Have I just seen our 2031 Ashes hero? OK, that’s 16 years away, but with the current series against Australia now under way, we’ve been looking at the strength of youth cricket here in West Dorset in 2015.
Yarn’s very own cricket fan Peter Smith (not much of a player but has commentated on the BBC’s Test Match Special), started his innings with Bridport’s Under 9’s…
6pm, Wednesday evenings and enthusiastic primary schoolchildren, most smartly dressed in their ‘whites’, race across the cricket field adjacent to Bridport Leisure centre. Coaches Liam Toohill (U-9s) and Simon Bareham (U-11s) spend the next hour conducting drills and matches. An hour later, it’s the turn of the Under 13s and Under 15s. The Under-9s play in friendlies but the other age ranges have league and cup matches against sides from as far east as Bere Regis to Uplyme in the west. The Under-11s play on Mondays, U13s on Thursdays and U15s on Tuesdays.
Bridport Junior Cricket Club has only been running a couple of years in its present form following a merger with Powerstock Cricket Club. Bridport’s current secretary Kim White and Chairman Peter Wyrill were both previously with the village team. “We had the players and they had the facilities,” said Kim, who travels in from Maiden Newton with her son each week.
Peter misses the picturesque view from the ground at Powerstock, on the top of a hill. “It was idyllic, but Bridport has a good playing surface with an excellent groundsman, better changing rooms and nets,” he admitted. “It’s also easier to get to for most of the youngsters, who come from as far as Puncknowle, Litton Cheney, Netherbury and Charmouth.”
“Recruitment is done by word of mouth,” said Kim, adding that any keen children from Year 3 onwards are made welcome.
“Already some children are playing in the West Dorset age related representative sides,” said Peter. “One of them, Jack Handford, has been selected for Dorset Under 11’s.”
The recent rise in Bridport’s youth section – there’s around 50 youngsters on the books- is in stark contrast to the fortunes of the senior side, which pulled out of Dorset Saturday League Division 4 after a couple of fixtures this season.
Recruitment of players is very different at Beaminster Cricket club. Ross Baker, who is a qualified sports coach, and teaches cricket at eight different schools across West Dorset, is their main talent spotter.
“Five years ago we didn’t really have a youth policy so I volunteered,” he began. “So if I see a child who has a talent for cricket and is genuinely interested, I invite them to our training sessions which we hold every Saturday throughout the year. That’s at the Memorial Ground in the town during the season, and the Beaminster Sports Centre the rest of the year.”
Again, as with Bridport, there’s a wide catchment area, with children involved from as far afield as Evershot, as well as villages closer to ‘home’ including Broadwindsor and Mosterton, where Ross offers his expertise to students at Parrett & Axe Primary School. He also teaches secondary aged students at Beaminster school. They begin by playing for the under 9’s in friendlies, the same as with Bridport youngsters, those in the Under-11, 13 and 15 age group teams also play in the West Dorset League for before graduating into the club’s main sides.
“We run two senior teams,” he explained. “The first team play in Dorset’s Saturday Division 3 and our seconds are in Division 6. The ‘seconds’ team consist of those pushing for a first team place, older players and teenagers for whom the step up from under 15’s isn’t too big a step. We’re happy with that league as it allows us to develop players.”
So where do Bridport’s 16 year olds go when they want to play at a higher level? For now, on Saturdays they’ll have to travel to Dorchester or Weymouth for Premier division cricket, Beaminster or at Uplyme & Lyme Regis who play in the Devon league. On Sundays, there may also be opportunities nearby at Symene (Dorset Sunday Division 3). Symene’s Secretary Colin Wilcox says that while they don’t have a youth section, they do have a strong link with Bridport Juniors. “We’re actively recruiting teenagers, and as Liam Toohill, Bridport’s Under-9s coach, plays for us on Sundays, some players do come across. Many of our current players have been with the club for many years so we do need new blood. While it’s unfortunate Bridport’s adult side have stopped playing, we hope to pick up the older kids before they’re lost to the game.”
Broadwindsor, who play in Mid Wessex League Division 1 (under Somerset Cricket Board membership) don’t have a youth section either, but do welcome young players, says Ross Baker, who is also registered there.
Another team which is prepared to give youth a chance is the Dorset Wanderers. Skipper Simon Jones says they have no set home, but play village sides in friendly matches across the summer. “We’ll look at players from age 14 upwards,” he said.
Kim White (secretary) 01300 321377 / 07582 042304
Peter Wyrill (chairman) 01308 427036 / 07899 928464
Ross Baker (youth officer) 01308 861421
website Beaminster Cricket club website
Ross Baker (see Beaminster)
Simon Jones (skipper) 07879 692700
Colin Wilcox (secretary) 07879 840862
Uplyme and Lyme Regis
website Uplyme & Lyme Regis Cricket Club website