ENGLAND stars past and present have been sending messages of encouragement to a Bradford schoolboy, after watching him remotely train during lockdown.
Oastlers School has been using technology to give Year 10 student Callum the chance to continue practicing his batting and fielding skills.
The school has stayed open throughout the lockdown, acting as a local care hub for young people unable to be home-schooled.
Current Three Lions internationals Rory Burns and Sam Curran, and former captain Alec Stewart, watched some of the innovative online coaching sessions involving the promising young talent.
Twice a week, Callum receives a one-to-one training session from professional coach Michael Jacobs.
Robert Fairbairn, part of the school's leadership team, explained how the training sessions have been set-up.
He said: "A couple of years ago we were invited to take some learners down to The Oval as guests of Surrey County Cricket Club. Around that time, we had identified we had a fantastic young cricketer in our midst.
"Now, during the lockdown period, Callum has been working with one of Surrey’s coaches, Michael Jacobs, and the outcomes have been stunning.
"These virtual reality, one-to-one, sessions have really helped Callum and it’s been absolutely special and amazing to watch him develop."
Jacobs provided a further explanation of how the sessions work.
He said: "These one-to-one sessions work the same way they would face-to-face.
"Before we start, I have a quick chat with Callum, making sure the technology works. Then I get one of the teachers to feed some balls to Callum, while observing social distancing.
"We are lucky, in that Mo from the school is a pretty handy club cricket bowler. I get Callum to work on a prescribed skill. If it goes really well, we move on to the next one.
"If he needs to work on something, I can give him some feedback, and then work on it again."
Both Curran and Burns were impressed with what they saw and sent Callum a personalised message, with an invitation to visit them once the restrictions have been lifted.
Curran said: "I’ve seen some amazing videos of your sessions which you have been doing during lockdown and it looks great. I really look forward to meeting you in person at the Oval and to showing you around the ground."
Burns added: "It's great to see you have been managing to practice and train during the lockdown, particularly with the great man that is Michael Jacobs.
"He coached me as a youngster, so I’m glad that he is sharing his knowledge with you."
Surrey County Cricket Club's director of cricket, Stewart, also passed on his regards.
Stewart said: "We would like to wish Callum all the very best from everyone in the Surrey dressing room, players and coaches."
Head of Oastlers School, Lyndsey Brown, is delighted with the results from the programme.
She said: "It’s fantastic to see Callum working with an elite coach during lockdown. I’m so proud just to watch this learner really focused and enjoying his cricket.
"On a serious note, this type of activity is about helping our children to heal as they deal with a really difficult situation of coming into school during a lockdown, where many of their classmates are not there and they have to social distance with staff."
Councillor Imran Khan also paid tribute to the scheme.
He said: "It’s fantastic to see that Callum has been able to continue his professional cricket training during the lockdown using virtual technology.
"It shows real determination on his part, and great ingenuity on behalf of the Oastlers School and Surrey Cricket Club to enable Callum to do this safely."
The school invited media trainer Paul Holloway to make a short film on Callum’s cricket sessions.
Holloway also worked on projects improving Oastlers’ students digital and employability skills prior to lockdown with social enterprise, Digital Advantage.
He said: "The whole film was recorded and edited remotely. One thing that comes across is the passion and enthusiasm the staff have for the students at Oastlers.
"I’m a big cricket fan and I was delighted this film had been watched by some cricket superstars, who then took the time to send Callum such personal words of encouragement."
You can see the film of Callum in action on Twitter on the @Oastler_School account.