Meltham have some exciting young talent on their books and are desperately hoping they will stick together to play Jedi Sports Championship cricket next summer.

Skipper Simon Kenworthy says being relegated from the Drakes Premiership this season is not the end of the world for the Mean Lane club, but recognises they face a battle to keep hold of their best emerging teenagers.

The 50-year-old will only be donning the whites in an emergency next season, despite enjoying much of a Premiership campaign in which they’ve battled manfully but eventually gone down with Holmfirth.

It followed last season’s last-gasp promotion, when Broad Oak and Thongsbridge were pipped for the second spot behind Slaithwaite, and Kenworthy is realistic about the present situation at the famous old club.

“It has been hard work this season because we are playing at the top level and we’ve been struggling, from day one, to stick with the same team,” said Kenworthy.

“From last season’s team that came up we wanted to keep the same bunch – adding in Muhammad Kashif who has played for the Netherlands – and just aimed to try and compete, but we haven’t quite been able to do just enough.

“We have had some terrific wins against the likes of Elland, when we bowled probably the best we’ve done all season, and then we won up at Scholes, which was great for me (as a former player) to glove the last ball for four to win it, so we have produced it at times.

“We have got some really good young lads, too, and our biggest problem – as always – is going to be trying to keep hold of them.

“A couple were pinched last season and we’ve been hearing of inquiries already.

“Like anything else, at Meltham we have been quite a local team over the years and we are desperate to keep hold of our young lads so we can be the same again. Yes, we’ve had good pros here as well, but we are trying to get our Under 15s and Under 17s through for the future of the club.

“We are playing them – the second team has been running on juniors and we have been playing just enough of the older end to keep within the rules, shall we say.

“It’s been mainly 15s and 17s though – those teams have done well in the Sellers Junior League – and that’s the basis of Meltham cricket at the moment, the juniors.

“That’s not a bad thing at all, but we have to keep them here and I hope they do stay, because I think it will be better for their cricket.”

Vinod Minhas has again led the batting effort with pushing 500 runs, while Kashif is near 400 and Alex Clegg – a talented Joe Lumb all-rounder – is over 300 runs in the top flight, where Jack Hinchliffe, at 15, has also gained experience.

Meltham's Vinod Minhas.
 

In the bowling Kashif, who took seven for one against Marsden in the T20, has over 40 wickets in league and cup, with Minhas taking 30.

“Going down is not the end of the world because of the strength we’ve got in the juniors but, as I’ve said, it’s about keeping hold of them,” added Kenworthy.

“The top section is the better cricket, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a good section in the Championship, very competitive, and our young lads will get more opportunity with us at that level than they will going somewhere else.”

Kenworthy used Clegg and Hinchliffe as examples of what he means.

“(Alex) was approached half way through last season and nearly went, and people will be making phone calls again now we’ve gone down,” he said.

“If he were to go to a ‘big time’ club, what would he be going to? He would probably get to bowl one spell and bat at No9, whereas here he can get in more overs and bat at No4. To me that’s a lot better than what can be offered elsewhere at this moment in time – so hopefully he will decide to stay.

“It’s like young Jack Hinchliffe, too. He’s a No4 to No6 here and bowls his six overs, and that’s great at first-team level.

“Personally, I think it’s a poor rule that these young lads are restricted in how many overs they can bowl.

“If they are playing men’s cricket they should be able to bowl as many as anyone else. I know they are suggesting 15 overs maximum from next season at first-team level and I think that’s a good thing.

“You won’t get clubs signing someone to bowl 25 overs every week, things will get shared around and, maybe, people won’t move around as much.

“We have got some good bowlers and some good batters here and the challenge is trying to keep them.”

Kenworthy, who had nine seasons playing with Fartown and is a talented all-round sportsman, like his sons, says he won’t be playing regularly next summer.

“I only took the captaincy this season because we’d been promoted and we wanted to try and keep the same team together,” he added.

“It was a matter of trying to keep a bit of stability and allowing us to compete as best we could – keeping a happy medium among all the players.

“I have enjoyed it, but I’m 50 now and I will enjoy it next season when I’m not playing, although I’ve told them I will turn out if we are really desperate.”