After months of hard work and preparation during lockdown, Surrey’s academy get back to competitive action this weekend.
Weeks and weeks of online training, Whatsapp chats and small group sessions culminated earlier this week in an U18s intra-squad match at LSE New Malden and a meeting with the Rajasthan Royals academy based in Surrey.
Now it gets competitive, with 14 players travelling to Andover Cricket Club to start the county season with a two-day game against Hampshire on Sunday. Similar matches against Sussex, Essex, Kent & Middlesex will all follow.
Younger teams will also face rival counties as part of the EPG (Elite Player Group) programme while there will be internal matches every week at the Club’s LSE New Malden ground.
Combined with the return of the ACE Programme scholars to The Kia Oval during the month, more than 700 players will wear the Three Feathers as part of the performance programme in August.
Academy Director Gareth Townsend said: “It has been a lot of hard work, negotiations & meetings but the desire and energy to ensure we got the best possible provision and outcome for our players was foremost in the mind of what we were doing.
“The programme we have formed will allow many players from our pathway to get competitive cricket under the Surrey umbrella and complement their club cricket.”
The lockdown required an adapted approach from the performance department coaches with the usual programme of matches and regular sessions put on hold.
40 players and their parents were part of a Whatsapp group chat led by the Club’s coaches, including Matt Spriegel, Tom Benge & Jeremy Greaves as well as Townsend.
That regular communication was essential in engaging the youngsters at a vital stage of their cricketing education with a package including fitness work, mental wellbeing, indoor drills & question and answer sessions with Surrey professionals such as Sam Curran and Bryony Smith.
As lockdown was eased through June, the county’s pathways players were the first in the country to train outdoors using the grass wicket facilities of Guildford CC whilst London based sessions took place at Dulwich CC.
Following the preparation of LSE’s grass nets, the operation transferred to the Club’s regular training base in July and with additional support and work from all at the Club, a month long match play programme began at LSE for all pathway players.
After months of making the best of a difficult scenario, now it’s time for a return to competitive match action.