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Australia and Hampshire strike academy deal

David Hopps

January 17, 2013

Comments: 33 | Text size: A | A

Australia high performance chief Pat Howard at Grace Road, Leicestershire v Australians, Grace Road, June, 21, 2012
Pat Howard: "CA is very excited about this partnership and opportunity for our very best young players" © Getty Images

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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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?

Posted by trav29 on (January 18, 2013, 12:09 GMT)

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

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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?

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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!

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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