Amid the breathless evolution at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, the news that they are to hold county-wide trials caught my eye recently.
The partnership with Lahore Qalandars from the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will see open cricket trials for over 18s across Yorkshire resulting in a Finals day. The two best male and female cricketers will ultimately win scholarships at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and be able to train at Lahore Qalanders.
I think it’s a good idea. Some will dismiss it as a gimmick but it’s just one avenue to allow cricketers a route to catch the eye other than age-group trials.
Just so long as it’s a small part of a significant effort to make cricket as inclusive as possible.
Longstanding issues around the cost to play the game, complaints around selection and the way talent is identified and nurtured will all be under the microscope.
As for these trials? Sure, there’s a bit of Pop Idol or The Voice about it with interim Managing Director Darren Gough set to cast his eye over proceedings, (hopefully no spinning chairs or buzzers) but it’s a moment in the spotlight for anyone who goes.
The obvious comparison is with Pakistan fast bowler Haris Rauf who was just a boy when he attended a Lahore Qalanders open trial. Rauf caught the eye when he clocked 92.3mph on the speed gun.
You imagine Darren Gough would be delighted if he discovers a raw teen who can hurl it down at 90mph. The challenge for all counties is to what extent they’re interested in potential from less traditional quarters.
Typically, talented teens play for the Yorkshire age groups then Yorkshire Academy and finally break into the 1st XI. Harry Brook, who made his England T20 debut in the West Indies, is the perfect example.
Of course, he wasn’t from inner-city Bradford or schooled at the local comprehensive.
These new county-wide trials are intended as a way for Asian communities to connect with the county set-up and players to get noticed. You could argue it shouldn’t be needed but we are where we are.
It made me think of the potential of tape-ball, given Rauf hadn’t played any club cricket but was an adept tape-ball specialist in Pakistan.
I’ve only watched the format once in Yorkshire at a Keighley day-night tournament but it attracted hundreds and many won’t have been with any clubs.
There was plenty of pace, mammoth sixes and talent on show as the sun set.
Talent identification comes in many forms and there have been successes in recent years; the ECB City Cup seemed an obvious one. I watched Bradford go all the way to the 2018 title with teams representing Leeds and Sheffield too.
The ECB City Cup (has it been ditched?) shares the same ethos as these future county open trials around Yorkshire: to offer a chance to those missed by the system or blocked by the system.
Counting the cost
Speaking of obstacles, you might be able to bowl 100mph as a teen but if you can’t afford the travel, equipment and coaching to represent the White Rose then it’s irrelevant.
It took England to be annihilated in Australia to spark debates around talent coming through and the prohibitive expense of age-group cricket.
While that is a very legitimate concern and may yet spur Yorkshire into action, as George Dobell reported for The Cricketer, cricket needs to be accessible to all and is still a million miles from that.
Sure, we can talk about the void of cricket in state schools (read my feature for what’s happening in Yorkshire) or the cost of equipment or the absence of enough facilities…all true to an extent.
There’s no single, satisfying solution but change is definitely coming in Yorkshire. Those who deliver it will be judged on the speed and impact in time.
In the meantime, there are important development projects mapped out, if you look out for them. I’ll be covering some of them here on Cricket Yorkshire.
In Yorkshire, keep an eye out on projects involving Chance to Shine, MCC Foundation, YCCC Charitable Youth Trust, Yorkshire Cricket Foundation and the Yorkshire Cricket Board.
So, if Yorkshire County Cricket Club discover the next Haris Rauf then that’ll be something but making cricket more inclusive for everyone is a longer road.
What do you think? What changes are most important in future? Leave a comment below…
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