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Surrey champion homegrown talent among reasons for LV= Insurance County Championship titles

Surrey champion homegrown talent as reason for LV= Insurance County Championship titles
Surrey champion homegrown talent as reason for LV= Insurance County Championship titles
©Surrey CCC

Surrey’s bid to complete back-to-back LV= Insurance County Championship titles is in large part based on the club’s wealth of homegrown talent.

No fewer than 20 players in Rory Burns’ current senior men’s squad have emerged through Surrey’s junior and academy cricket, with Gus Atkinson last week becoming the eighth member of that group to go on to win England honours, and the story is a similar one in the club’s women’s ranks.

England Women’s star Nat Sciver-Brunt as well as teenage sensation Alice Capsey and Bryony Smith are the best-known women’s players to have progressed through the pathway.

Success at professional level is a source of considerable pride for all those who are involved in Surrey’s junior pathways and – as Burns’ side contest the high-profile championship run-in – it is also the perfect time to shine a light on the significant advances continuing to be made in boys’ and girls’ competitive cricket across the county.

More than 18,000 young cricketers, for example, representing more than 1,500 boys’ and girls’ club teams from Under 10 to Under 19 level, have played almost 6,000 matches in this summer’s Surrey Junior Cricket Championship, culminating in various highly enjoyable Finals Days that took place at the end of August.

And, as Mark Babb, Surrey’s Junior Leagues Competition Officer, says: “The top bit of Surrey cricket, the professional teams, would certainly not work as well without everything that goes on in the vast grassroots cricket pyramid that lies beneath them.”

Babb is responsible for the annual running of the Surrey Junior Cricket Championship, although he is quick to stress the enormous help he receives from the clubs themselves and from the many club officials, groundstaff and volunteers who work hard to ensure all their various age group teams can participate in the competition.

“We are remarkably lucky in Surrey to have a very strong club network and it is an ongoing process to work with the clubs to provide as many boys and girls as possible with competitive cricket, across the different age groups and with different formats such as pairs cricket for Under 10 and Under 11 teams and also softball games at entry levels and for younger girls’ cricket,” Babb said.

The Surrey Junior Cricket Championship was set up in 2019, replacing a number of volunteer-run regional junior leagues that previously existed across the county. It brought everyone together in one organisation, under the auspices of the Surrey Cricket Foundation, and in the three summers that have now been completed (there was no competition in 2020 due to the pandemic) the participating numbers of players and teams have been on an upward curve.

“We hope there will be a continuation of gradual growth in participation in the next few years, too, and especially in the number of girls’ teams,” added Babb, “but at the same time we have to be careful to ensure we have the facilities in both our inner and outer London boroughs to be able to cater for more expansion.

“The important thing for us as administrators is to understand what the capacity is and we have to manage sustainable growth in our numbers. It’s great that the competition is growing, and we have been sending out surveys this summer, to the clubs, because the feedback we get is vital.

“We are constantly monitoring what is happening across all the age groups and I have also visited between twenty and thirty SJCC matches during this season, to watch what is going on for myself and to be able to speak with as many people as possible involved in staging the games and supporting the players.

“Without clubs, and a thriving grassroots, we would not have strong county teams or franchise teams at the professional level in both men’s and women’s cricket, and so we aim to be as flexible as we can in the organisation of the Surrey Junior Cricket Championship because we want as many young players as possible to develop their talents by experiencing competitive matches relevant to their age groups and abilities.”

Surrey clubs which fielded winning teams across the championship’s different age groups and competition tiers this summer included Guildford, Ashtead, Chobham, Banstead, Cheam, Purley, Tadworth, Leatherhead, Woking & Horsell, Sutton, East Molesey, Epsom, Spencer and Malden.