Paignton's Harry Ward - one of the players attending sessions with the Devon Cricket Academy<br>credit:

COACHING sessions for Devon Cricket Academy players are up and running at the Ondaatje Cricket Centre in Exeter as the new season gets closer.

The Devon Cricket Academy is a new, joint venture between the Devon Cricket Board and Devon CCC. The David Shepherd Cricket Trust has pumped a £3,000 grant into the project.

The academy project has replaced the Devon Lions development programme run successfully by the county club for a decade.

The function of the new academy is to develop players aged 17 and above who are considered capable of performing at National Counties and First-Class level.  The Academy programme is holistic in its approach and will deliver a balance of technical, tactical, physical, mental, leadership and lifestyle aspects. 

Thirteen players were invited on to the cohort of the academy.  These players will be undertaking specific group and individual coaching sessions as the season draws closer.

Young players who catch the eye in league or county age-group cricket as the season unfolds will be considered for places on the academy programme.

“We are keen to involve players who can show the potential to play in Devon CCC sides,” said Sandy said Allen, who is one of the academy managers.

“Performing consistently at a high level is one key part of being selected on to the academy.” 

Matt Theedom, the chief executive of the Devon Cricket Board and a driving force behind the new academy, said players will do far more than just bat and bowl in nets.

“Players are training weekly and will be working on their skill-sets, and focusing on individual improvements both technically and tactically,” said Theedom.

“The players will be challenged by different scenarios and environments, both on their own and as a group.”

The squad will be managed by the DCB’s player pathway director Allen and Keith Donohue, the ex-director of cricket with the county club. The team they will lead all hold level three or level four awards from the ECB.

Keith Donohue, one of the managers of the new Devon Cricket Academy“It is fantastic to have consistency across the winter and summer programmes, along with the knowledge and understanding of National Counties cricket and county age-group cricket that Sandy and Keith can give,” said Theedom.

The academy coaching team includes: Matt Cooke, Alex Barrow, Matt Hunt, Jack Bradbury, Tim Western and Josh Bess (physio/player screening). 

In the weeks and months ahead, Academy players will spend time with coaches from Somerset CCC, who will be supporting the programme as part of the new co-operation agreement between the two counties.

“When we were looking at the training programme for the academy, we felt it was absolutely essential that we had the best coaches working with the players,” said Theedom.

Devon has an enviable reputation among former Minor Counties for nurturing young players on their way to the First Class game. Somerset are not the only county with ex-Devonians on the staff. Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire all have at least one on the staff.

Neil Gamble, the Devon CCC chairman, said the new programme is in line with ECB requirements and builds on the work done by the Lions.

“This new programme aims to provide expert, in-depth coaching and additional playing opportunities,” said Gamble.

“It is hoped that participation in the well-resourced Devon Academy will help to develop talented players into good National Counties and, in a few cases, capable First-Class cricketers.”

The first cohort is: Dan Wolf (Paignton), Dan Goodey (Plymouth), Toby Codd (Bovey Tracey), Dan Pyle (Heathcoat), Matt Petherbridge (Plymouth), Harry Ward (Paignton), Max Hancock (Sidmouth), Jack Moore (North Devon), Luke Medlock (Paignton), Sam Read (Clyst St George), Abraham Kopparambil (Bovey Tracey), Sonny Baker (Torquay), Ben Beaumont (Cornwood).