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Four in one: the local cricket club streaming out Middlesex CCC professionals

“If a club can produce one professional every decade, that would still be a phenomenal achievement.”

So says Luke Hollman, professional cricket player for Middlesex County Cricket Club.

And coming from someone who has been through the rigours of the junior elite level cricket set-up and made it out the other side, this is indicative of how difficult it actually is to make it as a professional cricketer.

However, North Middlesex CC are an anomaly amongst local cricket clubs in London: they have managed to produce four county-level professionals for Middlesex between the ages of 22 and 25.

Hollman, as well as Joe Cracknell, Ethan Bamber, and Max Harris, all started their cricketing journeys at North Middlesex Cricket Club in Hornsey.

This unprecedented feat is made all the more impressive considering the extent of competition.

There are 156 cricket clubs in London, and the vast majority are situated within the county of Middlesex.

That’s a lot of youngsters across the capital picking up a bat or a ball and seeking to try their hand at the game, however Hollman believes that North Middlesex’s meritocratic handling of junior players is what ultimately facilitated this outstanding achievement.

He added: “Most importantly, I think the club have an awareness that if they have a half-decent youngster, get them in early and surround them with the right people to help them improve.”

Club chairman Stephen Edwards echoes this sentiment.

He said: “A feature of North Middlesex is that when we have talented lads, there is no barrier or senior members who prevent them from rising up the ranks within the club.

“There is an overriding culture within the club whereby everyone celebrates the successes and achievements of young guys even if it means individuals being demoted down in order to make way for them.”

Mind you, this kind of exposure does not come without its challenges.

Hollman was just 12 years old when he first played for North Middlesex’s fifth XI, and admitted it was initially daunting.

He said: “You just didn’t want to let anybody down. The way league cricket works, the older guys are paying a match fee and are giving up their Saturdays to make this commitment, away from their families or partners, so a dropped catch or a runout is going to be a big deal for them.

“The pressure of it kind of forced you to have a bit more precision about your game.

“But it was positively character building. The experience put me on a good path and definitely fast-tracked my development: I’m sure the others would all agree.”

It would be incorrect to say North Middlesex set out to produce county-level professionals.

Like all cricket clubs should be, Edwards says it is about letting the kids have fun first and foremost and going from there.

Nevertheless, they do offer opportunities to young players who may want to take their cricket more seriously.

When it becomes clear that juniors have a certain level of talent, they are given the chance to do some training sessions in tandem with senior players from the first and second XI, which doubles up into a type of mentoring scheme.

For the four county products, this contributed significantly to their dream of becoming professional players.

Hollman said: “It definitely kickstarted our development and instigated a mentality within the club of trying to integrate young guys to a point where they are familiar with playing at a men’s team level.

“I feel like it’s massively geared towards individual success.”

Expanding beyond the eye-catching story of the four Middlesex pros, Hollman also attributes North Middlesex’s thriving junior output to others around his age group that he played with.

He added: “Obviously, the four county guys get the attention, but there were some very good cricketers in and amongst our group – some of whom are still playing, some of whom have stopped. We all pushed each other and trained together to a really high standard.”

Edwards also makes sure to recognise individuals such as Richard Nicoll, who oversaw the boys’ development in the early years of their cricketing training and is widely regarded as having done an enormous amount to raise the standards of coaching at junior cricket level.

From the chairman’s perspective, there is a feeling of immense gratitude that North Middlesex were able to the beneficiaries of these talented youngsters.

He said: “Undoubtedly, we are extraordinarily lucky to be the club that these young lads came to – there are all local boys which is very nice as well.”

The uniqueness of the situation is not lost on Hollman either.

He added: “To have all four of us making it at county level within a two year age group is something that’s quite special.

“Another bonus is that, because we all grew up together, it does give us that element of a safety net at the highest level – it makes that daunting element of professional cricket and walking out at Lords’ slightly less intimidating.”

According to Edwards, North Middlesex currently have at least three players in their current junior ranks who have the potential to make it to county level professionally – if they’re not too careful, they could start making a habit out of this.

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