AN exodus of players has resulted in Saddleworth “voluntarily” dropping down two divisions in the Greater Manchester Cricket League.
Fearing they would not be competitive, Well-i-Hole club officials reluctantly made the request to the GMCL.
“It would be embarrassing for the club, our opponents and the league if we stayed in division 1B and were not competitive and games were over by 1.30pm if we batted first,” explained treasurer Michael Ward who added the club decided they would not become involved in a Dutch auction to keep the players and threaten the club which is “financially sound”.
Saddleworth, arguably the area’s most successful side of recent years, finished fifth in division 1B, despite losing 12 players before the start of the 2018 season.
The tipping point came with three further players leaving since the end of the season, including captain Daniel Poole and past captain Brian Lord who skippered the side in 2015 to the treble of SWB Commercial Saddleworth & District League, Tanner Cup and Pro Elite Sports T20.
Following the merger of the CLL and Saddleworth League to form the Pennine League, Saddleworth finished runners up in the premiership of the inaugural 2016 campaign as they remained a major force.
Mr Ward said: “We have lost so many players of a decent standard that we decided to drop a team.
“We have been left with a second team and half a first team so took the decision to have just one team and ask the league to voluntarily drop us down two divisions.”
Saddleworth will appear in division three east in 2019 in a league compromising the second teams from Heywood, Oldham, Werneth, Glodwick, Flowery Field, Denton St Lawrence, Dukinfield, Unsworth, Denton and Stand along with Springhead’s first team.
Mr Ward added they “relied heavily” on professional Kashif Naveed and overseas player Ned Absalom last season and their performances helped paper over the cracks.
He pointed out it was a similar story when finishing runners-up in the Pennine League when professional Imran Aslam and overseas player Nauman Akram were the stars saying they punched above their weight that campaign.
“In reality we have struggled for the last few years,” he continued.
Mr Ward explained it is a case of rebuilding and the club is lucky to have some promising players.
He said: “The problem is they are very young so it will take time for them to come through.
“One or two of the older players are staying to help bring the kids come through.
“If we build a good squad, hopefully we will be able to rise again and soon compete again at a higher standard.”
Mr Ward said clubs in division three east are not permitted professionals so they will returning to amateur cricket in the true sense.
As there will be no outlay for a professional, Saddleworth officials are investigating investing in a coach to help develop the juniors.
• Saddleworth won seven Saddleworth League titles and lifted the Tanner Cup six times with a further shared cup with Moorside in 1951.