Wiltshire Cricket continues partnership with Lions Sports Travel with renewed focus for our overseas tours

Wiltshire Cricket has been delighted to work with Lions Sports Travel to provide our overseas Cricket tours since 2017. Ahead of the tours continuing in 2024 we have taken a fresh look at the purpose and roles that the tours will provide going forwards.

Our tours since 2017 have been a huge success and have seen Wiltshire girls and boys teams visit Sri Lanka, India and Dubai with many memorable experiences provided to hundreds of players and supporters from the county.

With experience of over six years of touring and given the important role that we want the overseas tours to continue to provide, we have taken the opportunity to review the focus of these tours for the future. Below you will find a summary of how the tours will operate within both the Girls and Boys player pathways:

Girls Tours

After several years of successful tours, Wiltshire Cricket has recently conducted a review into the tour programme, to ensure it remains appropriate, valuable and exciting for the young cricketers.

As a result of this review, there have been several minor changes to the tour programme, as detailed below. The rationale for these adjustments are as follows:

  1. Women’s & Girls Cricket has developed significantly since the introduction of the County Tour Programme and so it’s appropriate for the tour programme to develop too.
  2. To maximise cricket opportunities, reduce travel time and continue to have a positive impact on the destination of tour.
  3. To place additional focus on cricket skill development and performance, maximising learning opportunities.

Changes to Tour Programme (Girls):

The Girls tour programme operates on a bi-annual basis and this will continue, with the next tour taking place in February 2024, with a few updates to the programme :

  1. The most significant change to the Girls Touring programme relates to the age-group of tourists. Previous tours have been available for players in the U16 and U17 age groups. Having reviewed this, the upcoming tours will now be available for U17 and U18 players. This change has been made :
    1. To ensure all players involved with the U18 programme still have the opportunity to tour.
    2. To ensure tourists maximise development opportunities having spent an additional year within County Age Group Programmes in the UK.
    3. To provide opportunities for players who are new to the pathway at U18s level. (This is a 3 year age bracket, encompassing players in U16, U17, U18). Previous touring age groups meant that some players who joined the programme later didn’t have the opportunity.
    4. To allow players to play an English season together as a squad before touring. Previous tour schedules meant that the squad had only trained together for 5 weeks. This also ensures tours can be player/team centric and at appropriate standards.
    5. To provide opportunity for younger players (in U15 squad) an additional touring opportunity, if deemed appropriate for player development and to support with ambitions of progressing to Western Storm EPP or Academy Programmes.
    6. To ensure the tour promotes a greater focus on cricket performance and development opportunities.
    7. To maximise enjoyment and focus on cricket during tour by avoiding GCSE exam preparation phase.

Boys Tours

Wiltshire Cricket is planning a combined Under 15 and Under 16 tour to Sri Lanka in February 2024. This has previously been a yearly Under 16 tour, but due to the factors below, we are adjusting this to become an annual Under 15 tour from 2025. We do not want a county age group to miss out, so we are combining the age groups for another wonderful tour organised by Lions Sports Travel in year one. As well as being a fantastic cultural experience for the boys, the primary objective is player development. This layout for our tour structure would maximise this at the right age around other factors such as school commitments.

Why the change?

  • We are introducing an Under 18 tour to Dubai every other year (see below), and we feel this would fall too close in the boy’s pathway journey to any Under 16 tour.  
  • We have noticed a clash with school tours at the Under 16 age, and moving it a year early could avoid this decision-making.
  • The Under 15s is a significant age group in their development. It is not only the year boys are nominated for the Bunbury Festival but also leads into the year 1st class county academies begin their intake. We have noticed that this condensed period of cricket in different conditions has been the most productive in seeing enhanced player development in a short time, which will prepare them better for any potential opportunities.
  • The Under 15 age group does not directly clash with the boy’s GCSE exam year.

Introduction of Boys Under 18s Tour:

Wiltshire Cricket is introducing a tour to Dubai for our Under 18 and 2nd XI players in the October half-term of 2024. This tour will happen every other year and will be invitational. The primary objective of the tour will be player development; it will focus heavily on training and playing, possibly with less cultural exploration than your son may have experienced on tour earlier in the pathway. We have found the tours to be the most effective and efficient way of seeing player development and would like to extend this provision within our pathway to a broader group.

Some additional information on the tours

County Age Group tours are self-funded by players, however tour programme sponsorship and donations are gratefully received to support this fantastic and inspiring opportunity.

Wiltshire Cricket also commits to supporting Charity Pranav whilst touring, which provides pre-loved sports equipment to children and schools in deprived areas of Sri Lanka. During the 2022 tour, players on the Wiltshire Cricket tour raised over £1800 to purchase cricket-pitch matting for 10 schools in deprived areas, supporting thousands of children by improving their cricket provision. Some donations also supported talented children from humble backgrounds with school materials (I.e. uniforms, books, stationary).

In addition, kind donations from across the Wiltshire Cricket network also allowed the touring party to donate several kit bags of pre-loved protective equipment, bats, balls and training gear. All of which significantly contributes to the well-being, education and sporting development of children in Sri Lanka.

The Wiltshire Cricket tour review and subsequent adjustments for 2024 onwards will ensure that the touring programme keeps cricket at the heart of the programme, whilst encompassing learning, developmental, cultural and charitable experiences for the touring party.

Our thanks to Lions Sports Travel and all previous and future Tour Sponsors who ensure talented cricketers in Wiltshire are provided with memorable, inspiring and aspirational tour programmes.