Development squads in League cricket, bringing on the youngsters – can it work?

Last Saturday, in an unscheduled break in our League programme, my home Club fielded a mixed XI against a “development team” from another local Club.

We had an enjoyable game.  At least, we enjoyed the day, and the result; hopefully, the opposition enjoyed the opportunity to play on a 1st XI square, and the running commentary from one of our senior players – it seemed to go down OK.

Most of the batsmen had the chance to bat, and the bowlers to bowl, and those who wanted to run around got to chase the ball around the outfield.

Football on the big screen in the clubhouse, afterwards (why not the Test match highlights?), and I think it was agreed that we had as good a day of gentle cricket as we could have hoped for.

But what is the point of a development squad, and should you play friendly or competitive games?

The experience last weekend set me wondering about what really constitutes a “development” squad, especially in the light of this morning’s tweet:

#Youth and Experience in the 4s…- 6 players 45+, the rest 16 or younger…who’s doing the running on Saturday?

Taking a simplistic view, this selection might indeed constitute a development team. Experience (lots of it) from the seniors, energy from the youngsters. Three of the juniors should bat in the top 6 (on merit), and the other two should certainly bowl, alongside 3 of the seniors players.

But this is a League match, against a promotion rival.  Winning is important (but not all-important), and the senior batters will have to provide the backbone to the innings.  Similarly with the bowling – it will be one of the 45+ brigade who gets to bowl most overs (this partly because of the very sensible ECB guidelines on young fast bowlers).

And the enthusiasm of the youngsters in the field will be essential, if we are to have a hope of containing  the opposition when they bat.

So – a development opportunity, or exploitation of young legs and older heads?

Actually, I think it’s a bit of both, and a good thing for being so.

Exposing young players to competitive (League) cricket is the only way to get them enthused about competitive cricket.  Friendly games are too often used to “give people a chance” at something they would not normally do.  But why give your opening batsman a bowl, or your regular wicket keeper, when they are unlikely to bowl again until you play another friendly? Or bat your opening bowler up the order, and see him thrash a few boundaries?

And, in the example above, the skipper will be utilising the respective skills of young and old(er) where they are most appropriate. No point asking the 52 year-old to patrol the covers (hint), or the 14 year-old to front up to the new ball.

Let the youngsters learn from playing with the experienced players. And the older players can re-engage with the enthusiasm that got them into the game in the first place.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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