WHITE OUT: Hard to believe that with Barney’s Vere Road ground under a blanket of snow, it is less than two months to the start of the cricket season TM pic
WHITE OUT: Hard to believe that with Barney’s Vere Road ground under a blanket of snow, it is less than two months to the start of the cricket season TM pic

THESE might still be the depths of an English winter but preparations for the cricket season are well in hand.

Seniors and juniors from Barnard Castle Cricket Club have been in training for a month.

First, second and third team players have been practising on Wednesday nights in the indoor nets at Barnard Castle School (followed each week by a large contingent from Raby Castle, clearly intent on retaining their Darlington & District League title).

As part of an important campaign to encourage youngsters into the game, the club is running sessions at Teesdale School.

Michael Stanwix, Barney’s director of cricket, said: “Gone are the days, as far as seniors go, when we’d turn up in the first or second week in April and hope to get an outside practice strip on the edge of the square and start league fixtures the weekend after.

“Winter training is now a normal part of the build-up to the season and if our results of the past few years are anything to go by it’s also effective.

“It gives the players a chance to fine tune their games and to get together again as a team.”

Training is organised by club captain and coach James Quinn who is meticulous in his approach. Alongside the batting and bowling nets the club’s wicketkeepers are practising and these are followed by fielding drills.

Most of the club’s new signings have been present. One of the two professionals, Eddie Barnes, has not been able to bowl so far because of a side injury but has been getting to know the players.

Karl Carver, the Yorkshire left-arm spinner, is playing cricket in Australia until the end of the month, so has not appeared yet.

“These sessions can be significant in their own way,” said Mr Stanwix.

“When the season starts there is an awful lot of cricket. At one stage last season the first XI played nine times in 13 days and that doesn’t give you a lot of time to put right any faults that might have crept into your game.

“The lads are terrific and James is an absolute bundle of energy and efficiency as captain.

“It will be his third season in charge of the team and he’s getting better as a player and a leader,” he added.

“Very early days, of course, but I would hope we’d be challenging for our third NYSD League title.”

NYSD titles of the mid and long-term future are what the club have in mind by going into schools.

Since the beginning of the month they have been staging sessions, run by young coach Liam Foster, for years seven and eight boys three days a week.

The club’s junior organiser John Ashworth and Anth Coatsworth, from Middleton-in-Teesdale CC have been running sessions for girls in years seven, eight and nine.

Club chairman David Sparrow said: “Barney has become a successful club but to stay that way it’s vital to have one eye on the future. Cricket like all sports for many reasons is constantly struggling to ensure that youngsters have a chance to play it.

“This partnership with the school is ideal. The idea is that it helps them and it helps us. If we can get girls and boys interested in playing cricket at a young age they could be interested in the great game for life as players, umpires, scorers or simply spectators.”