The rapid advance of fast bowling talents Reece Topley and Tymal Mills in the past 12 months has naturally delighted all the coaching staff at Essex but, rather than rest on their laurels, they are currently working intensively in their efforts to unearth the county’s next young pace prospect.
Under the trained and experienced eye of former England fast bowler Chris Silverwood, the county have set-up a fast bowling academy, sponsored by the University of Essex, with a squad of young hopefuls already initiated.
“We’ve got 10 youngsters in the age range of 14 to 19 in the group at the moment and that will be an evolving exercise,” Silverwood said. “Have we got the best ten? Well you can only look and give them an opportunity, and they will all be assessed at the end of the course which had been running since November and has another five weeks or so to go.
“We are constantly looking for undiscovered talent and that includes Minor Counties cricket and, in fact, we’ve got a couple of lads from those ranks training with us at the moment.
“We introduce them to all the skills you need to be a fast bowler. We show them the technical side of things, demonstrate drills that they can carry out on their own, discuss tactics and make them think about various situations. I really do push them hard every week that they are with us in terms of challenging their thinking.
“We also introduce them to a fitness regime because if they are seriously looking to go on and make first-class cricket a career, then fitness is going to be a massive part of their game and their lifestyle. The sooner they get used to that, the better for them.”
In 2011, the University of Essex launched a new scholarship scheme for Academy players choosing to study at Essex with the first scholarship awarded to Youth Development squad member Tom Moore from Brentwood.
“It’s excellent that we have formed that association with the University, because as well as developing the cricket side of things we are also looking after their educational needs,” Silverwood added.
The progress of Topley and Mills indicates the opportunities available to young would-be fast bowlers of the future as they come under the close scrutiny of Silverwood, who won six Test caps for England in a first-class playing career spanning 17 years with Yorkshire and Middlesex.
“Reece and Tymal have done really well so far and are really exciting prospects but we have to remember that it’s relatively early days for them. Everyone needs to keep their feet on the ground because they are still young,” he said. “Tymal has only been playing the game for five years and now he’s got into the England Lions squad which is remarkable progress.
“I’m chuffed to bits for both of the lads because they are getting the rewards for a lot of hard work. It also sends out an important message to bowlers who are in our fast bowling academy that with dedication, hard work and talent, there are wonderful opportunities out there for them in the game.”