Tom Craddock admits he is “incredibly proud” to have been appointed as Yorkshire’s lead Academy coach, replacing James Lowe, who has been moved up to work with the county’s second team.
Craddock, the Huddersfield-born former Essex leg-spinner, himself has moved up through the Headingley ranks after three years as a High Performance coach.
The 33-year-old works under an adjusted title of High Performance Academy coach.
“I’m loving it. It’s a brilliant challenge, and I’m very fortunate to be where I am,” he said, having started his new role last month.
Craddock’s previous role included working with the county’s age-group teams, while he also spent time as Yorkshire’s women’s coach.
“The thing that’s helping me is my knowledge of the current players. I’ve worked with every single one of them,” he continued.
“I started here in 2020, and part of my role was to oversee and assist where possible on ages 13s to 15. Then, in 2021, the ECB launched the Under 16s national trophy. Last year, I oversaw the Under 15s and 16s.
“We got to the national final with the 16s, and that was a brilliant journey given how hard it is to balance study and cricket.
“I’m incredibly proud. I try not to get overawed by how famous the Yorkshire Academy is. But it really is. It’s impacted a lot of people all over the world.
“It’s been a privilege and honour to work at the club, but to be able to work with what will hopefully be some of the future stars of world cricket, it’s something I don’t take lightly.”
The plan is for Craddock to be assisted by a quintet of coaches.
He explained: “The performance pathway team is going to be integrated with the Academy as much as possible.
“You’ve got three High Performance coaches in Mohammad Azharullah, John Major and Bilal Anjam. But we are in the process of back-filling my role.
“Those coaches will work between the ages of 13 and 16 but also assist me where possible.
“One of the main assistants who is going to be working alongside me is Tim Boon.
“I’m really looking forward to that because of his vast knowledge and experience. He’s been on board quite a lot already this winter, leading the batting. I’ll lean on him quite a lot through the summer.
“Then, if any of the second-team guys are free amidst their hectic schedule, I’m sure they’ll pop in to see how we’re getting on. There are a lot of people who are desperate to help.”
The offer of help has also come from the playing staff.
Craddock continued: “We’re very fortunate at the club to have a vast knowledge across a multitude of skills, be it in the coaching or the playing staff.
“Jonny Bairstow came down the other day to chat to the lads, which was amazing for them.
“Dom Bess has done some work with the off-spinners, and Jonny Tattersall is completing his level three coaching at the moment and is building up his hours within the Academy.
“Will Fraine has popped in and had a journey through the University system before turning professional.
“Dom wasn’t taken on at Somerset and went to Australia. Only when he came back at the age of 19 did they take him on.
“It was interesting that Jonny said he was never part of any national ID programme until the age of 19 or 20.
“His message to the lads was, ‘It’s not about how good you are at 15 or 16, it’s about what you can achieve when you get the chance to play’.
“To have our young cricketers exposed to a multitude of journeys through the game is vitally important.”
It is an often discussed topic at Academy and age-group level, finding the balance between performance and development.
Is, for example, winning matches the main goal below the senior squads?
“It isn’t the be all and end all,” is Craddock’s view.
“From a performance angle, it looks like we smashed it out of the park last year. The Under 14s had a good year, the 16s and the 18s.
“At Under 15s level, we had six lads represent us at the Bunbury Festival. In the Super Fours, we had Josh Hoyle, Noah Kelly, Isaac Light and Charlie McMurran.
“Yes, we are trying to provide world-class cricketers for Yorkshire, but alongside that we want to forge a life-long love of cricket within Yorkshire.
“We hope that in 10-15 years when some of our lads have moved on, having not had the success they’d perhaps initially hoped for, they are still growing the game outside Yorkshire CCC and are making club cricket the strongest it can be. It’s that ripple effect.”
Craddock played 18 first-class, seven List A and two T20 matches during a county career which spanned 2011-2014, the majority for Essex. He claimed 41 first-class wickets, including a best of 5-96.
In 2013, during a warm-up fixture against England’s Test team ahead of that summer’s Ashes series, he starred with 5-69, including the prized wickets of Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matt Prior.
But, clearly, he did not have things all his own way and was released in 2014.
It leaves him in an excellent position to pass on knowledge of various experiences – good and bad – to the young players at Headingley.
“There are two messages I would say are vitally important,” he added.
“The first is just be curious and ask questions, learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of anyone who comes near our environment.
“That might be Jonny Bairstow. When he came in and saw us, there were some confident lads who just went up to pick his brains and others who were less confident.
“Along their journey, there are going to be a lot of people who they deem to be incredibly famous who come into their environment. That doesn’t mean you can’t be curious and learn.
“The second is don’t give up. The game is very fickle. You often see someone hit red hot form at the right time and go on to make the most of that opportunity to further themselves.
“But before that opportunity, the game can be really difficult. You can be in the form of your life and get three good balls. All of a sudden, you’ve got three ducks in a row.
“Never give up, keep competing and be as curious as you can be.”