June 11, 2014

The next gen series

A look at some of the most exciting teenage cricketers in the UK and Ireland

Hearing about the new kid. There's nothing quite like it. As fans we're always looking to a better tomorrow, when it never rains, no one cheats and your precious team never bottles it at the last. And nothing encapsulates that heady mix of tingly, limitless possibility quite like that moment when the next big thing emerges, formidably fresh-faced, to first strut their stuff. They will make us happy, for shared glory will be ours: the records that'll fall, the World Cups that we'll win, the open-top bus parades through Trafalgar Square... what a life we'll have together.

Okay, so it doesn't always work out like that. Not all of the following - a selection from a list of 35 compiled with the help of some of the best-informed judges of youth cricket around - will become household names. But you can guarantee that a few at least will become the Test stars of the future. We shall see. Identifying an early runner and backing them all the way to the line is one of the sweetest kicks that sport can offer. It's in that very spirit that we present the finest teen cricketers in the land.

Sam Hain: "I've always played cricket just on a Saturday, but now it's going to be a job" © All Out Cricket

Sam Hain

AGE: 18
COUNTY: Warwickshire
ROLE: Right-hand top-order batsman
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: Born in Hong Kong to English parents and once regarded as Australia's most exciting batting prospect, Hain has set tongues wagging since upping sticks and moving to England to play for Warwickshire. Hain may have been an Australia Under-19 player at 16, but by this year had agreed to a further extension on his existing deal at Edgbaston. The inevitable debate about national allegiance is already warming up.
BEST MOMENT: On first-class and Championship debut for Warwickshire this summer, Hain showed great composure to fashion 42 on an early-season track that had just seen the demise of Middlesex for 167. He batted for 107 balls and, in doing so, ensured Tim Ambrose and Jeetan Patel had easier conditions to register hundreds as Warwickshire eventually sealed an innings victory.

From playing for Australia Under-19s as a 16-year-old to making your Warwickshire debut at 18 in place of Ian Bell, you seem to deal in emphatic steps up. How have you dealt with that constant push and promotion, not just on the field, but off it?
It's a tough question. I think, growing up, I've always enjoyed my cricket and played it because it's been fun. When I signed for Warwickshire, I just wanted to keep the enjoyment in it, because being away from home would become hard if I lost that enjoyment. As for the hype, to be honest I don't really read much into it. I've still got a lot to prove.

You first came to the UK in 2010 to play for Loretto School in Edinburgh and you've been back and forth ever since.
It all started at 14. Mike Powell, the director of cricket at the school, sent me down to Warwickshire for a week and they asked me to come back the next year, so I did and played a bit of Second XI cricket for three months. I thought that would be it but then, at the end of that, they said they wanted to offer me a contract and I couldn't believe it. I've always played cricket just on a Saturday, but now it's going to be a job. I wanted to finish school first - keep mum happy! - and then come over. They said that was all good, and last year was my first on the books.

Did the thought of a rookie or full-time contract with Queensland not cross your mind?
Playing the age-groups and grade cricket over there, it was obviously on my mind and I was weighing it up. The seasons are different and, to be honest, it was a game of chance. I didn't really know if I was going to get signed on at Queensland so when the opportunity came to play in England, having spent a few months a year here and really enjoyed it, I took it with both hands. I'm really happy with the decision I've made - my cricket has grown, and I feel as a person I've grown as well.

Your mindset sounds a bit surprising given how much faith Queensland put in you. From the outside, it looked like a contract proper was in the offing.
I know what you mean, but you never really know with professional cricket; you can do your best, score a few runs, but you never know what they're thinking. Obviously I had inklings about getting signed but I genuinely didn't really know. Looking back now, maybe I would have been signed but I didn't have the full guarantee, whereas with Warwickshire I had a contract down and security. There are a ridiculous number of good players in Queensland so it's really hard to put your finger on whether you'll get picked up or not. I had to think clearly about it. Something good was on the table here and I was happy to sign and take the opportunity with both hands.

