Pembrokeshire youngsters continue transition to senior cricket

The Young Players


 

**With the cricketing season well under way we at ‘PembrokeshireSport.co.uk’ continue to provide our unrivalled coverage of the game in our county and as part of the diversity we provide readers with a range of areas, like senior cups and league, Ormond Youth Cup, the Junior League, Ladies and Disability Cricket, as well as articles about cricketers of all ages who show the true spirit of our local game.

We also welcome contributed articles if they are well-written and balanced – and in that spirit we produce the article below, which was written by a highly-respected member of our local cricket fraternity . . .


Charlie ArthurThe downward trend in participation in junior sport continues to be of concern, not only in Pembrokeshire but across the globe. This trend has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw sport in general put on hold for an extended period.

Across all sports in Pembrokeshire we have witnessed player numbers dwindling with clubs finding it increasingly difficult to field age group teams.

Cricket is no different, with the additional challenge of an erosion of the seasonality of sports. Cricket does not hold the widespread appeal of football and rugby and with the seasons of those sports ever lengthening, cricket faces a real threat.
 

Clubs must invest in junior cricket


The concern over participation in cricket led to the England and Wales Cricket Board launching All Stars cricket and more recently Dynamos Cricket. Aimed at attracting youngsters from the age of seven into cricket, the programme has proven successful across numerous Pembrokeshire clubs.

However, one real threat remains. It has long been recognised that the transition from junior to senior cricket is where the real problem lies. Research has shown that the loss of players in the 15 – 19 years old range is significant.

The only answer for village clubs is to invest in junior cricket and seek to develop players from within. To create a love and enjoyment of the game is surely the only way to ensure players continue to transition into senior cricket, which in turn is the only way for our clubs to survive.
 

Young players prosper at senior level as coaches do a great job


Finley LewisRhys DaleyWhat we have seen over recent years is a positive trend of young players transitioning into senior cricket and quickly making their mark in the top divisions. They are too numerous to mention here but focusing on the current season, the likes of the talented Rhys Daley (Pembroke Dock) and Finley Lewis (Lawrenny) are regularly featuring with runs and wickets in Division One.


Charlie Arthur, at the age of 16, has already established himself in the Cresselly first team whilst in Whitland, 14-year-old Cian Rees has grabbed his opportunity with the first team, taking wickets every week.

Along with the undoubted talent these young players possess, it is the hard work of dedicated coaching teams across our clubs that holds the key. More and more clubs are recognising this and seeking to establish junior sections.

Once again it is not possible to name them all but there are some notable examples. Steffan Jenkins in Cresselly and Simon Williams in Haverfordwest have established thriving sections. Rob Smythe and Chris Thomas in Pembroke and Nick Shelmerdine in Lamphey are at the beginning of the process but working tirelessly for their clubs.



 

Hook youngsters are hugely involved in senior cricket . . .


Another club where there has been a big focus on junior cricket for a number of years is Hook and as a result over the past two years the club has brought numerous youngsters into the senior fold.

The likes of Owen Phelps, Lewis Miller, Harry Makepeace and Seth Willington have now established themselves in the first team, which has a current average age of only 19. The second team has been the vehicle for bringing another group of younger players through.

It is though not simply about playing for these boys at Hook and other clubs; it is about giving them an opportunity to perform. All of the guys mentioned earlier are being given that opportunity by their clubs.



Oscar Willington and Jack Phillips struck an impressive 156 runs to guide Hook to victory
 

. . . And Jack Phillips and Oscar Williams, aged 14, shine!


Oscar WillingtonJack PhillipsOn 28th May, Hook Second XI hosted Laugharne First XI and provided a great example of how giving youngsters responsibility and opportunity can reap reward. The Hook team featured no fewer than eight of its Under 15 squad, possibly the youngest senior team in the club’s history.

It was a tough assignment as Laugharne batted first and amassed a big total of 236 for 4. After a difficult 40 overs in the field the young team could have been forgiven for not being in a positive place to chase with the bat. However, a good sized crowd in Hook was treated to a superb display of batting.

After veteran skipper Jamie Phelps had provided a good start to the chase with a hard-hitting 55, he fell in the 12th over with the score on 83 for 3. A defeat looked likely but step forward Jack Phillips and Oscar Willington.

These two 14-year-olds proceeded to put together an unbeaten partnership of 156 in 27 overs to take Hook to victory with 10 balls to spare. Given their age, these two displayed maturity beyond their years. Jack finished on 73 not out with Oscar on 65 not out.
 

And finally . . .


It was a truly excellent performance from these two young men and their young teammates, Liam Miller, Kieran Sinclair, Sebastian Franklin, Rhys Phelps, Harri Evans and Ifan Williams on their senior debut were ecstatic, to say the least!

It will no doubt continue to present a challenge to attract youngsters to cricket but creating a safe and enjoyable cricketing environment is critical. But beyond that, supporting our young players in that tough transition to senior cricket and crucially, giving them opportunity, is how we might buck the trend and see cricket thrive in Pembrokeshire.