THE ECB is currently at the forefront of a national debate over the future of local cricket, with the key question of how to increase the number of youngsters taking up the sport dominating the agenda.
On a basic level, the powers that be would like to see more young cricketers progressing through the ranks and into the national set-up. But there is also a fear the net must be cast much wider to retain the interest of juniors at a local level to ensure the number of grassroots clubs can be maintained.
Discussions are ongoing between the Lancashire Cricket Board and its member leagues as to how best to move forward locally to ensure the lifeblood of the region – its clubs – can survive and flourish in the future.
The Bolton League is taking an active part in those negotiations, but as is evident by its current crop of youngsters enjoying county and national honours, there are no major concerns over its junior set-up – quite the opposite in fact.
Lancashire Under-17s, for example, will take on Staffordshire next week in a national semi-final, bolstered by four players from Bolton.
The side will feature three current Bolton League players in Josh Bohannon, of Farnworth Social Circle, Bradshaw wicketkeeper Bradley Yates, and Chris Brownlow, who plays for Horwich, while Canon Slade sixth former Callum Parkinson will captain the team.
Callum started his cricket education at Heaton alongside his twin brother Matt – both impressing enough to be snapped up by the county.
Matt’s talents as a leg-spinner have seen him break into the international scene, the 17-year-old putting in a match-winning display for England U17s this week when he took 6-20 against a South Africa U19s side.
It was an astounding performance that could yet earn him a step up into the u19s team, where former Farnworth Social Circle batsman Haseeb Hameed is currently making a name for himself.
Back in the county game, Matt Parkinson and Hameed recently stepped up from the Lancashire youth set-up to star for the seconds at Glamorgan’s SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff.
Hameed opened the batting and hit 112 before Parkinson claimed 6-28 as Lancashire won by 125 runs.
With so many good young players progressing through the junior ranks, there is good reason to be proud of the coaching in the Bolton League.
However, there could yet be a sting in the tail. Both Parkinson brothers left Heaton for competitive cricket elsewhere, with Callum going on to play for Clifton in the Central Lancashire League and Matt joining Urmston in the Cheshire County League, where Hameed also now plies his trade with Nantwich.
So while it is clear Bolton League clubs continue to mould good young cricketers, providing a platform to ensure they retain their services for longer is the next big challenge.