Edgbaston have been brilliant and Jonathan Blakeman and his team have got Portland Road in great shape.Paul Greetham
“I can’t thank them enough and we are also so grateful to all the clubs around the region that have helped us out.
“It’s been really uplifting to have all that support and is just wonderful to see all the boys and girls throughout the age-groups back training and playing. There were times during lockdown when I didn’t think we would get any cricket this year so to hopefully get two months is amazing.”
During lockdown, youngsters on the player pathway were kept connected to the club by a series of webinars in which they heard from the likes of Marie Kelly, Jeetan Patel and Chris Woakes. Players were also invited to enter a series of cricketing challenges from ‘diving catches’ to ‘360 batting.’
Now training has resumed in earnest and matches have also taken place with plenty more to come in the coming weeks. Warwickshire will face Staffordshire boys and girls at every age group and matches are also scheduled against Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire.
“The Edgbaston Community Sports Ground is in superb shape,” said Greetham. “It would have hosted first-team cricket this year, of course, and it looks ready for it. It is a great place for boys and girls to develop as cricketers.
“It’s been lovely to have matches there and, as spectators can attend recreational cricket, great to have families there too, all spread out round the ground, of course. It is quite surreal, in some ways, with all the guidance to obey, but the youngsters have been superb and acted very responsibly.”