Barkisland get massive seal of approval from England legend Sir Ian Botham
BARKISLAND have many reasons to be cheerful – and now they are to be visited by Sir Ian Botham!
The cricket legend and now Sky TV pundit will visit on Thursday, June 21, to open new net facilities at the picturesque Calderdale club.
He will also receive a cheque for around £10,000 for his Leukaemia Research charity.
The money-raising campaign was launched by the club chairman’s wife Vanessa Casaru, following the death of her brother from the disease.
England great Botham – who is working the following day for Sky at the one-day international between England and the West Indies at Headingley – told the club he would be delighted to accept the cheque and cut the ribbon to officially open the new practice facilities.
It’s all part of a Festival at the Frank Platt Championship leaders which includes a visit by an MCC side to play New College Academy, who are coached by Barkisland’s experienced first-team player Dave Weston.
Another of the games will be a Twenty20 clash between a combined Bradford and Halifax League team and a combined Huddersfield and Central Lancashire League team.
So there are exciting times at the club, who have a long-term ground lease in their pocket, a new Junior Academy to boast of and sit top of their table in the Drakes second tier.
The thorny question of a new lease had been hanging over the club like the sword of Damocles for a year or two.
But club chairman Steve Casaru and his fellow officials met with members of the Maude family who own the Woodfield ground and to everyone’s relief, emerged with a new 25-year-old deal which secures the future of the club.
“We were literally 48 hours away from being evicted, but thankfully we were able to sit round a table with the Maude family and re-negotiate a new lease,” said Casaru.
“Although it is back-dated to when the original lease expired, we have managed to secure a sufficiently lengthy future for the club, and I would like publicly to thank the family for helping us to achieve that.
“Barkisland is a proper village club, and we are aIso grateful to the people of the village who have all rallied round, and I’m delighted to say we are now on an even footing.”
Having sorted out their ‘off-field, but of-the-field’ concerns, the next step was to decide on the way forward on the playing side after being relegated from the Premiership last season, and that is where the Academy idea comes in.
“We came down at the end of last season, and would have done the previous year had the League not slightly re-adjusted after Kexborough left. So we took a long, hard look at where we were and decided not to employ a professional this season, but instead to put our faith in a youth policy,” confirmed Casaru.
“And that decision seems to have gone down particularly well with our sponsors, one of whom has actually increased the funding because of it.
“The money we would have spent on a professional is instead being spent on coaching our junior players, and to that end we have linked up with Matt Dawson and the Cricket Asylum at Sowerby Bridge.
“We have selected about four players from each of our age groups from Under 11s to Under 17s and they are going every week for intensive coaching at the Asylum.
“The Asylum employ specialist wicket-keeping coaches and fast bowling coaches, while former Derbyshire and Halifax left-arm spinner Richard Sladdin is the slow-bowling coach.
“The centre has all the latest technology, with cameras which show every lane on video. And on top of that we are having new nets re-built and re-surfaced, and the coaching will then move outdoors.
“And we have a number of our qualified coaches at the club, headed by Dave Weston who runs the Huddersfield New College Academy, along with Peter Lombard, who also works with Dave.
“In truth we now have so many youngsters in our Junior section we can hardly cope. Some of them play in our Sunday team, which plays in the Halifax Sunday League, and the team comprises around two or three 40-year-olds and the rest are made up of 13 to 14-year-olds.”
With the youth policy in mind, Barkisland have only a couple of new faces in the first team squad this season, who are being skippered for the first time by all-rounder Darren Robinson, who has won praise from the club chairman for the time and effort he has already put in this season.
One of the new faces is Jonathan Whiteoak (son of former Elland favourite Richard) who maybe only 15, but is already opening the bowling.
Whiteoak has been recruited from Halifax League club SBCI (Sowerby Bridge Church Institute), while the other newcomer is Jonathan Belcham, who has joined the club from Delph & Dobcross, although mainly to play in the Seconds.
Callum Thompson has also returned to Barkisland after coming back from a spell in Australia, where he was playing rugby. At home he plays at prop forward for Hipperholme-based Old Brodleians, but is currently opening the bowling with Whiteoak.
As well as being a highly-regarded coach, Weston also has committed himself to playing in the first team this season to give the side that bit of added experience at the top of the order.
“Having made the decision not to employ an overseas professional this year, we are determined to run with our Academy/Youth policy,” added Casaru. “Indeed, the next person we engage at Barkisland Cricket Club will definitely be a coach-player.”