Young guns face their moment of truth

Nic Pothas
Nic Pothas
Kyle Abbott celebrates a wicket today against champions Essex. Picture: Neil Marshall

Abbott puts champions to the sword

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Hampshire have shed 37,201 first-class runs, 1,1816 first-class wickets, 39 Test caps, 398 dismissals, 40 one-day internationals and eight t20 international appearances after announcing their new policy to go with youth for the 2012 season.

Following their relegation from Championship division one, long-serving wicketkeeper Nic Pothas – who is in his benefit year – has been told that his contract will not be renewed after nine years at the club.

South African Kolpak pair Johann Myburgh and Friedel de Wet – who have barely had any opportunity to prove themselves at the Rose Bowl since joining last winter – have also been shown the door, and there is plenty of experience that will no longer be in the playing ranks.

And with Dominic Cork, Imran Tahir and Michael Lumb also confirmed as leaving the club, it is a huge void for the club’s youngsters to attempt to fill as they bid to gain promotion from a competitive division two next year – especially after ending the season rock-bottom of division one.

There is also doubt surrounding the return of other experienced campaigners, with Neil McKenzie yet to commit his future, while Dimi Mascarenhas has admitted himself he faces a make-or-break winter in his ongoing fitness battle.

But the club will hope that a fresh direction, led by the excellent selection of new skipper Jimmy Adams, will inject a new feeling of optimism into their form in the four-day game, which has been struggling for several years.

Australian batsman Simon Katich has been drafted in as the club’s overseas player to add some experience and will also shoulder the burden of scoring runs, while Michael Carberry will be a key figure.

But while rightly no questions have been asked over the future of manager Giles White as he is given the chance to rebuild, he knows himself he is under pressure to get the club back to the top tier.

White said: ‘Division two is not an easy division so it’s not as if we will go down and win every game all of a sudden.

‘There are some good sides playing in the second division and it will be tough to get back up.

‘We realise that we have got a very tough challenge ahead of us.

‘But if we can get that momentum, get that formula right and get some confidence early – and the start of next season will be key to that – we have the talent to come back and come back stronger.

‘Hopefully, when we do get back into the first division, we will be ready to challenge at the right end.’

It’s undoubtedly a brave move to trust in youth, but it may be taken through necessity as well, with the club’s finances coming under scrutiny.

Either way, it’s a huge risk and now the clutch of young players must prove that they deserve their opportunity.

White said: ‘We’ve got young players who we feel we need to clear a pathway for. If we don’t do that, we will not find out about them.

‘We’ve got some young, talented players but they have got to keep developing and turn in performances day in, day out.’

With players who were seen as part of the furniture in Cork, Pothas and Lumb no longer around, there will be a new look to the side next term, with a potentially exciting new era ahead.

But if poor results are blamed on a lack of experience in the side, it simply will not wash.

The experience was already there. The club must remember that they chose to let it leave.