Thursday, 7 April 2011

Give youth its chance....but please let them at least be good enough!

As a Gloucestershire fan I feel as though I am teetering on the edge of the abyss, desperately clawing at air to prevent myself from falling into what will surely be a never ending descent into the black hole that is minor county cricket! Crippling financial pressure has seen us dispense with the services of several county grinders (Anthony Ireland, Will Porterfield) and great nearly men (Steve ‘Tango’ Kirby) amongst others. Looking at our squad for the forthcoming season is a bit like digging out your 6th form yearbook to realise that someone has given you the yearbook from the year below that contains a series of names you have vaguely heard of before, those you haven’t the foggiest about, and the odd face you do recognised from those people who had to stay behind and resit.

But should this be all doom and gloom. There can be barely an English cricket fan who hasn’t bemoaned the over population of county journeymen who clog up the  county rosters and prevent youth from being given a chance. As someone who watched Kadeer Ali open the batting for far too many seasons  I certainly have. I would much rather watch some kid make mistake after mistake at the top of the order rather than Jon Batty. There wouldn’t be much difference in output.

So is it hoorah for financial difficulties ushering in a new era of Gloucestershire as pioneers of a youthful, vibrant way of running county teams? Well, possibly. The problem is that no one has a clue who these kids are, or at least those people who don’t attend 2nd XI and academy team fixtures don’t have a clue (and those that do attend these matches, my hat is tipped to you) Are these kids actually considered good enough for first class cricket, or have they merely been fast tracked to provide an economical plug to the holes in the squad? I am more than happy for youth to be given its head but my greatest fear is that this policy has been adopted purely based on economics and not based on the actual skill base of these kids from the academy.

The case of Chris Dent from last season showcases all my concerns. The fact that he was thrown in last season I presume indicates that he was considered the cream of the crop. He ended his first season with an average of 25 with no hundreds and only 4 fifties. Admittedly he was batting in a team that failed to produce a 1,000 run season from anyone. Granted he was also a couple of better decisions away from scoring a couple of hundreds and probably going on to average in the mid 30’s. But compare him to James Taylor who at the same age finished his first season averaging 65 and cemented this in his second season. If Chris were the cream of an exceptionally rich crop then you would have hoped he would have made a little bit more of an impact last year.

Scratching around trying to find information from preseason is almost an impossible task. The recently completed friendly against Somerset has hardly been reassuring. Bowled out for 144 in the first innings and struggling to take wickets. Not the most encouraging signs.

But Kane Williamson seems like a good signing. Young, hungry, genuinely talented. Presumably his problems with his visa have been a result of him stating his new job as a ‘Gloucestershire batsman’ and the home office had no record of this being a real job!

Ian Saxelby had shown promise a couple of years ago. David Payne seemed to have a bit about him last year. If the Sperm Donor (Jon Lewis) can eek out one more 50 wickets plus season. If O’Mish can score the runs he did when he first joined the club. If, if, if.

But as Jon Lewis has commented, now is the time to get behind the boys. Let’s save the moaning at least until we get to Cheltenham. At least by that point we might have a bit more of an idea of who half these kids are! And in the meantime, let’s enjoy the ride. If we Gloucestershire fans were really interested in the glory then we’d all be watching the IPL on Friday instead of some obscure webcam highlights of our beloved Shire crumbling again! The Daily Telegraph have stated that if Gloucestershire were a celebrity we would be Silvio Berlusconi, “A charming old stager who seems to have been around for ages, but could be in trouble quite soon if their gamble of investing heavily in youth backfires.” If we really are on the edge of the abyss, at least Silvio has the right idea.

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