By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
SANDFORD and Devon cricketer Adam Small has put university studies on hold for now to concentrate on a different kind of learning out in South Africa – and it seems to be paying off!
In his last two games in Cape Town for Claremont CC Small has made a century then 96 batting first wicket down against Bishops School.
Small, who left Taunton School last summer with the equivalent of three A-levels, is currently a scholar at the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy in Cape Town.
For five days of the week Small works on his batting and wicket-keeping at the academy with Kirsten, a former South African Test player and Gareth von Hoesslin, an ex-keeper-batter who played professionally for Border and Northerns.
Ryan Cook, who has worked with Bangladesh, South Africa A and South Africa under-19s, is the head coach at the academy.
The Academy plays matches during the week while at weekends Small, 18, has been seconded to Premier League side Claremont.
Adrian Small, Adam’s father and a former Devon player (1994-2003), said his son is on a mission to learn as much about the game as he can.
“The academy coaches work them hard and at Claremont there are some top-quality players to learn from,” said Small.
“Harry Came (Derbyshire) and Greg Willows (England under-19s) are playing at Claremont this season, as is Daniel Smith, who is a South African under-19 player just breaking into the Western Province side.
“All in all it is a tremendous environment to learn in, even if it is a tough one.”
Adrian said when he was a little older than Adam he spent a UK winter in Australia and reaped the benefits back in Devon. He hopes his son will do the same.
“I went out to Western Australia to play for Perth,” said Adrian. “Although I did not have a great season I found the training to be superb and it made me a more determined character.
“Adam has decided to pause university for a gap year to see how much he can improve as a cricketer and where it takes him?”
Adrian Small’s ‘determination’ made him only the second batsman in Devon League history to score more than 1,000 runs in a league season. His 1,025 runs at an average of 68.33 helped Exmouth win the Premier Division in 1995. Barton’s Andy Pugh did it first.
Small senior said South Africa is awash with UK cricketers at the moment as Australia, the traditional destination for young players looking to improve, is largely closed to cricket scholars.
“South Africa is an affordable option, but with so many British players there the competition for places in teams is fierce,” said dad.
“The registration rules limit who can play where so Adam had to start in the third team, although he has moved up to the seconds now as there was a vacancy.
“The 96 against Bishops School was for the first team in a warm-up game before league cricket resumes this weekend.”
Adam Small flew out to South Africa in early October. He is due back in April in time for Devon’s pre-season programme.