Was there anything like that in your first-class debut against Middlesex?
Not really. A few of the guys knew it was my debut and they may have mentioned that but, as soon as I got off the mark, it was weird. They sort of did their own thing and that was that. It was comforting. I mean, I know with Steven Finn and bowlers like that, it could have been interesting times. I was just head down, marking centre and getting ready to face.

How much warning were you given to prepare for that game?
About a week. I was a little bit hesitant initially. I didn't know if I was ready for first-class cricket. Then, going out there, I really felt good. It didn't feel too different, just that the bowlers are more skilful and will set plans to work you out. It just moved along at a higher pace.

So, the big question: England or Australia?
It's a tough one. I was talking to Sam Robson the other day and, you know, you grow up in Australia, you play there most of your life and then you move country and strive to play for them. It is a weird question but it's safe to say I want to play for England. It's where I want to be and where I want to play my cricket.

Aneurin Donald

AGE: 17
COUNTY: Glamorgan
ROLE: Middle-order batsman; wicketkeeper
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: At 6ft 3in and with levers to match, Donald has been likened to another Glamorgan youth product in the late Tom Maynard, sharing the former Surrey player's power and zest for attacking shotmaking. A wicketkeeper by trade, he has excelled at club, county and international age-group cricket, making his debut for Glamorgan 2nd XI and Glamorgan Minor Counties in 2012, before captaining the England under 17s last summer against Sri Lanka. He's also something of a brain-box and is studying Pure and Applied Maths, Chemistry and Economics for his A-Levels.
BEST MOMENT: The end of 2013 saw Donald sign a development contract with Glamorgan, win the Sporting Wales' Rising Star Award - Simon Jones was the last cricketer to scoop that gong - and earn himself a spot on the ECB's Development Programme for 2014.

Haseeb Hameed

AGE: 17
COUNTY: Lancashire
ROLE: Right-hand top-order bat; leg-spin bowler
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: Captain of England under 17s, Hameed is described as "probably as good a player as we've had for a generation" by Lancashire's academy director John Stanworth. Slight of frame and not especially tall, he is currently studying for his A-Levels at Bolton School but has already represented Lancashire's Second XI and England under 19s, scoring 67 against Bangladesh in an ODI last summer.

"We've had the academy in existence since 2001 and before that we had a significant array of batting talent like Atherton and Crawley, to name but two," says Stanworth, "but Haseeb excites me as a young batsman and that's quite a powerful emotion to have about a young player. He's not got carried away with the praise that's come his way, and his humility with the talent that he has is quite evident." Hameed has signed a scholarship contract with Lancashire and will play Second XI cricket this season once he has completed his exams. Part-time leg-spin is another useful string to his bow.
BEST MOMENT: Scored a century in only his second appearance for Lancashire's Second XI, against a Scotland A side featuring several full internationals.

Tom Kohler-Cadmore

AGE: 19
COUNTY: Worcestershire
ROLE: Right-hand middle-order; right-arm medium
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: Worcestershire No.4 has already had a 2014 to be proud of, with a record-breaking season at Malvern College, a professional contract at New Road and a run in the County Championship side at No. 4. Worcestershire have never been afraid to give youth its head and Kohler-Cadmore is one to be very excited about. He scored 1,409 runs at an average of over 100 in his final year at school - breaking a record previously held by ex-Middlesex wicketkeeper David Nash - and was rewarded with the 2014 Young Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year award, a gong previously awarded to the likes of James Taylor and Jos Buttler.
BEST MOMENT: The Wisden award would have been up there but after a tricky few matches in the LV= County Championship, Kohler-Cadmore scored his maiden first-class ton in a three-day match against Cambridge MCCU in May. The first of many.

Lewis McManus

AGE: 19
COUNTY: Hampshire
ROLE: Wicketkeeper; right-hand batsman
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: An industrious keeper-bat who went to the under 19 World Cup with England in February, he's made an impressive start in Hampshire's Second XI. Last year he made his first ton in the Second XI Championship, and this year he's knocking on the door of first-team recognition. As a keeper, he has Adam Wheater and Michael Bates to get past, but his record with the bat is compelling.
BEST MOMENT: A ton in each innings on First XI debut against Cardiff MCCU in May. Even before he repeated the trick in the second dig, he had become only the seventh player to make a hundred on first-class debut for Hampshire.

