CRICKET: Rugby CC - new recruits boost season’s ambitions

Owen Edwards bowling for Rugby CC
Owen Edwards bowling for Rugby CC

1st XI target Warwickshire Premier Division title

Ambitious Rugby Cricket Club are looking forward to the season with renewed optimism and enthusiasm after strengthening their squad over the winter.

Under the leadership of new captain Owen Edwards the 1st XI hope to be challenging for the Warwickshire Premier Division title.

Edwards takes over from Matt Ewer, who has transformed the club in his five years in the role, including overseeing two promotions.

Playing at the highest level of cricket in the town, Rugby CC have attracted a host of new faces, including former Warwickshire captain Michael Powell, making this summer’s campaign a very exciting prospect.

Powell, who played at Webb Ellis Road as a teenager, is now cricket professional at Rugby School and will add tremendous experience to the side. Having played for England U18s, U19s and A team, he led Warwickshire to victory in the Benson & Hedges Cup final at Lords in 2002.

Warwickshire colt Raj Chohan also came up through the club’s junior ranks and returns after a year with Kenilworth Wardens in the Birmingham League, where his game developed playing against a host of semi-professional and contracted players.

Another top order batsman, former Northamptonshire Academy player Terry Cooper, who used to play at Stockton, joins from Bedworth.

And Henry Wilkins from Southam was the only non-Premier division cricketer selected to the league’s representative team last year, playing alongside Rugby’s Edwards, Ewer and Charlie Robards.

Rugby are also welcoming newcomers from local clubs, including Lee Golding from Rowland United, Barry Taylor and Rob Stipanovic from Barby and John Sage from Stockton.

Starting his fourth season at Rugby, after spells with Stockton, GEC Rugby and Margate in Tasmania, new skipper Edwards is keen to continue Ewer’s efforts: “Matt’s are big shoes to fill,” he said. “He’s brought about a big shift in the culture of the club, so much so that players have been approaching us and want to be part of it.

“Raj is showing phenomenal class in the winter nets and he will support Charlie as our other opening bat. They’re a very solid base for us to have.

“Terry will add some extra class that we’ve been missing in the top order and Henry is an all-rounder, a very powerful middle-order batsman and a quick bowler too. He’s very highly rated in the league.

“And Mike is very keen to be involved and we’ll appreciate having someone of his experience. He’s been there and done it all. As captain, having him there in the field might be a bit daunting at first, but he will be great to turn to for advice.

“Once his school commitments finish he’ll be adding class to our middle order and is a great spin bowler, something we are short of. Steve Ward was our spinner last year and did a good job, but he is fully recovered from knee surgery, but now he’s fit, he’s bowling quick again.”

A league rule change limiting bowlers to a maximum of 12 overs should also benefit Rugby.

“It rewards teams that have strength in depth,” explained Edwards. “Last season Matt and I were bowling 15 overs each, but now there are other quality bowlers to share the workload and other teams won’t be able to dominate matches with just a couple of key players.”

The league is also being restructured from separate 1st and 2nd XI competitions, to a new 18-division format, where Rugby’s 2nds will start in Division 4, against the likes of Oakfield’s 1st XI, with the 3rds in Division 11 East. Divisions 8 to 12 are regionalised to help reduce travelling.

“It might take a couple of seasons for teams to find their level, but it will be much better in the long run,” added Edwards.

“It means 2nd teams can develop at their own pace and aren’t locked into what their 1sts are doing.”

In their third year in the Premier Division, the 1st XI’s target is clearly to win the league title, a hard task against already strong sides who have also been recruiting well.

New 2nds captain Neal McGrath has a competitive side with similar ambitions, who will also be looking to establish themselves, while the 3rd team will provide a stepping stone into senior cricket for the younger players.

As well as training hard for the season, which starts on April 25 with friendlies for all sides the previous week, players have been enjoying the camaraderie of social events, with five-a-side football and a golf day.

“There’s a really good atmosphere,” added Edwards. “In my 20 years in the sport I have never seen so much enthusiasm and optimism.

“We have the players this season and need to put in the performances,” added Edwards. “We know it’s going to be tough and aren’t getting carried away, but we have a good chance.

“We’d like to be the club that youngsters aspire to and strive to play for. And for people who like cricket to appreciate the quality in our side, playing a style of entertaining, attacking cricket that spectators will want to come and watch.”