Throughout all his time involved in Illawarra representative cricket, Graeme Batty has seen it all.
He has experienced the highs of a Country Championships victory in 2012 and the lows of last year’s disastrous Country Championships campaign.
After a revamp of the representative structure in the Illawarra and surrounding regions, Batty is confident the tide has started to turn.
“It’s been a slow process, but we’re a bit more organised in terms of getting players’ availability,” Batty said. “The way it’s been run is not going to change overnight, it will take a few years to get back to where it was at.
“We have to get the guys keen and make it more professional in how we prepare for the Country Championships. Results are a key factor, if we go to the Country Championships and play well, it will make guys keener.”
Illawarra finished the 2017 Country Championships without a win, suffering big losses to Central Coast, ACT Southern and Riverina.
The six-time NSW Country representative was scathing in his criticism of Cricket Illawarra after last year’s campaign, but as he prepares to lead Illawarra into this week’s Burns Cup, Batty acknowledges the increased effort put into representative cricket by the association.
“We’ve got people in charge this year that get along with all the players and guys want to play when the team’s strong. In previous years, guys were uncertain about who’s playing, but with some of the top guys eager to play, it means more guys are wanting to play.
“I’ve had good support from Stuart Bridges, he’s an ex-Illawarra player and is managing the sides. We’ve started earlier this year with our selections and have been a lot more proactive in the organisational structure.”
This year will see a Greater Illawarra Zone team contest the Country Championships, with Illawarra combining with South Coast, Shoalhaven and Highlands in an attempt to field a more competitive team.
As such, this weekend’s Burns Cup, contested by the four Greater Illawarra Zone teams, is a key selection trial for the final Country Championships squad.
“It’s a completely new format for the association this year, so we’re treating this week as more of a trial given last weekend was washed out. It’s a chance to look at a few guys with new players coming into the system.”
The Burns Cup marks the start of a busy representative period, with the Regional Bash taking place next weekend before the Kingsgrove Cup kicks off in November.
The Greater Illawarra Zone will contest the Kingsgrove Cup, while Highlands players will be incorporated into the Illawarra Flames Regional Bash side.
Batty is confident the structural overhaul will ultimately benefit representative cricket in the Illawarra.
“A lot of players have indicated they want to be a part of the side. I’ve had players coming to me saying they want to be selected, we haven’t had that in previous years.”