European hopefuls assemble at Loughborough
The international dreams of ICC’s European Academy squad are brighter than ever despite their match schedule being washed away by the summer floods that have swept through the Midlands.
The 13-strong squad, comprising talented young representatives from Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Netherlands, Germany, Guernsey and Denmark assembled at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough this week as part of the ICC’s European Development Programme - which exists to increase playing numbers and standards of cricket throughout the continent.
Their three-day match against Warwickshire U19, which would have given them their first taste of three-day cricket, had to be scrapped due to the persistent wet weather - but two one-day games against the Loughborough University Centre of Excellence XI are still due to go ahead.
This is the fifth year of the Academy programme, which was designed in two parts starting in April with a week at La Manga to focus on training skills; followed by an intense week at Loughborough of match practice, featuring the match against Warwickshire and two one-day games.
From this intensive schedule, it was hoped players would gain an insight into the preparation required for an international match programme and life as a professional cricketer which most of them aspire to.
"These lads are talented enough to play professional cricket but we do not want them to be lost to their national representative sides," said ICC European Development Manager Richard Holdsworth.
"We want them to go back and play for their countries in the Under 19 and Under 23 tournaments that are coming up and raise the standard of cricket in all the European nations."
A number of England county professionals have risen through the European Academy programme including Eoin Morgan, who played for Ireland in the 2007 ICC World Cup and opens the batting for Middlesex in their Twenty20 campaign.
Alexei Kervezee, born in Namibia but a Dutch national, signed for Worcestershire in 2006 and William Porterfield played Second XI cricket for Durham and for the MCC Young Cricketers. Callum Macleod played for Scotland and Warwickshire while Irish youngster James Hall has also turned out for Warwickshire Second XI.
The 22 year-old Boyd Rankin has been signed for Derbyshire in 2007 while Scotsman Kyle Coetzer returned to Durham this year.
"At the moment, England and Wales are the only countries in Europe where it is possible to play professional cricket but the ICC is investing an enormous amount of money into the high-performance programme there and it may get to the stage where countries can contract players," added Holdsworth.
The European Academy’s coaching team includes ECB’s Elite Coach Manager Gordon Lord and Sports Psychologist Joce Brooks as well as Richard Cox, Warwickshire County Cricket Club Academy Director and Director of the European Academy.
Over the next few years, the programme is likely to grow substantially as more funds are invested in development and it is hoped the completion of the ICC Global Cricket Academy in Dubai Sports City, where Rod Marsh is ICC’s Director of Coaching will present additional opportunities for the Europeans.
"It will be a fantastic facility and we are looking forward to taking our players out there and developing new ideas for tours and tournaments," said Holdsworth.
Already players are being sent to the World Cricket Academy in Mumbai to develop their spinning skills. Greg Thompson, a right-arm leg spinner of Ireland and Scotland’s Umair Mohammed, a right-arm offspinner, spent eight days based at the Cricket Club of India along with Irish coach Brian O’Rourke.
But it is hoped the programme will develop to increase the numbers involved and to extend the opportunities for improvement.