Academy still holds key for Surrey despite transfer activity

BY MARCUS HOOK

Surrey have been busy in the transfer market in recent weeks, snapping up proven all-rounders in the shape of Lancashire’s Jordan Clark and Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett – both on three-year contracts – but head coach Michael Di Venuto believes the Surrey Academy will prove to be the cornerstone to lasting success for the Oval outfit.

“The Academy supply us with a lot of cricketers and I see it as a very important part of the Club,” says the 44-year-old, who grew up playing alongside Ricky Ponting, the former captain of Australia, prior to breaking into the professional game for Tasmania.

Di Venuto adds: “Quite a few of our boys, now, have come through the Academy set-up. They’re developing all the time as cricketers and as people. To get the born and bred Surrey boys coming through the ranks, what a great story.

“What we’ve had coming out of the Academy in the last few years are some quality products. We give a clear pathway to the guys coming through, in other words that it doesn’t just stop there.

“Obviously, you’ve got to be able to play the game first. You’re not just going to get given a contract. But with the senior players nurturing and helping them out it’s a good environment we’re developing here at Surrey.”

This summer has seen the emergence of Ollie Pope, who, this time last year, had only ever played one game in the County Championship.

“Ollie Pope is a classic example of someone whose got an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands,” said Di Venuto. “He’s a very quick learner and just an exciting young talent.

“He’s incredibly calm and composed and was so right from his first game for us. I remember I was sitting with Alec Stewart seeing him on the television playing for the England Under-19s. Jason Roy wasn’t available for our one-day semi-final, so I said to Stewie: ‘Let’s get this kid in.’

“He’s an impressive kid, a really great kid who asks a lot of questions, listens, learns and works hard.

“The hundreds Ollie has scored for us this year have all been excellent and came when we needed someone to step up as well. It wasn’t like he was going out there with 300 on the board. Most of the time he has got big runs when we have been under the pump.

“He’s one of the new breed of modern one-day batters. He’s got skills galore and it has been really exciting watching his development and where he’s going with his game.”


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