Question time with Director of Cricket John Abrahams

John Abrahams was looking forward to getting involved in the cricket season in Shropshire this summer in his new role as Director of Cricket for Shropshire CCC.

Sadly, that has been put on hold for now due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So we took the opportunity to ask him some questions about his new role as part of our focus on Cricket Shropshire’s links with the County club, which he kindly took time to answer during lock down.

Cricketing background

I played club cricket in the Central Lancashire League before joining Lancashire CCC. Played for 17 seasons, including captaining for two and a half, winning the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1984. After finishing with Lancashire, played for Shropshire for two and a half seasons (1989-1991) as its professional before moving into coaching and management.

How did you become involved in the Shropshire CCC set up again this year?

In October last year I received a call from John Foster who had been asked to carry out a review of the County set up by the Committee, and one of his suggestions was to appoint someone as a Coach or Player/Coach or Manager. Having played together for Shropshire previously as Captain and professional, he was wondering if I would be interested in being involved with the county again. Following meetings with John and Richard Lees, the Shropshire CCC Secretary, it was agreed just before Christmas that I take up the position of Director of Cricket.

What is your role as Director of Cricket?

When asked by the Cricket Management Group to present a vision, what I will be working towards is:

“To establish a development environment and support system which will allow the teams and players to compete and succeed.”

The environment will be challenging and supportive, both stimulating and enjoyable. Players had started taking on responsibility for their improvement and behaviour through a Team Charter and Individual Player Development Plans. What we would also like to see is the players acting as role models when they return to their clubs, and include and pass on any practices and attitudes that they had experienced at the county sessions.

How’s the new set up settling in with Jason Weaver as coach and James Ralph and Tony Parton joining the selection panel?

Jason and I played together for the county and have kept in contact through our work within age group cricket, he with Kent CCC and me within the National age group set up.

We have also worked together as Coach Mentors and Coach Course Assessors. His contribution as a sounding board with ideas to devising and delivering the programme to date has been invaluable.

Another contemporary in the Shropshire Minor Counties team was Tony Parton who has been around the cricket scene all his life. When it was suggested that two selectors be appointed to identify potential players at all levels, I was happy that Tony be invited to be one of them.

James Ralph also has a wealth of experience at county and club levels, and between them they have played over 200 matches for the county club. From meetings we have already had, they are pleased and proud to be involved in identifying and selecting home-grown talent.

How did the winter training go?

Winter training was going very well, there was a genuine buzz about the sessions that took place and the enthusiasm and commitment the players brought to practice was encouraging and rewarding. Having had general training, we were just getting into the individual needs of the players and their potential roles within each format of competition when, unfortunately, the sessions were curtailed.

What were you looking forward to this season?

Having been involved with many teams over my playing, coaching and managing careers, I was looking forward to again being part of a group with a common goal, who have pride in representing Shropshire cricket and hopefully experiencing some individual and team success.

There would also have been opportunities to reacquaint myself with Shropshire members, supporters and spectators and some of the lovely grounds I used to play on.

What is your vision for Shropshire CCC going forward?

Three-fold. Firstly, that we create an environment for players to develop as cricketers and grow as people, encouraging them to take on the responsibility for their learning. To challenge and support them, helping them be the best that they want to be and can be. That includes the younger players who may have ambitions outside of Shropshire, they deserve whatever we can offer them and should feel proud of any of their achievements.

Secondly, to have pride in representing the county on the cricket field and giving of your best to achieve any success. For everyone to enjoy that success, whoever contributed most to it. And in so doing enjoying each other’s company on and off the field.

Finally, as a by-product, when players return to their clubs, to be role models and contribute to the development of players there and their club as a whole, thereby improving the standard of club cricket in Shropshire.

How does the Minor Counties game fit in with the cricket pathway?

The National Counties competitions may not get the full airing they deserve in its inaugural season, and hopefully we will see the standards more closely next season. Counties like Shropshire are important in that they provide players for the First Class game and potentially for England. Shropshire Cricket Board has done excellent work in attracting funding from the ECB to run an Emerging Player Programme in unison with Worcestershire CCC. This will allow young Salopian cricketers access to expert coaching and tuition and potential opportunities at the next levels.

During my last year with the ECB as Manager for the England Under 19s, in a group of 15 players selected to play in the 2014 Under 19s World Cup, two had grown up and learnt their cricket in Shropshire: Ed Barnard and Joe Clarke. That is a very good statistic and ratio, and emphasises the importance of ‘Minor counties’ and National Counties cricket.

How do you see cricket’s future?

Fielding is improving all the time. Batting is becoming more innovative and bowling has had to respond. The women’s game and junior cricket are getting the attention they deserve and are also improving. Last season (2019) was probably the best in terms of achievement, success, the quality of the cricket and the excitement of matches. The game will evolve, improve and hopefully attract more and more people; playing, watching and coaching.

In conclusion?

Having taken on the role as Director of Cricket and getting former players involved, added to the commitment that players attending at Academy and Seniors sessions, everyone was genuinely looking forward to the season. That has been deferred, hopefully not completely abandoned. Whenever it does start, it will be good to return to the clubs of Shropshire.