DEVON DEPUTY: Sandy Allen
NEW Devon cricket captain Neil Hancock has had to pick a deputy after learning he is in the Minor Counties squad for the Pro40 League matches this summer.
The Minor Counties have been invited to field a side in the Pro40 League, which was previously limited to First Class counties only.
Devon are hosting the Westcountry derby with Somerset at Exmouth in August.
Hancock, who plays for Sidmouth but lives in Newton Abbot, will miss three of Devon's four pool games if picked for the Minor Counties side, which has been dubbed the Unicorns.
With Hancock missing, the team needs a skipper, which has meant reviving the long-dormant position of vice-captain. Devon haven't had an official one for years.
The job has gone to wicketkeeper-batsman Sandy Allen, the former Warwickshire under-19 player of the year, who is first team captain at Budleigh Salterton this season.
Allen, 25, who joined Devon in 2005, has made 14 one-day and 24 three-day appearances for his adopted county. He was a member of the team that won the Minor Counties KO Cup at Lord's by beating Berkshire in 2008.
There are more senior players in the Devon squad, such as Allen's Budleigh teammates Ian Bishop and former county captain Bob Dawson.
Hancock said now was the time to look forward rather than back, which was why he had pressed the county committee to opt for Allen.
"Sandy has captaincy experience under his belt and a good view of what is going on from behind the stumps," said Hancock.
"At 25 he is one for the future and it is worth giving the job to someone who may become captain one day. It can only be good experience for someone who may take over one day.
"Bob and Bish are the senior players in the side and available for advice if needed. I am sure Sandy will turn to them first."
Hancock is the only Devon player to make it into the Unicorns squad for the Pro40. Opening batsmen Chris Mole was invited for trials but overlooked when an extended squad was drawn up.
Chris Metters, the South Devon product who has defected to Exmouth this season, is still being assessed for inclusion in the squad. Last season's leading bowler in Minor Counties cricket has only just returned to this country from a winter playing cricket in Australia.
Devon's first pre-season friendly — against the University of Exeter at the County Ground — is less than a month away and the squad have been netting at the new £2.5m indoor cricket centre at the University of Exeter.
Nottinghamshire's Mark Wagh was the guest coach at the most recent session, which was aimed exclusively at batting.
Roger Newman, the former Exmouth cricketer who went on to run the academy at Warwickshire and is now Devon's director of cricket, said Wagh's input had been useful.
"Talking to the batsmen afterwards they all said they had learned something," said Newman.
"Anything that gives our players confidence going into the new season is always worthwhile."
During a break from the net session, Devon's players met sports psychologist Brett Morrissey for a briefing on motivational methods and how to generate harmony in a team.
"His message was in, a successful team, it is the players who set the rules and everyone should contribute to team meetings from the bottom up," said Newman.
The event will take place on Thursday, May 13, at Dawlish Warren Golf Club, with the format being a three-man team stableford competition.
The day will start with bacon baps and coffee upon arrival and dinner will be served once you have finished your round.
There will be a number of team prizes and numerous spot prizes of nearest the pin and longest drives. The prize table will be sponsored by Titleist, so top-quality golf prizes will be on offer.
Entries are £135 per team and there is also an opportunity for corporate hole sponsorship.
Anyone interested in putting a team in for the day should call Ian Black on 07766 078409.