Tom Cant has been appointed as the new permanent senior regional talent manger for the Northern Diamonds, a role he has held on an interim basis since the turn of the year.
Cant stepped into the role Courtney Winfield-Hill vacated in December.
“I’m absolutely buzzing,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic four months as interim. I’ve loved every minute. To go through the process and be given the job full-time is hugely satisfying.
“It’s one that I’m looking forward to putting my stamp on going forwards.”
The Diamonds Academy has already produced a quartet of senior trophy winners, with graduates Emma Marlow, Lizzie Scott, Phoebe Turner and Jess Woolston all playing their part in last season’s Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy triumph.
This season, Grace Hall has broken through into the team currently playing in the Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 competition.
“We’ve had the five girls move up, and a lot of that’s down to the hard work of Courtney and her legacy,” continued Cant. “It’s hugely exciting to see the talent coming through.
“Only the other day I was at Durham Under 13s v Yorkshire Under 13s, and to see some of the cricket on show was fantastic.
“With the EPP programmes and the extra work the counties are doing, the next few years is hugely exciting for us.
“There’s been a huge commitment from Dani (Hazell), James (Carr) and the rest of the coaching staff that we try to give as many opportunities to our own as possible.”
Cant has been overseeing Academy and second-team fixtures over the last six weeks or so, though rain has ravaged their programme.
Last month’s Academy Festival at Millfield School in Somerset was heavily affected, as have been the regular fixtures.
A host of players would have also hoped to play a significant amount of senior county cricket, but six of Yorkshire’s eight T20 matches were rained off, for example.
“We had an Academy friendly against the Sparks at the end of last month, which was limited to 17-18 overs,” reflected Cant. “And I thought we bowled really well in tough conditions – wet ball, slippery conditions.
“We then had a second-team friendly against them, at the Edgbaston Community Ground, a few days later. A few of the senior girls played in that game.
“We fell 17 short chasing 243. But there were some really positive signs. Trudy Johnson bowled 10 overs, Elicia Pollard 10, Lucy Lindley five and Harriet Robson three. A large portion of the overs came from the Academy.
“Ellie Nightingale batting number nine got 37, putting on 78 with Grace Hall for the eighth wicket.
“Grace captained that game, which was really good for her.
“We’ve sort of identified two or three who we will give captaincy opportunities to across the season. That’s obviously dependent on first-team selection. She’s one of them.”
Seamer Hall has impressed in her first two senior appearances, the 20-year-old claiming three wickets over the last week and displaying control and a plethora of variations with a slingy Lasith Malinga style bowling action.
“At the start of the season, we looked to prepare her for that T20 block. She’s got her chance and taken it. That’s fantastic to see,” said Cant. “It’s also one for the rest of the Academy girls to look at and think, ‘I’m not far away’.”
Second-team cricket at regional level is new for 2023.
“It’s that missing link,” continued Cant. “There’s lots of senior and Academy cricket, but this has brought the two squads together and provided an extra layer of cricket.
“Especially with county cricket being washed out, it’s provided an extra opportunity.
“The Academy girls were hugely frustrated having had the Regional Academy rained off as well. But also for us, from a Talent ID perspective. We wanted to get out there and look at the players. But what can you do at the end of the day?”
Cant and co are currently working around many players’ education commitments, with exams ongoing.
“At the minute, we have training either in Yorkshire or the North East. But it’s very much optional,” he said. We have Blaze next week in two T20s. Then there’s another little exam period.
“But from mid-June onwards with Academy and County Age-Group cricket, it’s non-stop really.”
Non-stop is also an apt way to describe the Diamonds’ search for new talent. So far, it’s been highly successful. Under Cant, it’s likely to continue that way.