James Ralph and Tony Parton, both former Shropshire players, have a part to play in shaping the county club’s future after joining a new-look selection committee.
Ralph, who played over 100 Championship matches for Shropshire, and fellow county stalwart Parton will bring a wealth of Minor Counties experience to the selection table.
They will work closely with selection co-ordinator Ian Roe, Director of Cricket John Abrahams and coach Jason Weaver once cricket receives the all clear to resume.
“I’m honoured to have been asked,” said Ralph, who continues to play in the top division of the Shropshire County Cricket League for Quatt.
“It’s something that I wanted to get involved in because I feel with me still playing that I can have some input, maybe bring in someone left field who is scoring runs that I feel could make the step up from the Shropshire League to play for the county. That was really my angle for wanting to come on board.”
Ralph, a former Shropshire captain, was always so proud to represent the county as a player: “I’ve invested 20 years of my life into playing for Shropshire from the age of 21 to 41,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time. I love cricket, I love watching cricket and I want to see Shropshire win.
“I feel if I’m going to go and watch that I would like to be involved. That was the reason why I got involved with the Shropshire County Cricket League committee. There’s no point having opinions on things if you’re not willing to put your cap in the ring.”
Ralph added he’s optimistic about the county’s future and believes there is a talented crop of young talented players coming through.
“Everything that I’ve seen is positive going forward,” he insisted. “The coaches have done a great job over the winter. I see from the updates from the lads that they have been going to the nets all winter, with the feedback that they’re all buying into it and that everyone’s keen.
“I think the team would have hit the ground running this season because of the work that John, Jason and Ian have put in over the winter.”
Parton, who represented several clubs as a consistent top order batsman during his playing days, will combine his role as cricket groundsman at Wrekin College with being part of Shropshire’s selection committee.
Parton said: “When I was asked to be a selector, it was a lovely surprise and to have the opportunity to work alongside John Abrahams and the new selection committee was an even greater incentive.
“Working as a groundsman at Wrekin College, I’m in a great position to watch the young players coming through the youth system and I’m also really looking forward to travelling around the county to watch potential players
“The pinnacle for me is to be able to see and develop young players coming through the ranks and thereafter to hope that one or two of them will go on to play first-class cricket.”
Roe, who is also Shropshire’s Head of Academy, welcomes the involvement of the ex-Shropshire duo and believes their knowledge can only help the county moving forward.
“Their pedigree and their names say it all,” he said. “Ralphy and Tony both played a lot of games for the county.
“Tony had vast experience playing for a number of first-class counties at 2nd XI level and James was at Worcestershire before joining Shropshire.
“They know a cricketer when they see one and, in the case of James, it’s nice to have someone that’s still playing in the top division of the Shropshire League with Quatt.
“Tony also watches so much cricket in his role at Wrekin College and travels around the county to watch cricket as well. We need other eyes, other ears and people of their pedigree.”
As well as putting a new selection committee in place, Shropshire have also established a new scouting network. This will allow them to keep closer tabs on players capable of making an impact at National Counties Cricket Association level.
Roe added: “Now that we’ve set up a scouting network, it will enable us to have more coverage in all reaches of the county. The scouts will go and look at players playing league cricket on Saturdays and then report back to ourselves.
“The information from the scouts will be passed on to the selectors to then go and watch the players in action. We will listen to the clubs. They have only got to make contact with us and we will come and watch people.”
By Stuart Dunn
Pictured: Director of cricket John Abrahams, centre, with James Ralph, left, and Tony Parton, who are part of Shropshire County Cricket Club’s new selection committee.