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A five-point programme for English cricket

A coach and former first-class cricketer outlines his vision for how to turn the game around in the UK

Neil Burns

April 13, 2014

Comments: 31 | Text size: A | A

England spin bowling coach Ashley Giles bowls to Alastair Cook in the nets, Chester-le-Street, August 8, 2013
The ECB needs to make getting top-quality former players into youth coaching a priority © Getty Images
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The Ashes debacle could prove to be a seminal moment in the history of English cricket's player development. And if the riches anticipated from the new ICC deal are invested wisely in developing quality English players from England to be brilliant human beings as well as top-class cricketers, the game will be in rude health for many years to come.

The new foundations being built must be stronger than before if sustained success is to be enjoyed.

Put simply, our game has been dominated by the influence of cricketers from Africa because our own decision-makers saw them as superior to English-born and raised cricketers.

The debate around the ECB and KP, while regrettable for both parties, is an unwelcome sideshow to the real issue emerging from England's humiliation in Australia. England were outfought, outwitted and outskilled in Australia, exposing the shortcomings of the English game. Worryingly, there seemed to be a lack of will as much as a lack of skill at certain points during the tour.

The prospective newfound wealth that will flow into the England board's coffers as a consequence of the recently announced ICC restructuring brokered by ECB chairman Giles Clarke offers a welcome resource. But money on its own isn't the answer. 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

The answers are inside each person, and need to be accessed by the individuals themselves. Quality guidance helps shine a light on the way forward to enhance the learning concept of guided discovery, but ultimately the best individuals always find their own way to the top and learn to trust their own way of performing.

As I see it, there are three major issues affecting optimal player development in English cricket:

1. The Southern-Africanisation of county cricket.

2. The lack of British-Asian cricketers playing Test cricket successfully for England over a sustained period of time.

3. Young cricketers dropping out of the game once they come to think that their dreams of becoming a professional cricketer are unlikely to be fulfilled.

The England team has benefited from the excellence of Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, and if the next outstanding young batsman is Gary Ballance, from Zimbabwe, or if Andrew Strauss' eventual replacement at the top of the batting order is his Middlesex replacement Sam Robson from Sydney, then it raises the question: where are the outstanding batsmen originating in England?

Joe Root looks an outstanding prospect and one hopes that his experience of a year of top-level cricket will have given him a deeper wisdom about his game at a tender age, but I wonder if his recent experiences may have a detrimental effect on his long-term development. It would be a great sadness if Root's career followed a path similar to those of two outstanding players of my era, Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash, both of whom promised greatness at entry level but ultimately failed to live up to expectations in Test cricket.

Put starkly, why aren't more batsmen from England (born and raised) playing with consistent success for England, and in county cricket?

I would like to advocate five key themes for serious consideration:

Keep the base of the pyramid wider for longer
More young cricketers must be given hope that they are not being excluded from having access to quality opportunity too early in their lives. If players believe there is an unwinnable game being played, and that by not having the best opportunities available at a young age they do not have (in their minds) a fair chance to make progress, then a sense of resentment about the sport can grow, and cricket's reputation for being elitist may grow stronger roots too.

If there is a focus on talent identification at younger and younger ages to predict the emerging potential of young cricketers, then the process may be out of step with the natural development of physical and emotional maturity.

Greater opportunity must be created for the majority, the less well-off, who do not benefit from an early start as cricketers via the prep school route, and instead learn the game through local clubs, having first tried football as their main sport.

Late developers must have better quality opportunity in cricket, and must feel there is a genuine prospect of their being able to break into the system, whether at domestic or international level.

More art, less science
This recent blog on ESPNcricinfo by a parent of a young cricketer attending a county trial was both distressing and illuminating. Other parents have shared their frustration with me about the dominant emphasis on physical fitness at county age-group cricket sessions. The influence of science and medicine on modern sport is in danger of overshadowing the art of the game.

Physical fitness enhances performance but the term "fit for purpose" is worth understanding. Fitness helps support the performance process, but it is not the determining factor in producing consistent top performance. Superior skill, applied with diligence, is the key ingredient in successful performance over time.

Avoid over-specialising at too young an age
Growing up in a different era, I attained my fitness base from playing a range of sports to a good level from a young age. The benefits I gained from a multi-sport approach early in life went beyond achieving better physical fitness, greater physical balance and better spatial awareness. Different social groups formed in different contexts, playing different sports, added an extra dimension to my life.

The gifted school-age player is better off learning to deal with being in the pack or an outsider in another sporting discipline; that experience provides many benefits when it comes to understanding the emotions of others. It is likely that greater empathy will be developed if a star player hasn't had it all his or her own way all the time.


British Asian Sports Awards nominee, cricketer Niki Patel, from Leicester with Mark Ramprakash at The Brit Oval, January 14, 2008
The lack of British Asian cricketers playing top-level cricket successfully for England for long periods of time ought to be a matter of concern for the board Geoff Caddick / © PA Photos
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Revisit the role of the coach, and pay youth coaches exceptionally well
Cricket coaches are in danger of morphing into football managers. If a team wins, they are seen as coaching geniuses, and if a team loses, they must face the sack. Madness! This trend breeds interference on the part of the coach, and the captain is increasingly in danger of becoming a "line manager" who is remote-controlled by off-field influences.

Such erosion of one of the key aspects of cricket is doing the game, and its players, an injustice.

It is happening at youth level too. Developing more resourceful captains, and a better core of senior players, is a long process, and it requires skilful, patient practitioners to oversee the transformation from sheep to shepherd, but it is the solution to the problem of many modern cricket teams. The short-term fix is to employ more people to use the remote controls from the dressing room, but it feeds the monster of the long-term problem.

