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April 13, 2014
Neil Burns, one of the England's most influential independent coaches, has called for sweeping changes in the way cricketers are developed in England.
Burns, who has acted as a mentor, among others, for Nick Compton and Monty Panesar as they have attempted to revive flagging England careers, insists that coaching is failing at the top level because of the emphasis of physical fitness above skill and the growth of a football manager mentality among leading coaches.
Burns is also scathing about the treatment of young players. Coaching is so misguided at junior levels, he insists, and opportunities overly available to more privileged areas of society, that England is not producing the number of top players of which it is capable.
He reveals his five-point plan exclusively to ESPNcricinfo as he challenges coaches at all levels to consider whether their approach is best serving English cricket's needs.
Such have been the shortcomings of coaching in England, says Burns, a former first-class cricketer who runs London County Cricket Club as a professional mentoring organisation, that England has been forced to rely on the short term solution of the "Southern Africanisation" of the team.
Burns warns that the new riches about to come into the English game because of the restructuring of financial rewards within the ICC will partially be wasted if these matters are not seriously addressed.
"Money on its own isn't the answer," he warns. " The stories of most sporting champions often reveal lives lived in humble surroundings, with limited facilities, but a peer learning group that fuels the ambition of the ones with the most hunger for success.
"Learning creative skills and how best to optimise limited resources is better than being transported to a 'perfect' training facility and a coaching session led by a qualified coach. The 'teach yourself about yourself' philosophy still speaks loudly to all who aspire to become top performers."
Burns describes a culture in which not enough British Asian cricketers have broken through and those who do not specialise in cricket at an early age, often in private schools, find themselves - or imagine themselves - as frozen out of the system.
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