By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
DEVON’S youth cricket department has created a bespoke programme of practice matches and games to make what remains of the season worthwhile.
National county-age group cricket was among the Covid-19 casualties as all ECB tournaments were scrapped months ago.
But age-group cricket in and outside county boundaries has been salvaged thanks to the co-operation of clubs and hard work in the youth departments in nearby counties.
Sandy Allen, the player pathway manager for the Devon Cricket Board, said nine county age group sides – six boys, three girls – now had fixtures and development opportunities for the rest of the season.
“The under-12s will have three internal games, either T20 or 40-overs we don’t know yet, to prepare for a county game away to Cornwall.
“We will invite players to the internal games at Cornwood (Aug 2), Braunton (Aug 9) and Seaton (Aug 16) then finalise a squad to play Cornwall on August 30.
“This way the lads get plenty of opportunities to play among themselves and widen the pool of players involved from a dozen of so to around 30.
“At this age group the aim is to make players better. Playing among themselves with less pressure is going to be better than playing external games and struggling as a team.
“It is a long way back from away games when you have only scored a few runs and lost. We don’t think that is good for young players.”
Allen said all three girls’ squads – 13s, 15s and 17s – are working to a similar schedule.
“What the girls are doing is forming pods at each age group with Somerset and Wales with the intention of playing each other home and away,” said Allen.
“That’s four games for each team, which again allows plenty of opportunities for players to show what they can do.”
Allen said the programme for the boys’ teams from under-13 upwards was largely the same at every age group.
“Four fixtures have been arranged against Dorset, Cornwall, Gloucestershire and Somerset, and most of them are at home,” said Allen.
“The under-13s will play in whites with a red ball and the rest will be in coloured kit.“.
“Because there are no ECB points on any of these games, it means players don’t have an pressure on them.”
Allen said the County Age Groups task had been made easier by the generosity of clubs making grounds available for matches.
“We had to cancel bookings in May, June and July and re-book in August, when there isn’t that much county age-group cricket on club grounds, just festivals at schools,” said Allen.
“The clubs have been fantastic – no one has turned us down – which is amazing when you expect their priority would be their own players.”