A UNIQUE initiative has just been introduced by Somerset County Cricket Club aimed at increasing the amount of cricket coaching available to pathway players that attend state schools.

Matt Drakeley, head of talent pathway at Somerset County Cricket Club, said: “This is something that has been in the pipeline since I came into my role two years ago.

"Fortunately, we have someone who has recently invested into the State School Programme, which allows us to deliver additional supplementary cricket to anyone who is in the Pathway who attends a state school.

“These individuals - of which there are about 150 across the boys and girls programme - will now receive 24 hours of additional coaching on top of their County Age Group coaching.

“The programme is based at Weston College - who we have partnered with to deliver the scheme.

“They have recently installed new cricket nets into a facility just off the M5 which provides good access to a large amount of the county.”

"We have appointed a State School Lead coach, Thom Bunker - who has previously worked for the Somerset Cricket Foundation and is someone who is really passionate about state school cricket.

“He also has a good understanding of Pathway Cricket and what it takes to become part of that. Our hope is that his role will allow us to identify more talented players from state school backgrounds and bring them into our pathway.

“In addition to the State School Programme, we are also delivering the MCC Foundation Programme - which allows us to provide coaching to around 160 boys and girls who sit outside of the traditional pathway and it's something we have been running for three years now.

“This allows us to offer additional access for players who miss out on the pathway from a state school background, giving them the best opportunity to enter the pathway at a later date.”

Matt added: “All in all we have created supplementary offerings for around 300 state school players which is really exciting.

“I am looking forward to seeing how this opportunity helps these players develop and growing our understanding of what the potential of these cricketers looks like by giving them an appropriate level of access.”

“The State School Programme is initially being targeted at under 11s to under 16s - as this is where we feel we can make the biggest impact on player development and help level the imbalance in access to cricket.”

“The State School Programme began in November at Weston College and has been up and running for around three weeks now - with the MCC Foundation Programme entering it's fifth week.

"The winter programme for both run through until the end of April, before a summer offering begins outdoors from early May. We will be looking to create match play opportunities as often as possible for state school players against club and school opposition."

Matt added: “We are trying hard to bridge the gap that exists in terms of access between state school pupils and those in the independent sector because we know there is only so much that players are able to access from their clubs. 

"The accessibility of match play in state schools has gone down significantly over the years so we are doing all we can to help narrow the gap that currently exists.”

Thom Bunker - recently appointed as the State School Lead - said: “ I am really excited about the State School Programme which has been set up to provide opportunities for players who attend state schools to realise their potential and give them the best chances to eventually go on and play for Somerset.

“The State School Programme is for anyone who attends a state school who is currently in the Pathway - boy or girl - and gives them each an extra 24 hours of coaching, as a group throughout the winter and this will hopefully lead into some games and training days in the summer.”

“This programme is about improving the level of coaching available to all those state school pupils who are involved in the pathway. This is a major development and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”