In an attempt to stave off the seemingly inevitable and frankly laughable demise of Australian cricket, it was recently announced that Cricket Australia have struck up a partnership deal with Hampshire County Cricket Club which will see six of Australia’s most talented youngsters spend the next English summer at the county’s newly formed “International Academy”.
Since Rod Marsh’s academy work began in 2001, English players have had the advantages of regular winter stints in Australia, South Africa and India as part of their performance Academy structure and development, and this is a sign that (12 years later) Australia are looking to close the gap in terms of developing their young talent into international ready cricketers – something they not too recently took for granted. What they will get out of it might not be seen for another 10 years, which suits everyone who isn’t yet tired of chortling, guffawing and sniggering at the Bananamen’s current plight right down to the ground, but it is at least a sign that Australia are looking to emulate England’s development model (whereas this time 15 years ago it was very much the other way around).
It also ties up a very tidy piece of business for Hampshire, who must surely be the most progressive County in the country at the moment. The launch of the academy follows their not-to-be-sniffed-at achievements in winning the domestic Twenty20 and 40 Over tournaments last season, as well as the securing of a £45m investment from Eastleigh Borough Council to put towards the final stages of the development of The
Rose Ageas Bowl, whilst discussions are also underway with India and Sri Lanka for similar tie-ups with their youngsters. Whilst some might be against helping ‘the enemy’, cooperation between cricketing boards for the genuine betterment of the game is part of what separates the game from the chaff – this is not some tribal war between rival council estates, it is a game, and the higher quality that game is the better for all. Hant’s CEO Rod Bransgrove sums it up rather quite nicely:
“For England players not to have the chance to go abroad would be disastrous and it is only right that we reciprocate. I would like to think that cricket can be more high-minded about the development of young cricketers.”
As a part of the programme the Australian players will play in the Southern Electric Premier League for the duration of the English domestic cricket season – meaning potentially the next Brett Lee could be steaming in at Havant, Totton or Alton. Subsequently, if they are lucky enough to get relegated a couple of times or play in the first round of the cup, the next Ponting or Clarke could be given a reprieve by some hungover bloke wearing black trainers dropping an absolute sitter at long on. Why they continue to field me there…utterly baffling.
*Apparently the Golden Wattle is the national flower of Australia…I’d always assumed that the Golden Wattle national emblem they were on about was some form of nickname for Shane Watson.