Can franchise cricket keep teens in the game for longer?

For this episode of the Cricket Yorkshire Podcast, I went to Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club who were hosting the ZWINGO® Halifax Junior Cricket League U19 T20 Final.

Even if the Twenty20 concept is tried and tested professionally, this interpretation was new for Yorkshire club cricket.

Four squads – Northern Knights, Western Wolves, Eastern Eagles and Southern Spartans – faced off across a series of matches at Bradshaw, Lightcliffe, Clayton, Stones, Elland and Southowram.

What marks this venture out as distinctive is that the league have packaged this with attention to detail that closely mimicked the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Minus the whopping wage bills, cheerleaders and sponsoring parts of the game itself: “Wow! A stupendous Sowerby Bridge Sausage Shop Six!”

It’s a costly leap of faith to try to address a worrying drop in the number of junior teams; part of a wider trend nationally as cricketers get into their mid and late teens.

An IPL-style competition with players from across the clubs competing alongside each other in regional franchises has been something the league wanted to try for a few years.

Individuals or businesses can even buy a franchise – you don’t get to own a cricket team too often!

ZWINGO T20

This is a small-scale pilot but if the conundrum of funding can be solved (pink balls, teamwear and razzmatazz doesn’t come cheap) then I can see this going across Yorkshire and further afield.

The coaching company Cricket Asylum, based in the town, have tied into this by launching the TCA 100 Ball Smash for the U13s that use the same team franchises and should further build loyalty in the region.

I caught up with Phil Sharples and Kirstin Smith from the Halifax Junior Cricket League (see podcast clip below) to discuss the challenges and how the U19 T20 competition has grabbed the imagination.

The evening itself at Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club was a roaring success in every way from the flames that rocketed up as the umpires took to the field to the sound system that could be heard from other solar systems.

It was so heartening to see the new SBCC clubhouse open for business after all they’ve been through with the flooding.

T20 cricket in Yorkshire

There was a smoke machine to give outgoing batsmen a light fogging and Twinkle, the All Stars mascot (or perhaps a distant cousin) was there and embarrassing the players at every opportunity.

I’d say there was a fair attendance but I could see the enormous effort that had gone into this and wished there’d have been hundreds more.

By way of support, I ate my way round the venue beginning with a fine slab of Victoria sponge and moving swiftly to the sausages crackling away on the barbeque.

It had been rescheduled by a week due to rain and clashed with a Yorkshire Vikings game though whatever the date, it’s hard to keep everyone’s attention with commitments in life we all have.

There is such enterprise and endeavour in the Calderdale region with junior cricket to keep it relevant and exciting.

No idea what they put in the tea but everyone seems to be fizzing with ideas. Time will tell what the impact to this has been but credit goes to Phil, Kirstin and others for trying something.

Halifax Junior cricket

Listen to Phil and Kirstin on the ZWINGO® HJCL U19 T20 (23 mins):

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