The Cook Report

In 2001 there will be eight members of Durham's playing staff who have developed through the Academy system since it's inception four years ago. It would be a fair bet to say, that within two or three years, that number will have increased again. These numbers reflect not only the ability of the lads, but also their dedication and ambition through a period of their lives when there are plenty of distractions. Regular practice in frozen halls or slogging through the woods behind Lumley Castle seems to have worked.

However, four of the current or recent Academy have 'just returned' from an England U19 tour to India, and they have just learned that there is no greater way of improving your game than getting such an experience. The pitches, the cricket, the culture, a different way of life, different values all add up to make the man a wiser and better player.

And what a range of opportunities there are for young players to spend time abroad. Formerly, it used to be a coaching job, or, if you were lucky, a decent standard of cricket to play in. Now, a young quickie can attend the Dennis Lillee Pace Academy in Madras (Ian Hunter). The ECB have a reciprocal scholarship with the Victoria Cricket Association (Paul Collingwood). Cricket development academies are advertised in Western Australia and were attended by Marc Symmington and Nicky Hatch, Marc's place has been sponsored by the Banks Group, to whom the Club and Marc are very grateful. National U17 trips to the Aussie Academy in Adelaide (Gary Scott). All of these are in addition to the usual International tours for the U19 age group. (Pratt, Muchall, Peng, Pattison).

Of course, participation in any of these does not guarantee a successful career, but the fact that Durham lads are now taking up these chances, shows that the desire to improve is there and that is certainly a good starting point.

Very often the messages put over to these lads are the same as they would have received in Old Blighty but, for some reason, a foreign accent, a hot sun, and a cool beer have a greater effect than a hunched up shivering coach in Fyndoune College, Sacriston!

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