The England & Wales Cricket Board ruling, that all county Premier Division teams must have Youth sections, is forcing more clubs to consider ‘mergers’. 

Last winter Bradninch, who had just won their first Premier Division title but did not have a Colts section, merged with local village side Kentisbeare, who did. 

They were followed by the amalgamation of Tiverton Heathcoat and neighbouring Sampford Peverell & Tiverton. 

Now ‘A’ Division Torquay CC (founded 1851), who do not have a competitive Colts section, are rumoured to have approached at least one other local side, which does, about a possible ‘liaison’. 

This season’s A Division campaign was thrown into confusion a matter of weeks from the end of the campaign when the ECB reinforced its instruction to the Devon League that only clubs with three competitive teams Under-15 could play in the Premier. 

It meant that neither East Devon side Kilmington, who had finished second behind Exeter, nor third- placed Torquay could go up. 

Torquay, League champions eight times, hold Junior coaching sessions at the Recreation Ground, but that would not satisfy the ECB. 

Although there has been no official announcement, it’s now believed that, in the wake of the recent uncertainty, the ECB has put the deadline for its Premier-Colts rule back a year from next summer to 2025. 

But if more clubs try to get round the rule by merging, one effect - intentional or not - will actually be to reduce the number of teams. 

Kilmington, whose appeal was rejected, are understood to have sounded out nearby Axminster about a potential get-together. 

Several other clubs are now mulling over their future ambitions, and whether merging with local rivals might be a way forward for them too. 

And all this at a time when the sport at grass-roots level is still trying to recover from two years blighted by the Covid pandemic. 

The development of the next generation of cricketers is obviously a matter of huge importance but that has to be balanced with recognising the successes of those now playing at a senior level.