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Development squads, bringing on the youngsters - does it work?

11:56 23 August 2014

The 2014 season is drawing to a close (pic: Graham Hodges)

The 2014 season is drawing to a close (pic: Graham Hodges)

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Latest blog from Oakfield Parkonians’ Andrew Beaven

Last Saturday, in the unscheduled hiatus in our League programme, the club fielded a mixed XI against a “development team” from near neighbours Ilford Catholics.

We had an enjoyable game (we enjoyed the day, and the result; hopefully, Catholics enjoyed the opportunity to play on the 1st XI square at Oakfield, and the running commentary from Bal...).

Most of the batsmen had the chance to bat, and the bowlers to bowl, and those who wanted to got to chase the ball around the outfield.

Football on the big screen in the clubhouse, afterwards (why not the Test match highlights?), and I think it was agreed that we had as good a day of gentle cricket as we could have hoped for.

But the experience set me wondering about what really constitutes a “development” squad, especially in the light of this tweet:

#Youth and Experience in the 4s...- 6 players 45+, the rest 16 or younger...who’s doing the running on Saturday? - @OakfieldParksCC

Taking a simplistic view, this might indeed constitute a development team. Experience (lots of it) from the seniors, energy from the youngsters.

Three of the juniors should bat in the top six (on merit), and the other two should certainly bowl, alongsidethree of the seniors players.

But this is a League match, against a promotion rival. Winning is important (but not all-important), and the senior batters will have to provide the backbone to the innings.

Similarly with the bowling - it will be one of the 45+ brigade who gets to bowl most overs (this partly because of the very sensible ECB guidelines on young players in open-age cricket).

And the enthusiasm of the youngsters in the field will be essential, if we are to have a hope of bowling the opposition out.

So - a development opportunity, or exploitation of young legs and older heads?

Actually, I think it’s a bit of both, and a good thing for being so.

Exposing young players to competitive (League) cricket is the only way to get them enthused. Friendly games are too often meaningless, or taken as opportunities to “give people a chance” at something they would not normally do.

Why give your opening batsman or your regular wicketkeeper a bowl, when they are unlikely to bowl again until you play another friendly? Or bat you opening bowler up the order, and see him thrash a few boundaries?

And, in the example above, the skipper will be utilising the respective skills of young and old(er) where they are most appropriate.

No point asking the 52 year-old to patrol the covers (hint), or the 14 year-old to front up to the new ball.

Let the youngsters learn from playing with the experienced players. And the older players can re-engage with the enthusiasm that got them into the game in the first place.

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