Young guns will be to the fore for Cambridge Granta
Winter recruitment delights Johnny Atkinson
Nurturing future talent will be one of the main priorities for Cambridge Granta as they prepare for the start of the new Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League season.
Owen Simonsen, a left-arm spinner and bowling all-rounder, and Drew Hawley, a batting all-rounder who bowls seam, have come in thanks to the club’s burgeoning contacts with Parramatta in Australia.
And pace bowlers Alex Sears and Jake Lawrence have arrived from Histon.
“There has been loads of recruiting over the winter,” said captain Johnny Atkinson. “We have built a strong first-team squad and quite young as well – a lot of them are 18, 19 or 20 and we’re building for the future.
“A lot of clubs splash out and recruit overseas players but we tried to look past that and build for quite a few years.
“We’re still really confident we can win the title, but just do it in a different way. We have tried to get some experienced players in the past but have spent too much money.
“Along with the partnership with Cambridge United, there is much more emphasis on our juniors and the coaching they are having, and the pathway to the first team. The ambition of the club is changing slightly and building for the future and putting down the foundations.”
And there have already been signs that the youngsters will make the step up, with 18-year-old Michael Pepper, pictured left, who spent the winter in Australia, and 17-year-old Ben Claydon, who is part of the Northants academy, both hitting centuries in pre-season.
“The youngsters are a year older and have been training a lot over the winter,” said Atkinson. “It’s a good sign that the youngsters are stepping up and scoring runs.
“We have a lot more depth and signed quite a few players for the second team, so hopefully the second team will be really strong as well.”
Atkinson is under no illusions that Swardeston are still the team to beat in the league this year though.
“We finished second and third in the last two years – we’re just unfortunate we’re in the league with Swardeston, who are the best club side in the country,” he said.
“We’re unbeaten against them in the last two years as we’ve won two and drawn two. They are really strong and play really positive cricket. Our problem is losing against some of the weaker sides in the league, but hopefully we change that this year.”
Granta start their campaign this Saturday with a match away at Copdock & Old Ipswichian.