New South Wales has twice as many players as any other state named in the 2018 Cricket Australia Male National Performance Squad with Blues rookies batting allrounder Jack Edwards, wicketkeeper-batsman Baxter Holt and pacemen Ryan Hadley and Chad Sammut all included in the group.
The squad was announced on Monday and includes ten of the most exciting young cricketers from around the country. Western Australia and South Australia are the next best represented states each with two players selected for the four-month program.
The elite group will be based at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane from May until early September, under the tutelage of Bupa National Performance Program Head Coach Troy Cooley and Bupa High Performance Coaches Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers.
The five pace bowlers selected in the squad start the program on Monday. Hadley, Sammut and Edwards – in acknowledgment of his potential as a medium-pace bowler – are included in that group.
The five remaining National Performance Squad players join the program on 28 May.
It caps off a momentous week in the careers of the four NSW cricketers with each player earning their first Blues contract on Thursday. All four rookies are aged under 20 years of age.
Another seven emerging New South Wales players have been selected for the three specialist skills-focused elements of the program which involve spin bowling (28 May - 22 June), fielding and wicket-keeping (8 - 17 August) and pace bowling (19 - 31 August).
Promising top-order batsman and Australian Under 19 captain, Jason Sangha, is one of four contracted Blues to be named for the spin component of the program in recognition of his more than handy leg-spin.
Sheffield Shield debutants during the 2017/18 season, leg-spinner Dan Fallins and off-break bowler Param Uppal, along with talented off-spinner Arjun Nair, are the other three Blues’ players selected for that component.
Brother of Jack Edwards, Blues’ fast bowler Mickey Edwards, and fellow quick Henry Thornton, were selected for the fast bowling component of the program, and the son of legendary Australian Test captain Steve Waugh – Austin Waugh – will participate in the fielding element.
While still a very raw talent, Sammut is one of the fastest of the bowlers selected for that program. The young quick is capable of bowling 140 kilometres per hour.
“This is an incredible opportunity for these players to utilise the state-of-the-art facilities at the Bupa National Cricket Centre, and to fast-track their development as cricketers,” said Troy Cooley.
Sangha and four of the 11 NSW players included among the 31 players chosen, also featured in the Australian team that made the final of the Under 19 World Cup held in New Zealand during January and February.
Led by Sangha, Jack Edwards, Ryan Hadley, Baxter Holt and Param Uppal were all a part of that team. Austin Waugh played two matches for the Australian Under 19s during the earlier rounds of the tournament.
Sangha was the leading run-scorer for Australia at the World Cup. He amassed 229 runs from six matches at the average of 38.16. Edwards trailed his captain by just 13 runs in second place on that list.
The allrounder averaged over 43 for the tournament and played some pivotal innings for his country which included an important 72 from 65 balls at the top of the order to get Australia home against Afghanistan in the semi-final.
Holt was among the five leading wicketkeepers for the tournament in terms of total dismissals. He claimed eight catches and one stumping throughout the World Cup.
Despite missing the opening match of the tournament with injury, Hadley still collected three wickets at the tidy economy rate of 4.12.
Over the last two seasons of McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket, the speedster has taken 32 wickets in 20 matches for Blacktown.
Each player selected for the program was chosen by the Cricket Australia Youth Selection Panel in conjunction with State Talent Managers.
The aim of the program is to add the development of players who could potentially represent Australia within the next two-to-five years.
Recent graduates of the program who have gone on to play for Australia include Australian One-Day and T20 wicket-keeper Alex Carey, Test batsman Matthew Renshaw and all-rounder Hilton Cartwright.
This year, the program shifts to a full-time group of 10 players from a full-time group of 18 in 2017.
Cooley said the aim of the program was to build on the work done within the state systems and continue the development of the skills and values required for these ten select young cricketers to make it to the international level.
Additional to the skills components in Brisbane, the program will also see players participate in a boot camp in late June, aiming to build resilience and adaptability.
This will be followed by a tour to the MRF Academy in Chennai in late July, designed for players to implement the learnings from the spin component of the program in sub-continent conditions.
2018 National Performance Squad
Jack Edwards, NSW, 18
Cameron Green, WA, 18
Ryan Hadley, NSW, 19
Baxter Holt, NSW, 18
Nathan McSweeney, QLD, 19
Jonathan Merlo, VIC, 19
Joshua Philippe, WA, 20
Lloyd Pope, SA, 18
Chad Sammut, NSW, 19
Jake Weatherald, SA, 23
National High-Performance Spin Program: Michael Cormack (SA), Thomas Engelbrecht (ACT), Daniel Fallins (NSW), Matt Kuhnemann (QLD), Arjun Nair (NSW), Thomas O’Connell (SA), Jason Sangha (NSW), Param Uppal (NSW)
National High-Performance Pace Program: Zak Evans (VIC), David Grant (SA), Spencer Johnson (SA), Mickey Edwards (NSW), David Moody (WA), Jack Prestwidge (QLD), Will Sutherland (VIC), Henry Thornton (NSW), Nick Winter (SA)
National High-Performance Fielding/Wicket-Keeping Program: Josh Inglis (WA), Matthew Gilkes (ACT), Austin Waugh (NSW), Lewin Maladay (QLD)