Malden Wanderers youngster Joe Lavender is hoping the England Cricket Board’s U19 club T20 tournament is a success for more reasons than one.
The 16-year-old former Surrey age group player and his teenage team-mates hit the streets of Kingston last week to promote this Friday’s first group match at Cambridge Avenue when Esher Eagles are the visitors.
The tournament, which also features matches with Sunbury Chieftains (July 16, h), Spencer Spitfires (July 18, a) and Wimbledon Bloods (July 25, a), is designed to help keep youngsters in the 15-to-19 age group interested in playing the game.
It takes a leaf out of the marketing book of county cricket’s T20 Blast competition and promises cheerleaders, loud music and prizes for spectators.
Teddington School student Lavender, who has been busy circulating posters and flyers promoting the competition, usually plays for the club’s Surrey Championship second team.
And he hopes the T20 format will be a refreshing change for him and his piers.
“We used to have an U21s team on a Sunday, but we started struggling to field a team and so it was scrapped,” said Lavender.
“Players my age do not necessarily want to play cricket all day, so this is an idea to keep teenagers in the sport until they play adult cricket.
“It’s been good to have this responsibility – and it’s a chance to let people really know we’re here.
“We’ve designed our own kit, and we’re planning music to accompany the action. If we get plenty of local support along, it should be great fun.”
Should Malden – renamed the Rangers for this competition – top their group and then win the Surrey competition they will take on fellow county winners from Kent, Durham and Yorkshire on finals day later this summer.
There is also the added incentive of winning tickets to the T20 Blast final, should their own matchday experience live up to the hype.
“We’ve got Test match tickets to give away, loads of music and even some cheerleaders,” added Lavender.
“We will be rated on our matchday atmosphere and the team with the best will get tickets to the T20 final, so we are going for it.”
And the skipper, who scored 48 for his U17 team last week, will be happy if he gets the ball off the square.
“My season has not got off to the best of starts runs wise so, hopefully, I can smash a few next week and get some form,” he said.
“We are aiming to get out of the group stages, but we only have one 18-year-old available, so we’ve got a young side. We’ll see where we go.”