Norfolk captain George Walker is backed to succeed
Norfolk chairman Graham Littlewood has backed skipper George Walker to succeed in the role despite the county's winless run this season.
Walker was appointed as captain in the winter after Carl Rogers stepped down, but Norfolk started the season poorly with four defeats in the MCCA Knockout Trophy. They narrowly failed to complete victory over Northumberland in the Minor Counties Championship, before falling to a heavy defeat at the hands of Hertfordshire last week.
Littlewood, however, refused to blame the captain and is confident Walker can inspire a revival during the Norfolk Festival of Cricket, which starts with a Championship match against Cumberland at Manor Park on Sunday: 'There is no doubt that it was the right move to appoint George,' he said. 'The other candidates would have been short term fixes, but George is a senior player who has played county cricket for Leicestershire and he's a very good bowler. He was the right choice and to be fair he has captained the side exceptionally well.
'The players in the side represent the county with pride and the team spirit is outstanding. The fielding for two days against Hertfordshire was brilliant, as good as I have seen and there is no doubt that everybody is behind him. He has my total backing as a captain and a person.'
A look at the averages suggests that captaincy has affected Walker's form. He does not captain Swardeston in the EAPL and is the league's leading wicket-taker, with 38 victims from 163 overs. For Norfolk, however, he went wicketless in the Knockout Trophy and overall this season has three wickets in 81 overs for the county. 'He hasn't bowled as well as he has done in the past for us and I feel sorry for him because it's bound to affect him, but he'll come back,' said Littlewood, pictured. 'I think all he needs is a couple of wickets and for Norfolk to win a game and he'll be absolutely fine, I'm sure of that.'
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Meanwhile Littlewood said the county was determined to persist with its policy of developing young homegrown players and that the performances of young players such as brothers Michael and Matthew Warnes and Luke Caswell augured well for the future: 'At the AGM last year I asked the members if they wanted us to try and attract people from outside Norfolk and the answer was a resounding no,' he said. 'Minor Counties cricket is not always a level playing field and there are lots of counties who do employ people from outside of their leagues.
'Our strategy is to bring on young players, although that falls down with the likes of Jaik Mickleburgh, Sam Arthurton and Harry Bush, as when they show any sign of talent they are poached by the universities or first class counties and that makes it very difficult to have a settled side.
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'We have to bring in players with very little experience. If you look at Michael Warnes – I think he is going to be a very good player, not just as a bowler but as a batsman as well, but he has gone from playing for Cromer last year to Minor Counties cricket this summer and at that higher level the batsmen pick off anything slightly wayward.'
Littlewood will be overseeing his second festival as Norfolk chairman and he is continuing the drive to try and attract more members.
This year, players representing the county's youth sides have been invited to attend festival matches free of charge and hospitality bookings are up on last season already, with more spaces available for the three games against Cumberland, Bedfordshire and Suffolk.
The county committee are also looking at the future of the Norfolk Room mobile building, with the possibility of adding a permanent extension to the existing pavilion.
n Anyone interested in making a hospitality booking for the Norfolk Festival of Cricket should contact Richard Wright on 01603 748342.