CONRAD SUTCLIFFE REPORTING
DEVON County Cricket Club chairman Neil Gamble has responded to criticism of the county’s selection policies following a string of adverse comments on social media about recent teams.
Match-day squads are usually between 12-13 strong with final selection made before games start.
Cricket enthusiasts in Devon – club captains, players and spectators –have been grumbling about the number players in county teams whose first-claim club is outside the county boundaries.
Gamble said Devon are strictly limited by the ECB in how many players than can select who are not ‘home grown’ and the majority of squads comprise cricketers with strong Devon connections.
Players such as Matt Thompson (Congresbury), Ed Middleton, Jamie Stephens (both (Taunton Deane), Dan Goodey (Bashley) and Kazi Szymanski (Swansea) may live outside Devon now, but all grew up with Devon League clubs and went through the county age-group programme.
Thompson (Torquay), Middleton (Clyst St George and Exeter), Stephens (Tavistock), Goodey (Plymouth) and Szymanski (Chelston and Torquay) are all Devonians through and through.
Historically, Devon ex-pats such as Nick Gaywood, Doug Yeabsley, Gareth Townsend, James Burke Andy Proctor and Bob Dawson travelled back from outside the county to play in the past.
Devon have to stick to the ECB rules as a condition of funding which, said Gamble, makes selection less than straightforward.
“It is clearly not realised widely that strict eligibility criteria apply for individuals to be chosen by any National County to play NCCA cricket,” said Gamble.
“You have to be British-born or possess British citizenship with at least three years’ of continuous residence up to the present.
“Further, eight out of 11 players in any Devon team playing in an NCCA competition must have ‘home’ eligibility.”
To be eligible players must match at least one of the following conditions:
[O] Devon schooling in the 13-18 age range
[O] Having played for a Devon youth side
[O] Playing in the Devon Cricket League.
[O] The average age of these eight players must be 25 or under
[O] The three additional players do not need to meet the same eligibility, but must meet the criteria to play for England.
Said Gamble: “Selection may also be based on a strong commitment to represent the county, regular availability, and performance in the Devon Cricket League, preferably in the Premier Division.
“The selection process is in no way closed and those who meet some or all of the above criteria will be considered to play for Devon.”
Devon CCC is not a league representative side but a club in its own right with members, budgets and competition commitments.
Devon runs winter coaching programmes for up-and-coming players – former Somerset star Keith Parsons was one of the coaches during the last one – and fields the Lions development team to give talented players exposure to tougher cricket.
A problem that has faced team managers for some time is that Saturday afternoon cricket in the Devon Cricket League is not ideal preparation for three-day National Counties matches.
A 50-over game has a totally different character to a two-innings match where the first innings last 90 overs and there is a requirement to bowl-out the other side at least once to win the match.
Batsman have to occupy the crease longer and bowlers have to work-out ways to dismiss batsmen.
Gamble would like to see the Tolchards Devon League adopt a format used in other Premier Leagues where fixtures are a mixture of limited overs and time games that can end in draws.
As it is less than10 years since league clubs overwhelmingly scrapped draw cricket in favour of win-lose cricket, there is little or no prospect of that happening.