Will Rhodes

AGE: 19
COUNTY: Yorkshire
ROLE: Left-hand bat; right-arm medium-fast

WHAT HE'S ABOUT: "An outstanding allrounder", says England assistant coach Paul Farbrace, but Rhodes hasn't had the easiest journey so far. He was selected, then deselected, from the ECB's Elite Development Programme, with the consensus that he was going to fall short. Yorkshire gave him two months off to indulge his other love, football, and he returned, more motivated than ever, impressing the EDP coaches and going on to captain the under 19s at the recent World Cup. A strapping seam bowler, he also has great pedigree with the bat, scoring a century for the under 19s against Pakistan last summer.
BEST MOMENT: A mainstay in Yorkshire's YB40 side in 2013, Rhodes was rewarded in December with a junior professional contract at Headingley.

Saif Zaib

AGE: 16
COUNTY: Northants
ROLE: Left-hand batsman, left-arm orthodox spin
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: A cultured left-handed strokemaker with a penchant for flair, the word around Wantage Road is that they have a gem on their hands. Senior players and coaches are wowed by his ability to hit both sides of the wicket, off either foot. With academy coach Phil Rowe, he's working on setting up plans to influence matches, depending on surface or situation, while maintaining his undoubted charisma. While he bowls a bit of left-arm orthodox, it is his batting that has people in a daze. "In terms of skill, he's as good as I've seen at that age," says Rowe.
BEST MOMENT: In his debut innings for the Northants First XI against Durham MCCU this year, Zaib couldn't help himself and was caught on the boundary for 19. But in the second, he invested in his innings, batting low-risk for 75 balls to register his maiden first-class half-century.

This is an extract from All Out Cricket magazine's "Best 35 Teens" article. To get a taste of the current issue featuring Jon Hotten's brilliant interview with Alastair Cook, click here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mohammed on June 12, 2014, 12:43 GMT

    I saw a young(aged 13-14) left arm leg spinner playing in a league match in Worcestershire recently and he seemed to have it all. Sharp leg breaks and accurate googlies. Watch out for him in to next 3-4 years

  • Roshan on June 11, 2014, 18:23 GMT

    Probably agree with ygkd. Cricketers can go on to their mid to late 30s, so there is no rush to promote a young player like there is in tennis, and to a lesser extent football. Cricket is a game which needs a lot more than just physical prowess - you need to have a good cricketing brain which comes with experience. However it's always good to see young exciting prospects in sport - there are many in football and athletics in the UK too. It's also good to see that Saif Zaib has been noted for his flair - a rare quality in a British sportsman. Also good to see Asians doing well, but I'm not sure about Sam Hain. I would love to see him play for England, but if I were an Aussie I would be a little bitter about a player going to play for the enemy like Sam Robson has done.

  • Dummy4 on June 11, 2014, 17:23 GMT

    Kohler-Cadmore's ton wasn't first-class.

  • Matt on June 11, 2014, 13:05 GMT

    The problem with an under 21's is that most of the real talented 21 and unders are already in the first class system. Some of them even part of a national set up.

  • Philip on June 11, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    Good luck to them all. But why does cricket have such an obsession with the U19 level? Wouldn't it be prudent to run U21s as the main youth show? It should be remembered that this no easily measured sport such as athletics where reaching the finishing line first or throwing something a greater distance is the proof of the pudding, or one matching two individuals under the same conditions such as tennis. Cricket is a team sport and just as some who stand out at U19 level will go on some, probably the majority, will not. There are many dynamics at play here within the team structure and even the off-field structure, as well as an individual's own personal rate of progression which is never going to trend along a straight line. Lots can happen and frequently it does. Without crystal ball predictions it's a hit-and-miss exercise. Two extra years would make a very big difference. They pick the talent so young in England and Australia you'd think they hang out in midwifery wards.

  • No featured comments at the moment.