Champs to look overseas for next pro

Top man: Richard Sladdin
Top man: Richard Sladdin

Walsden CC are hoping to add an overseas professional to this year’s squad in their quest for a hat-trick of Central Lancashire League titles in 2014.

Skipper Chris Dewhirst confirmed that the Scott Street club would be in the market for primarily a batsman who could also possibly bowl spin.

Walsden won the title by a seven-point margin from Littleborough in spite of their pre-season plans being thrown into disarray by a visit from the taxman.

The club was subsequently cleared of any wrong-doing but by then they had given backword to Sri Lankan Ranil Dhammika, having already been told by an Australian overseas amateur that he would not be coming.

Walsden turned to local ex-county spinner Richard Sladdin and Indian youngster Shuhbam Harkal to plug the gaps and they and the club’s strong hand of home-produced amateurs proved up to the task in a league split into two for the first time.

Dewhirst said that once the dust had settled on the season the club would be working hard to try to keep this year’s squad together and add an overseas pro.

Sladdin, who surprised many with his performances after coming out of retirement, is apparently keen to stay and Walsden have also spoken to Harkal about coming back.

Dewhirst, who is willing to carry on as captain, said: “We have a bit of scope to strengthen the side. We hope to keep all the players from this year but we are not too sure about that at this stage.”

The skipper said ex-Halifax League player Sladdin’s contribution had been “amazing.”

He added: “We had explored lots of avenues and things were not very promising but he came in and was probably the best spin bowler in league.”

Dewhirst said Sladdin had missed a big chunk of season with a broken little finger but had still taken getting on for 60 wickets.

“He has been brilliant on and off the field, also helping with the coaching. He has a beer at the club, everyone likes him and he has been a big part of our success.”

Dewhirst said Walsden had also spoken to the 17-year-old Harkal. “He is keen to come back but it is quite expensive for him - he has to pay his air fare and living costs.

“Considering his age and the fact that he had not really played in England before, he did really well. He didn’t get any big scores but had a couple of 40s, a few 30s and a five and a four wicket haul.

“He’s a very, very talented batsman who likes to play his shots. He will be a class player.”

Walsden have the strongest pool of amateur players in the league and Dewhirst is keen to ensure that the likes of James Rawlinson and Matthew Dawson play a full part next season.

Rawlinson could be moving house and Dewhirst said he planned to talk to the prolific early-order batsman in the near future.

Wicketkeeper/batsman Dawson, an ex-Minor Counties player with Cheshire, has struggled with a back injury this season and he also has a young family to consider.

Dewhirst believes that if Walsden stick together more glory should follow.

“We have excelled over the last couple of years - all the youth development work over the last 10 or 15 years has come to fruition,” he said.

“Everyone has come good at once. We’ve got a very, very good side. It’s a golden era and we need to make the most of it.”