The England and Wales Cricket Board have issued a crushing indictment of Warwickshire’s youth system by naming only one of the club’s players in their Under-18 and Under-19 squads.
Ateeq Javed, a 16-year-old batsman, is the only Warwickshire player to win selection. No county has fewer representatives, though Worcestershire also have only one man in the squads: Tamworth’s left-handed batsman, Jack Manuel.
While the news is certainly a disappointment to Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s director of cricket, and his back-up staff it would be naive to lay the blame at the feet of the new coaching regime. Giles, Allan Donald and Dougie Brown inherited a failing system and are less than a year into a recovery operation. It will take some time to turn around the club’s fortunes.
Brown, Warwickshire’s elite player coach, did admit that the news was a concern but reiterated his belief that the club was on the right track.
“It is a worry,” he said “but this is a work in progress. We’ve made real strides over the past few months. I believe we have a bloody good group of young cricketers that will play representative international cricket. There are a lot of players here who I feel are the real deal.
“Besides, the aim is not England Under-18s; it’s Warwickshire. My interest is making sure we produce cricketers who play a big role for the future of Warwickshire. I believe we are doing that and ultimately I will be judged by that.”
There are some encouraging signs. For perhaps the first time, the major figures are the club are pulling in the same direction. The likes of Giles, Donald, Brown and second XI coach Keith Piper are united in the vision they have for Warwickshire and have the support of the club’s hierarchy.
Previous coaches have not been so fortunate. Several of them – including Bob Woolmer – felt they were squeezed out by internal politics, and there have been times when the coaching team have been too busy fighting among themselves to worry about the progress of the players. Such days are, largely, in the past.
“We’ve seen how the game is changing and we’ve seen how expensive it is to buy-in England-qualified players,” Brown said. “I think everyone can see it makes sense to develop our own. We have a really good structure in place now and people will see, over the next few years, that we will bring through players who are vital to Warwickshire’s future.”
Bearing in mind how much money Warwickshire pour into their youth system, however, their lack of representation in the teams is a concern. While the new regime certainly require some time to turn things around it does cast an unflattering light on the club’s coaching performance in recent years.