Hampshire will host six young Australian talents this summer as part of a new development programme – and Southern Electric Premier League clubs are set to reap the rewards.
The Ageas Bowl International Cricket Academy (ABICA) has been unveiled in partnership with Cricket Australia to give players with huge potential the opportunity to learn some of the nuances of English conditions and make the most of the facilities at Hampshire.
But while they will undertake coaching and fitness work at the Ageas Bowl during the week, Hampshire chairman Rod Bransgrove has explained the players will also join up with local clubs as part of an ongoing process to build links within the county.
Bransgrove said: ‘I hope it’s the beginning of a new relationship between us and the Southern Electric Premier League.
‘We should be closer than we are. It benefits the clubs, us and the players.
‘It starts in April and we are delighted Cricket Australia (CA) is sending six high-performing young players to the academy in its inaugural year.’
While many clubs in the region will make a big financial commitment as they chase an overseas signing for the season, the new arrangement will see an influx of quality young players at a much-reduced cost to the clubs.
Bransgrove said: ‘Up until now, the clubs have used their hard-earned funds to pay for an overseas player to come over.
‘I’ve never been much in favour of that but I do understand the benefit of having high-quality players who are role models and can assist with coaching.
‘So we thought we could create something that would benefit everyone.
‘We’ve been looking at how to maximise the facilities we have here and also looking to bring in some more income.
‘We’ve sent our players abroad during our winters, so it was suggested we should do more to attract young players to come over here and set up our own international academy.
‘Now I’ll meet with all of the clubs to agree the process but nobody is going to lose out – they are all high-quality players.
‘It can be done by random but I actually favour a system similar to American football where they have a kind of draft pick.
‘I want the clubs to agree on how they do it, though.’
Bransgrove insists Hampshire are not out to cherry-pick any of the young Aussies for the future.
However, he pointed to Glenn Maxwell as an example of the kind of quick progress that can be made with a summer in England.
Maxwell started last season at South Wilts, progressed to Hampshire’s first team and was eventually selected for Australia.
He said: ‘We’re not looking at it as one of the purposes of the agreement. We have to separate the professional side from the development.
‘But someone like Glenn Maxwell developed enormously over the course of last season and showed the kind of progress that can be made.’