Countdown to new Hampshire season starts at school

Hants player James Tomlinson, left, and disability cricket player Michael Powell, centre, take part in a coaching session at South Downs College as part of the Hampshire's disability cricket scheme
Hants player James Tomlinson, left, and disability cricket player Michael Powell, centre, take part in a coaching session at South Downs College as part of the Hampshire's disability cricket scheme
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James Tomlinson is raring to go for the 2012 campaign but admits he is wary of the next fortnight of serious fitness work.

The long-serving Hampshire bowler joined several first-teamers at South Downs College yesterday to take part in coaching sessions, alongside the club’s cricket development officer Greig Stewart and South Downs student and Hampshire disability cricket stalwart Michael Powell.

The revamped Hampshire side start their preparations for their new surroundings in Championship division two today, before heading off on a pre-season tour to Barbados later this month.

But while some familiar faces will no longer be around after some major changes to the squad, Tomlinson is eager to dust off the cobwebs for the new season, which starts on April 12.

‘We’ve been training hard throughout the winter – there’s been a small group of us who have remained in England and trained really hard since November,’ said Tomlinson.

‘All the lads are back in together today and then we’ve got a tour on the 15th, so it will be a hard two weeks’ fitness and cricket training before we head off to Barbados.

‘Everything is going really well. It’s a slightly smaller squad from previous years, however, there is still a huge amount of competitiveness within that squad.

‘I think every angle is covered and it’s a great opportunity for the boys to show what they can do this year.’

Tomlinson has been a key supporter of Hampshire’s disability cricket scheme in recent times and was at South Downs College to add his input once again.

He said: ‘We’re supporting Michael Powell who wanted to make a disability awareness week at his college, so he asked a few of us to come along and support it.

‘We’ve done a lot of coaching together to make the whole college aware of what’s going on.

‘It’s also a good experience for us. It’s great using the wheelchairs because you get an idea of what it’s like to be in a wheelchair and what sports you can actually do.

‘One of our aims at Hampshire over the last couple of years is to get more involved in the community, and through the Hampshire disability teams we have a great opportunity to do that.

‘The players should support this one, in particular, because it’s just such a close link.’

Fareham-based Powell, who represents Hampshire at national level within the BACD Southern Incrediball League, studies software development at South Downs and organised the event.

He said: ‘It’s taken a lot of organisation but the idea is to highlight that no matter what your disability, you can still participate in any sport. Cricket is an excellent example of that.

‘We’ve got several teams in the disability cricket programme at Hampshire but this is just to show that whether you’re able-bodied or disabled, you can enjoy the sport.

‘It’s a fantastic turnout from the Hampshire players and I can’t thank them enough for coming along.’

Stewart said: ‘The disability cricket programme is enormous now.

‘It’s one of the biggest programmes in the country and we’re got more than 1,000 people participating.

‘We’re really proud we’re able to get people involved. A lot of the barriers have been broken down and people are a lot more aware of disability cricket and far more inclusive now.’