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Balancing youth and experience

Whilst the shortest format of the game of cricket is not necessarily the one to use when trying to ascertain whether a player is particularly good or is ready to take on the highest level, a couple of things have been evident from the Champions League T20. One of those things is the value of experience in helping young talent find its way.

Many sides in the tournament have in their ranks players who once were in their national teams but have since been usurped, and their time at the top is close to done if not expired already – the likes of Simon Katich, Herschelle Gibbs and Marcus North for Perth; Martin van Jaarsveld and Alfonso Thomas for the Titans; Neil McKenzie and Dirk Nannes for the Lions; Brad Haddin for the Sydney side; Ryan Sidebottom for Yorkshire; and then Azhar Mahmood, Andre Adams and Lou Vincent for the Auckland Aces.

The value of all those players is immeasurable in a cricket system, as their knowledge needs to be passed on from one generation to the next, and the most effective way for that to happen is when players speak as teammates rather than from coach to player. It is easier and more likely for advice to be taken when ‘you’re in battle together’ than when the advice is communicated from an outside point of view.

We could see this in the Champions League on a couple of occasions. Neil McKenzie's advice would have been invaluable for Quinton De Kock in that century stand against the Mumbai Indians whilst under the pressure of the scoreboard, and Unmukt Chand would have benefited immeasurably having the opportunity to bat with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen and Ross Taylor.

Both those youngsters seem set to feature in their national teams sometime in the future and their learning sure will be accelerated by rubbing shoulders with those who have done what they aspire to do.

The domestic system therefore needs to be very careful not to call time on players who may no longer be in line for national selection in favour of those who show signs of good talent. The older player sure needs the system as he tries to prolong his career, and the youngster, despite not always realising it, requires the contents of the old head so as to get a heads-up for exactly what is needed in the different situations he will encounter in the game.

Whilst some may look at it and think that coaches are there to pass on knowledge, I would suggest (as was told to me a long time ago) that the best coaches are one’s fellow players, as they get to know you the best and see everything that you do on the field first hand.

I hope that the goings-on in this Champions’ League tournament, with the proliferation of older players performing decently, is passive advice that is heeded by the franchises and the cricket system in the country at large.

There is very much a need for balancing experience and youth and with that done, the potential for really good development of young players.

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