Stability the key for new Stratford skipper

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STABILITY will be the key to success for new Stratford skipper Chris Whelan this season as his side open their Birmingham Premier League Division Three season at home to Old Elizabethans on Saturday.

The past year has seen some big changes at Swans Nest Lane, with Steve Cootes standing down in his role as chairman, while Mike Brown announced his decision to quit as captain in December.

While Stratford are still seeking to fill their chairman void, Whelan agreed to step in as captain and the former Worcestershire and Middlesex pace bowler is excited by what he sees as a fresh start for the club this season.

“We’ve had a clearout of the first team and highlighted the people we need to invest in,” said the 31-year-old, who returned to the Stratford fold last year after a two-year absence.

“Going forward, we don’t want to see too much chopping and changing over the next few years — stability will be the key for us.

“There is a feeling of excitement within the club with a shake-up both on and off the field. It certainly feels that we now have the right individuals in place to help drive us forward.”

The new league structure in 2019 means wherever the Panthers finish this summer, they will be playing in the Warwickshire League Premier Division next year.

While some may see the restructuring as a bit of a step backwards, Whelan feels the change could prove a big benefit to Stratford, increasing their budget with more derby matches on the horizon in exchange for long treks to the likes of Shropshire.

Whelan said: “From a league point of view, the restructuring doesn’t make much of a difference.

“Whether or not we get promoted this season, we’ll be playing in the Warwickshire League Premier Division next season and we’ll be using this season as a springboard for 2019.

“A lot of people at the club don’t want to travel an hour and a half to a game and that is understandable. Hopefully this move might increase our membership.”

There will be a number of new faces at Stratford this season, most notably overseas signing Declan Waddington.

The promising wicketkeeper-batsman joins from Tasmanian Premier League club Lindisfarne and replaces Chris Calcott, who has signed for Leamington.

Stratford have also signed Ryan Theron, a young left arm seamer, who is on the Worcestershire Young Cricketers’ Programme.

This season also sees the return of John Brooker, a fine bat and leg spinner who has a strong pedigree, having played for Warwickshire under-17s and under-19s.

Stratford v Old Elizabethans: Price, Purser, Waddington, Blake, Whelan, Langman, Hickman, Urguhart, Walker, Douthwaite, Theron.