Ryan Heap “Cricket is such a great game that I see our responsibility to make it available to people of all ages, irrespective of ability”
Monday 15th May 2017 11:06 Sports Posted by Mark Phillip

Having taken on the captaincy at Ashton this season Ryan Heap must wonder just what he has let himself in for.

Last season the Reyner Lane side enjoyed its best season in many years, going into the final fixture with hopes of promotion still alive and having reached the Pennine League Tanner Cup Final.  Eight months later, the loss of a number of experienced players, added to the late arrival of pro Chami Edirisinghe due to Home Office red tape, means that Ryan has had a baptism of fire.  Results on the field have been far from good but he is not downhearted – indeed it is more to the future that he is looking.  Reporter Sport caught up with him earlier this week to find out more.

Ryan explained that he sees the role of any cricket club, and certainly Ashton, as not being solely about the senior teams.  “Cricket is such a great game that I see our responsibility being to make it available to people of all ages, irrespective of ability.

“Success at a senior level is good but if we don’t provide facilities for juniors to learn the game and develop then there’s no future”.

He went on to reflect on his own experience at Reyner Lane where Club officials have long believed that investment at a junior level is equally as important as elsewhere.  Ryan continued: “Last year I was part of the team which made it to the Tanner Cup final.

“The team consisted of 9 players who I have played with since the age of 12 throughout the junior teams.

“This was proof that the work the junior coaches are doing is paying off”.

There was a great deal of pride that a home grown team achieved so much 12 months ago, and saw it as evidence of the success of working at a junior level.   Club officials were also thrilled last week to see a product of the Ashton junior set-up make his mark for the Lancashire 2nd XI.  Brad Woolley has moved on to Greenfield this year but learned his cricket at Ashton.  Making his debut for the County against Northamptonshire at Liverpool he returned the remarkable match figures of 29-7-80-6.  Ryan commented: “To see someone who has been a part of the Club for so many years achieve at a higher level is very rewarding”

Former Ashton player Brad Wooley now plays for Lancashire’s 2nd XI

Having benefitted from the work put in at a junior level Ryan sees a part of his new role as maintaining the same level of engagement with juniors.  To this end Ashton are providing the opportunity for youngsters to get involved. He explained: “All Stars Cricket is a brand-new initiative from the ECB aimed at providing children aged five to eight with a great first experience in cricket. The children who take part will get a fun filled 8 weeks introduction to cricket as well as the opportunity to take home the games to play with parents and siblings using the free personalised kit they will receive as well as the weekly skill and info emails”.

Parents can sign up to the programme online at www.ecb.co.uk/play/all-stars.

Ashton CC will be running the programme on Thursday nights 6.15-7.00pm starting on the 8th June and running for 8 weeks with the option to extend the programme by a further 4 weeks if successful.

Ryan concluded: “I can only encourage parents to get their children involved with the All Stars Cricket initiative.

“It provides a real chance for youngsters to have a first experience of cricket.

“Having been involved at Ashton for many years, and knowing the benefit I have gained, I can only recommend it”.

Certainly if cricket is to thrive in the future it is vital that Clubs are set up in a way which enables all ages and abilities to be involved, and the All Stars programme is a means of achieving this.  Further information is available by contacting Ashton on [email protected]