A key focus areas for Cheshire CCC's new Management Committee in 2023 is to build on the County's recent successes, continuing to enhance the pathway for players to reach the highest level of recreational cricket in the country, and progress even further.
Just in the last year, two left arm seamers - Mike Finan and Ben Gibbon - have moved on to the professional level with Leicestershire and Worcesershire respectively. The current Cheshire side also includes Harry Dearden who having graduated with Hyde, has represented Leicestershire. There are also players who've played for first class counties at 2nd XI level.
New Cheshire Chair Jim Law explains, "We've a huge responsibility to our cricketers and seek to select a progresive side that gives youth the opportunity to work with senior professionals, helping them develop into top players and compete at the highest level.
"The County has a great track record in recent years and working extremely closely with the Cheshire Cricket Board, NCCA and ECB, become a leading county for nurturing players."
Head of Cricket, Pete Babbage (pictured) continued, "Each season brings a host of challenges. The fixture list doesn't always help us - club matches competing with county games and an awful lot of midweek calls on players means we have to dig deep.
"We're lucky that we've such a strong local league to draw from - the Cheshire County League - as well as other local leagues in our area (eg Liverpool Competion, North Wales and North Staffordshire & South Cheshire Leagues).
"And whilst ensuring the core of our side is playing local cricket, we're open-minded enough to look further afield as required to ensure we have the right balance. We'll look to add a senior player with current or recent first class expereince - this year we've Nottinghamshire's Matt Carter bringing vast experienve to our squad.
"We also recognise players who may have built their roots in our county and moved on to progress their careers elsewhere, or have moved for personal reasons but are still available to support us (the likes of the late Danny Woods in recent times, Will Evans, Chris Sanders and Dearden). From time to time too, we'll supplement the side with players from further afield where we think we can add value to the greater picture.
"NCCA regulations ensure we monitor a player's birthplace, their schooling and youth development area and where they currently play their cricket. We're also incentivised to ensure youth takes priority."
"It can be tough at times," says Law. Pete's phone bill goes through the roof some weeks as players are sought often at short notice, as work or other priorities take precidence. And of course, we can all pick a cricket team!"
2023 sees an improved bonding with the cream of the Cheshire Cricket Board's youngsters too.
"The Academy side is now the Cheshire 2nd XI", says Babbage. "and at last Stewart Macleod has some great support with ex-player and Macclesfield stalwart Stewart Garnett involved in coaching along with the Cheshire Crcket Board's Gavin Colebourn. The trio will bring the U18s closer to the 2nd XI and therefore the 1st XI, and an exciting split of white and red ball cricket should really help progress us further. Add in the fact that we've a real progressive captain in Nick Anderson backed by Sam Perry and it's exciting times.
"That coupled with the support of Andy Newton and David Wainwright plus senior player contacts and officials across the county means that for me, it's as good a time as ever to be involved!".