JAMES CARR, the new Yorkshire-based Regional Director of Women’s Cricket for the North East and Yorkshire, says he is relishing the opportunity to fill the “blank canvas” which has been put in front of him.

Carr is the head of one of the eight new Regional Centres of Excellence brought in by the England and Wales Cricket Board alongside the new Hundred competition to drive the women’s game forward in this country.

They are; North East (incorporating Yorkshire), North West, West Midlands, East Midlands, South West and Wales, South Central, London and South East and London and East.

Carr started his new position - the women’s equivalent to Martyn Moxon (Yorkshire’s director of cricket) - late in March.

It coinciding exactly with the country going into nationwide lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He has not yet spent a day in his post at Emerald Headingley, although he did manage to drive down to the ground to pick up some work essentials.

“I went to Headingley on the Sunday night ahead of my first day and one of the fellas in the gatehouse just popped a laptop through the gates and said, ‘Good luck!’,” Carr chuckled.

“Since then, I’ve been working from home with video conferencing and such.”

Carr’s experience in cricket development and the female game is extensive.

Whisper it quietly, but he originates from the other side of the Pennines, with Bolton League (then the Bolton Association) club Golborne the one he calls home.

It is the club where current Nottinghamshire captain Steven Mullaney first roamed the boundary watching his father.

In terms of his coaching and development work within cricket, he has spent the best part of the last four years with the Southland Cricket Association in New Zealand and with Cricket Scotland in Edinburgh.

It has set him up perfectly to take on this new challenge of leading the advancement of women’s and girls cricket within Yorkshire and the North East.

“I’m hugely excited,” he said. “The women’s game is a massive growth area, and I’m all about growth and developing people.

“I want to put my time and energy into something where you can see a real return on that.

“The fact we’ve got this national goal to really transform women’s and girls cricket, the ECB’s vision ties in perfectly with my own.

“It’s awesome because it’s a blank canvas.

“It’s an area which perhaps doesn’t have the history and traditions the men’s game has, and it can use that to its advantage to progress through the modern world.”

With a blank canvas comes obvious potential, but it can also provide challenges, accepts Carr.

He continued: “Not everybody is great with change, but what we have to make sure is that we communicate and educate well within our current cricket fraternity.

“A lot of this has been inside led.

“The ECB has spent a good two or three years devising this plan based on insights from who is playing the game, who is leading the game, who’s not coming to join the game for various reasons.

“You don’t just write this plan on the back of a cigarette packet and run with it.

“There’s so much time been put in, and I think it’s been made easier because of the amount of resource that’s been put into it - the messaging, the branding.

“But there will no doubt be some resistance, as there is with any change.

“I do think the fact there’s going to be 40 new professional playing contracts in England and the framework that goes with that, it’s going to make players all that more hungry. That’s exciting.

“There are certainly a lot more positives than negatives.”

As Carr alludes to, the plan is for each Centre of Excellence to offer five professional contracts to players below England contracted players such as York-born Lauren Winfield for example.

Unfortunately, however, Coronavirus has put those plans on hold for now, while playing schedules for 2020 are up in the air as well. Team names are also yet to be revealed.

Still, there is plenty of work for Carr to do as he gets his teeth stuck into a job which adds to his varied cricketing journey.

“I was a volunteer coach at Golborne, where I coached a group of kids from nine-years-old through to 18,” he added.

“I was a shop manager for 10 years, and I came away from that into recruitment within retail.

“Alongside that, I worked on various programmes as a sessional coach for the Lancashire Cricket Board - with disability county teams, on Chance to Shine and things like that.

“I captained Golborne’s second team as a 20-year-old and the first-team as a 23-year-old. I played there for 15 years.

“I was the chairman at one point, the secretary, the treasurer. I’ve kind of done a bit of everything, which tends to be uncommon for somebody so young I guess. But I was passionate in seeing our club grow.

“I came through as a junior cricketer when the game maybe wasn’t as fashionable, pre the 2005 Ashes. We would move up a level and whilst filling a hole above, we’d create one below.

“I went to college and did a sports course and tried to apply what I’d learnt into building a junior section at the club. I was hungry to see that development in the club and in people.

“Fast forward 10 years and I saw a job in cricket development in New Zealand with the Southland Cricket Association and thought, ‘I’d like to work in sport full-time and broaden my horizons’. Thankfully I got it (September 2016).

“It was an all encompassing role, development manager across the province from the men’s senior team all the way down to the grassroots programmes.

“It was a great place to work because they’re sport mad.

“I was New Zealand Cricket Development Officer of the Year for 2018.

“I was also the assistant coach for the Otago Sparks women’s team. Suzie Bates, Leigh Kasperek and Katey Martin played for us when they weren’t with the White Ferns. As the assistant coach, I took the reserve team, which was their under 21s team.

“It was an amazing experience and the most enriching thing I’ve ever done.

“My contract came to end (September 2018), and while we would have liked to have stayed, we were looking to start a family and had some illness within the family, so we thought it best to come home.

“We didn’t rush home and did some travelling through Asia whilst trying to find some work which was right for me.

“Then this Development Officer role came up with Cricket Scotland, working in the city Edinburgh. I took that and was there for less than 18 months before this job at Headingley came up.

“That was predominantly focused on development of cricket within the city.

“There’s a lot of cricket traditions in Edinburgh, but a lot of that is within the old boy’s network and the fee paying schools. A lot of my focus was around keeping that going as well as looking after the state schools’ sector.

“Women’s and girls up there is also a massive area.

“I was starting to see some progression from my own stamp on it before it was time to leave and move to Leeds.”