Junior professional Ben Coad will face biggest test of his adult life this week, when he travels to Australia for the first time for a six-week intensive training programme at the critically-acclaimed Darren Lehmann Academy based in Adelaide.
The 20-year-old seamer, who celebrated his birthday last week, was awarded the Kevin Armitage Scholarship at the end of last season. The scholarship, the first of its kind, was set up by the Yorkshire Pride Lottery and is sponsored by Marjorie Armitage, who has funded Ben’s trip in memory of her husband Kevin – a lifelong Yorkshire support and local league cricketer who sadly passed away in October 2012. Each year going forward, a selection panel comprising of the coaching staff at the Club will select a young player from the Yorkshire Academy to be given the opportunity to enhance their skills and travel abroad for coaching and life enhancing challenges during the winter.
“I have never been to Australia, so that will be a new experience to encounter,” said Coad, who heads out to Adelaide later this week alongside young bowler Moin Ashraf who will enjoy a stint with South Australian club side East Torrens.
“I would like to thank Jane Ferguson from the Yorkshire Pride Lottery and Marjorie Armitage for helping me fund my trip. Marjorie’s husband, Kevin, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago, was a very loyal Yorkshire supporter and a member of the lottery. He would be very proud that he is helping the next generation of Yorkshire cricketers reach their potential.
“I found out at the end of last season that I’d become the first recipient of the award. Martyn Moxon and Ian Dews took me into the office and explained that I’d be going to Australia and I was shocked.
“It is a great privilege to be heading out to the Darren Lehmann Academy. I’ve been told that it is one of the best development centres in Australia for learning the game. At this stage of my career, I’m looking to improve and gain as much knowledge as possible. I’m only just starting out having earned a junior pro contract and opportunities like this very rarely come around.”
“Ben is the first recipient of the Kevin Armitage Scholarship and I can honestly say this will become the most sought-after award that every young Yorkshire player will be striving for in years to come." - Jason Gillespie
During his six-week programme, Coad will work on his strength, fitness and play in a number of organised matches during midweek and be affiliated to a league side on a weekend in the highly competitive league programme in the Adelaide area.
“Cricket is paramount whilst I’m out there, but I’m looking forward to experiencing Australian life,” he said.
“Dizzy (Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire’s First Tem Coach), who is a bit of a legend in South Australia, is fixing me up with a Grade club so that I can play regular cricket at the weekend. I’m going out with Moin Ashraf, who is joining a grade club to help him find his form. I won’t be staying with Moin but we will no doubt be catching up with each other most days. I can’t wait to get started now and start packing my bags.”
Coad, who spent most of last season playing in the second team and Academy, made his senior debut in the Yorkshire Bank 40 competition and in the harsh environment of bowling to some of the best players in the country he had to learn the hard way about what it takes to succeed at the highest level of professional sport.
“Last season I never expected to break into the first team,” added Coad
“I was told it would be a year of just learning the game, playing the odd second team game and with the Academy. I was ahead of where I should have been and to play in the first team was great experience. It was nerve-wracking at the time, especially when you come running into bowl against some top class batters. I learnt very quickly that there is no room for error. Anything short or full, the batsmen pounced on it straight away. It is cruel, but you gain so much from being involved. It is not just about being on the field, you sit in the pavilion hanging onto every word from the senior players and that is just as important for my development.
“My biggest challenge for this year is to work on my strength. I’m still growing and I need to get stronger, which will help me bowl quicker. I expect to play most of my cricket in the Second Team and I have also joined York in the Yorkshire League. They are a good team and are reigning champions. If I get the opportunity to play in the first team for Yorkshire, I’ll grab it. You never know where that can lead.”
Out of all the senior coaches wishing Ben well on his trip, First Team coach Jason Gillespie knows better than most what he can expect. Gillespie, who hails from Adelaide and has worked at the Academy in the past, believes the scholarship programme will become the award that every young Yorkshire player will want to win.
“Ben is the first recipient of the Kevin Armitage Scholarship and I can honestly say this will become the most sought-after award that every young Yorkshire player will be striving for in years to come,” said Gillespie.
“To be afforded the opportunity to travel the world and learn your trade is a huge opportunity and we couldn’t do it without the support from Marjorie Armitage and the Yorkshire Pride Lottery.
“He is going to one of the best facilities in Australia alongside some expert coaches. It will be tough. They will work him hard in the week and he’ll also get to play some decent cricket against quality opposition. It will be a great place to learn about himself. He will be a young man in a different country. You can’t buy that experience and we will see him mature as a cricketer and a person.
“His cricket is really coming on and he has a bright future in the game. He has worked hard in pre-season so far, but it has been indoors. You can only do so much in the indoor school here and getting out in the dirt will be beneficial in a competitive environment.”
For further information on the great work the Yorkshire Pride Lottery does and to become a member, please contact Jane Ferguson on 0113 2033 640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org