The Ashes 2006-07 December 12, 2006

Willis attacks England's methods

Cricinfo staff



Bob Willis says Steve Harmison's bowling at Brisbane was 'woeful' and wonders if the England attack are fit enough © Getty Images
The former England paceman Bob Willis has launched a stinging attack on the way England's quick bowlers are being prepared for the international game.

Willis, who took 325 wickets in 90 Tests, says Duncan Fletcher's mistrust of the county system means that young are forced to learn their trade in the fierce spotlight of the international arena.

Writing in the January edition of The Wisden Cricketer magazine, Willis says: "The issue I have with Duncan Fletcher's style of management is that the likes of James Anderson, Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood are learning their trade in the international arena rather than in county cricket and that cannot be the right way to go.

"There must be something fatally flawed with our domestic set-up if Duncan has not got the faith to bring players on in that system. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge critic of the county set-up, which seems just a sideshow for the edification of county members who want to watch cricket when they want to watch it. So the counties provide it and pay out huge sums in wage bills for a business that makes no sense."

Willis describes Steve Harmison's bowling in Brisbane as 'woeful' and echoes the thoughts of Rod Marsh by questioning if Duncan Fletcher and the ECB did enough to retain the services of their former bowling coach Troy Cooley. "It is easy to hang the cloak of guilt on Kevin Shine's peg but Duncan needs to ask himself whether he and the ECB did everything to retain Cooley's services as bowling coach. I do not believe they did. Cooley revolutionised the bowling of Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones in the space of 18 months."

Regular, long distance running transformed Willis's injury blighted career as a fast bowler in the 1970s and 80s and he speculates about the way modern bowlers prepare for their work. "I wonder about whether Harmison and others are as physically strong as they need to be. I know players spend a lot of time in the gym these days when on tour because it is a good way of absorbing time. And no doubt that helps them tone their muscles, so they look like Daniel Craig. But I am not so sure it helps their bowling.

"What turned my own career around - and I say it at the risk of sounding like Alec Bedser - was lots of slow, long-distance running. The turning point came after the Centenary Test against Australia at Melbourne in 1976-77. We were at a barbecue in Sydney when I met a professional hypnotherapist called Arthur Jackson, an English expat, who gave me a book about long-distance running. From 1976 to 1984 I hardly missed a game through injury."

The January issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine is published on Friday, December 15 at a UK cover price of £3.75. Click here for further details.

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