County step up investment in talent-spotting
THE Gloucestershire Cricket Board have extended their age-group programmes in a bid to unearth more potential professional stars.
The county will this summer be running an under-ten squad for the first time, supported by district squads in all four administrative areas – Bristol, Stroud & South Glos, Gloucester & Forest of Dean and Cheltenham & Cotswold.
The GCB are also backing a much more extensive fixture list for the under-16s to bridge what had previously been a large gap to the under-17 set-up. Girls' cricket is another big focal point for the GCB with a new under-11 squad finding its feet, while an under-13 development programme is also in place.
The hope is that this increased investment will pay off with outstanding youngsters being spotted at an even earlier age and given the best possible chance and support to follow in the footsteps of Gloucestershire professionals such as Chris Dent, David Payne and Jack Taylor, who all came up through the ranks.
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Steve Silk, the GCB's cricket development manager, said: "If you look at the Gloucestershire squad you can see a large number of lads who have come through the age groups and our Academy. It proves that people will be given their chance.
"Getting under-tens off the ground is a direct result of the success of the under-nine festivals we ran throughout the county last year."
Some 500 youngsters at all county age groups, male and female, went through winter performance programmes. This summer, the GCB will be organising, for boys alone, a total of 108 days of representative cricket.
Silk added: "Half of those games are at home, and we have to say a massive thank you to all the clubs who host those matches without charging us. If we had to pay, we simply would not be able to do what we do. We would love to find a sponsor for our programme."
The GCB have transformed age-group cricket since 2009 when Silk came on board. "Back then we ran under-11s through to under-17s – with no under-16s – and each team had only seven or eight fixtures.
"Now, each squad has 16 or 17 games, and each either tours or attends a festival. Last year, we won more than 50 per cent of all our games at the various age groups.
"This season our under-15s will be playing Somerset at the County Ground on July 11, and our senior women will also be here on July 14, against Ireland.
"That's the first time this has happened, and it underlines the support we receive from the county club and how community-minded they are."