Australia news January 17, 2013

Australia and Hampshire strike academy deal

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Cricket Australia and Hampshire Cricket have announced a partnership which will see some of Australia's most talented young cricketers spend the next English summer at the newly-formed Ageas Bowl International Cricket Academy.

The deal confirms Hampshire's status as the host of one of the best-equipped cricket academies in the world and left Rod Bransgrove, the county's cricket chairman and long-time driving force, purring with delight at another sign of progress for the project that has long been his life's obsession.

"Cricket Australia has been an admirer of the Ageas Bowl for some time and we are delighted that they are sending six high-performing young players to the Academy in its inaugural year," Bransgrove said. "We are one of the few professional grounds in the world with two full-sized cricket pitches immediately adjacent to each other which means our outdoor facilities are available even when there is a match on. That is a great advantage. We are a genuine international cricket academy.

"Lord's will always have its tradition and a presence second to none, but our ambition is simply to create the finest ground in the country."

English players have long had the advantages of winter stints in Australia, South Africa and India as part of their overall development and now Hampshire's academy offers an opportunity in reverse which Cricket Australia has been quick to grasp. Hampshire promise access to world-class coaching, sports science and medical staff.

As part of the programme the Australian players will play in the Southern Electric Premier League for the duration of the English domestic cricket season. "That's an extra benefit - that six league clubs get an overseas player free of charge for the whole of the season," said Bransgrove. "I'm not in favour of clubs using their hard-earned funds for recreational players even if they commit to regular coaching and have the club at heart."

Bransgrove has reason to be satisfied. The launch of the academy follows Hampshire's achievement in winning the Friends Life Twenty20 and CB40 tournaments last season and the securing of a £45m investment from Eastleigh Borough Council to secure the final stage in the development of the Ageas Bowl which will include the construction of a 4-star hotel, additional conferencing and hospitality facilities and a state-of-the-art media centre.

Although he has handed over the chief executive role to David Mann after ceaselessly driving Hampshire forward for 12 years, Bransgrove is not the sort for for semi-retirement. "I have taken a back seat in the day-to-day running of the business," he said. "After 12 years the club needed new energy. But I've got so much emotion - and money - wrapped up in it I can't run away."

The partnership will form part of the 2013 Australian Institute of Sport men's cricket programme and The Kerry Packer Foundation will provide scholarships to the selected players.

Pat Howard, Cricket Australia's team performance manager, said: "CA is very excited about this partnership and opportunity for our very best young players. The opportunity to experience cricket in a different country will grow them as players and as people. For those chosen it will be an important part of their development."

English counties have occasionally faced criticism for employing Australian players on short-term contracts ahead of Ashes series but Bransgrove is confident that within the cricket community at least the presence of some of Australia's top young cricketers in Hampshire will be universally seen as a success story. Discussions are also underway with India and Sri Lanka for similar tie-ups.

"The ECB fully recognises that we have a responsibility to maximise our income," he said. "We are talking about the development of young players. Every country seeking to develop players wants to use the facilities of other countries in the off season. 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."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • markatnotts on January 19, 2013, 9:25 GMT

    There seems to be some incorrect analysis here from anotherwise reasonable Aussie fan (the other comments were fair). England were quite bad in the late 80's and early 90's. At that time England did also have players that were not born in England (Hick, Smith). The upturn started with a couple of major structural changes domestically. The splitting of the County Championship, and central contracts in 2000. Starting under Nasser Hussain there was an immediate up turn with only one series defeat at home from 2000 to 2007, and some notable away success in Asia (2000/01), WI 2004, SA 2005.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on January 18, 2013, 14:05 GMT

    @ Front-Foot_lunge, I think you'll find your precious Australia need a few lessons from England. How do you fancy your chances for the nest few Ashes?

  • trav29 on January 18, 2013, 12:09 GMT

    after watching todays ODI maybe they should be sending some of their senior players as well ;-)

  • Selassie-I on January 18, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    RANDYOZ - one simple fact here; you are sending your next generation of players to be trained in England... that shows us the real state of Australian cricket - we're helping you guys out, seeming as we have to play you so much we need to make it entertaining.. when your batting line up all average 30ish you need all the help you can.

  • Hammond on January 18, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    @Liquefierrrr- check out the Kolpak decision. Become informed. The ECB qualification criteria is now even stricter than CA's is, but you will never hear any Aussies (apart from myself) informed enough to make that comparison. If the domestic situation in South Africa were different then I'm sure there would not be a flood of South Africans wanting to play in England, and if the Kolpak decision had been different none of them would have been able to play for England. That said, England is only picking the best XI CITIZENS of it's own country to play in it's national side. If someone can explain that this is somehow wrong then I would love to hear it. Every single England player is a citizen of the United Kingdom and has qualified to play for England by residing (and playing county cricket) in the UK for a set period of time. How is this wrong?

  • Hammond on January 18, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    @mikey76- don't worry mate, sour grapes that Australia hasn't beaten England since 2006. That is all. Now the best Aussie cricketers are being trained in Hampshire? Enough said.

  • mikey76 on January 18, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    Liquiffier/RandyOz. Don't make me laugh. Look at the last Olympics, where were Australia? Your best male tennis player Tomic is a German, your rugby fly half Cooper is a kiwi and over the last few years you've had Symonds (English), Nannes(Dutch), Khawaja(Pakistan) and up and comer Henriques is Portuguese! Personally where your born doesn't matter to me it's where you were brought up and nearly all the so called South Africans currently playing for England were brought up here but if it matters to you then you're clearly Hippocrates!

  • jmcilhinney on January 18, 2013, 3:07 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster on (January 17 2013, 16:18 PM GMT), fair question and I've no doubt that English cricket would benefit from some of its more promising players, batsmen in particular but also spinners, playing domestic cricket in India. That said, the ECB do conduct regular camps overseas to give such players some exposure to unfamiliar conditions, so at least that's something.

  • Liquefierrrr on January 18, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    @hhillbumper pt.2 - To measure my statements, England is now an excellent cricketing nation, after being horrifying for the best part of the 80s, all of the 90s and the earliest parts of the 00s.

    What cannot be, reasonably, overlooked is the fact that any successes England enjoys with their current line-up in all formats will be tarnished by the fact a good fraction of the side is comprised of people who were not born in England. That is just an unarguable fact. Clearly the ICC have allowed it, and so England are within the rules, however the facts remain.

    I have moved past this reality, and wish England well in their now competitive side, whatever its composition, their new-found excellence in the game is essential for cricket in general and well-earned after substantial restructures to the County system over the last decade or so.

    The Ashes are now special again, and as an Australian fan I have no hesitation in concedeing that we are now underdogs. I think it'll be close though.

  • Liquefierrrr on January 18, 2013, 2:19 GMT

    @hhillbumper - yawn, same goes for you. I don't necessarily agree with all of RandyOZ's comments, but his comments are no less intentionally incendiary than yours are. Australia is a wonderful sporting nation, especially given our population size of 22 million, and we are great cricketers.

    We experienced 4ish years of darkness, absolutely, though I ask anyone to provide any reasonable rebuttal/solution to the fact that in this time we lost Langer, Warne, McGrath, Martyn, Hayden, Gillespie, Lehmann, and Gilchrist to name just the biggest ones.

    We are unarguably on the comeback now, and have some excellent stocks with bat, pace and keeping. Our spin is, absolutely, looking grim, but that's old news. If you compare Lyon's Test bowling average across the globe he's on par with about half his peers, with Swann, Rehman, Ajmal and Herath the obvious exceptions.

    This deal will help both Hampshire, an excellent county, and up and coming Australian youth in equal doses.