By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
JACK Ford was unable to collect his young player of the year award at the Tolchards Devon Cricket League annual meeting in Exeter as he was nearly 11,000 miles away in Australia.
Ford has graduated to men’s cricket through the colts’ section at Bideford and is currently working on his game at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide.
So the 18-year-old all-rounder had to send his apologies as, while the awards were being handed out, he was getting ready to play a Grade game for Glenelg in the South Australia Cricket Association competition.
Ford made his 1stXI debut for Bideford in 2015 and, after shuttling between the 1stand 2ndXIs for a couple of seasons, became a regular in 2018.
The young player of the year award, named after forrmer league chairman Bob Bridges, is open to players aged under-19 and Ford’s league performances with bat and ball got him on the shortlist. Thirty-nine league wickets at 12.54 each, and a batting average in the 20s, put Ford at the top of the list.
Previous winners of the award include the Overton twins from North Devon CC, Somerset stars Lewis Gregory, Ben Green and Tom Lammonby and Braunton’s Mark Lathwell. All six have won England caps at some level.
Ford won’t be playing for B Division Bideford next season as he is having a tilt at Premier cricket at Sandford. However, he is quick to acknowledge the debt he owes to his former club, where dad James is the vice-captain.
“A lot of credit goes to Bideford as I have gone through their youth system from roughly aged eight, and winning this award seems a good and nice way to finish my time there,” said Ford.
“It’s great to have been recognised by the Devon Cricket League and I am extremely happy and proud to have joined a strong list of players who have won this award.
“Looking at the previous winners’ careers, I can only be positive about the future and use this to help me.”
Ford is spending a UK winter at Lehmann’s academy working on his game together with fellow Devonians Joe Du’gay, Elliot Hamilton and Ben Privett. All four are working with specialist coaches during the week and turning out for local Grade teams at weekends.
Ford said the first thing he noticed is how seriously the Aussies take their league cricket.
“Alex Carey (Australia and Adelaide) is one of three pros at Glenelg and to watch and train at the same time as pros is a huge advantage to anyone,” said Ford
“The level of cricket is much higher than at home, but the main difference is how much harder they train and practice, twice a week. I am thoroughly enjoying and embracing it.”
Ford made his Glenelg debut in a Fourth Grade game, but stepped up a level for his second game.
“I am hoping to continue upwards,” said Ford.
There are academy games against club sides during the week and Ford has done well in short-form cricket.
“I played a Twenty20 academy game against a club side last week, opened the bowling and took 3-5 off four overs and got out two ex-pros,” said Ford.
“One was Joshua Hoffman, who has played for South Africa and been 12thman for the Aussies.”
Ford is getting some tips from the very top of the game as his batting coach is Greg Blewett (46 Tests and 32 ODIs for Australia) and Brad Young who spun out more than 200 batters in his career with Australia and South Australia.
“I am working hard on my batting with Greg Blewett, but mainly technical things related to bowling with Brad Young,” said Ford.
“Brad is really knowledgeable and I have learnt a huge amount already after being here for not that long.”