Any team's leadership (captain and coach) at international level can only do so much for individual players, as they are focused on the here and now of winning sessions, matches, and series. Therefore, if the quality of the developmental work is so important, why doesn't sport reward youth coaches exceptionally well? If the pay is commensurate with a person's ability to influence, educate and inspire, and also reflects an individual's experience, then more former players would serve the game through coaching.

Instead, sport loses top people to the media, when it needs the best minds and the most interesting personalities to inspire the next generation. Inspirational teachers and coaches are the lifeblood of any human system.

Make all-round well-being a priority
Quite simply, there is now too long a list of cricketers who have suffered from some form of mental-health issue.

I believe that too much player development seeks to develop toughness and competitiveness, without attending sufficiently to the development of the whole person. The latter approach could enable them to develop a better understanding of themselves and the inner fitness needed to reduce stress and to learn how to manage it successfully.

I appeal to sporting directors, coaches, and leaders of development programmes to attend much more to the development of inner fitness alongside athletic fitness. Inner fitness addresses a young person's purpose in life, their values, the way they think and understand their emotions, and how they acquire the relationship skills needed to achieve a well-rounded life, both inside and outside their sport.

It is is that young men and women bring all of themselves to the game. To address all-round fitness properly, cricketers must pay more attention to the development of self and bring more joy to their game. If they do, I believe it will help us all in dealing with the increasing shadow that is looming large in the lives of young people in sport - mental-health problems.

The significant returns will go way beyond the game of cricket. Striving for excellence should not be defined exclusively by performance on the pitch, track, course, or court, but by the way sportspeople lead their lives.

As a former sportsman, I remain an evangelist for sport, and cricket in particular. The role it can play in developing people to ensure a better future society is invaluable.

This is an edited extract from "A Golden Opportunity for English Cricket" (full version here), a critique on how to tap into the potential of cricketers in England. Burns is a former first-class cricketer and runs London County Cricket Club as a professional mentoring organisation, and coaches first-class and school-age cricketers.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by py0alb on (April 15, 2014, 10:39 GMT)

@landfl I don't think you understood my point at all. It doesn't matter what format you're playing, an aesthetically perfect textbook forward defence played down the wrong line is still going to miss the ball. Root has serious technical issues that were exposed in Australia. the cause of these issues is poor coaching that has taught him to focus on looking good rather than being effective. The ability to make late adjustments is a hugely important part of batting technique at any level of the game. If we focusing on idealised technique to the point where we are coaching kids not to make late adjustments against the moving ball, we are going to have some seriously flawed batsmen coming through.

Posted by landl47 on (April 14, 2014, 22:07 GMT)

@py0alb: I think you're missing Joe Root's point. Cricket (proper cricket, not village green stuff or T20) is a long game and as such batsmen need to be equipped to handle lengthy innings in which they face many deliveries. It therefore becomes a game of percentages: what technique does a batsman need to give him the best chance of being able to stay in for long periods? 'Just hit it', for all but a very small handful of players, isn't good enough. Correct technique will keep you in for longer, on average, than simply trusting to your hand/eye coordination. If you just hit at every ball, you might get a few hits but you'll be out quicker and for less most of the time.

Now and again a Sehwag comes along who defies the odds, but most batsmen need to work on footwork, head position, bat angle and so on to improve their returns. In that context, missing the odd ball because the bowler delivers a beauty is less important than playing the correct shot to each ball.

Posted by cricketwatchdog on (April 14, 2014, 20:48 GMT)

There is a huge talent void in english cricket and also there are no more street smart cricketers, the likes of k.p, collingwood and to an extent swann. Why do only english players suffer 4m mental breakdown. Dont know about the grass root structure of english cricket but genuine cricketing talent like tendukar, ponting, lara, kallis, and still no one in the same rheatoric 4m the england has been absent. A gud test team is a gud one day team not vice versa but england despite being a gud test team has never been a formidable one day team. Look beyond ashes and as said by author inculcate more art, instincts then sceince otherwise guys like butler, stokes and morgan will also go as mediocres despite having rich talent in them otherwise export talent 4m asia where genuine cricketing talents fall prey to parental guidance

Posted by NeilBurns166 on (April 14, 2014, 20:21 GMT)

Plenty of good work goes on in English Cricket. Exploring how England managed to accomplish so much in the past decade needs to be understood. Mickey Stewart is an unsung hero and deserves credit for much of his early work by putting in place a development programme which helped the likes of Vaughan, Trescothick, Flintoff, Bell, Swann, Harmison to be part of a quality programme and emerge as future Ashes winners. My hypothesis is 'better' can always be done. Good results at the top end of the game can mask a multitude of things lower down. Club Cricket needs proper backing and a greater emphasis on youth coaching to be more 'hands-off' to allow for greater self-discovery is wise. Ensuring funds enable quality experienced people to inter-act with youngsters will pay dividends. Progress will be driven by planting seeds in fertile places, and nurturing the growth. Balancing the need for sunlight and shade, being watered (but not drowned) is key to reaping a rich harvest over time.

Posted by flowersintherain on (April 14, 2014, 14:37 GMT)

I agree with Speng and would go further. It's not apparent how ANY of the three major issues the author identifies are addressed by the five recommendations he makes. Perhaps it's hidden away somewhere, but he needs to be more explicit about causality.

Posted by Speng on (April 14, 2014, 13:19 GMT)

How does this 5 point plan address item 2? Interestingly it seems as though the author has written off the Afro-Caribbean origin population as a source of future players for England. The simple fact is that very few youngsters in England get a reasonable chance to play any sort of even semi-organized cricket. At the same time the references to "sporting directors, coaches, and leaders of development programmes" points to an over bureaucratization of the sport and probably an over-emphasis at a young age on serious competition. What kids in England probably need is the ability to play some cricket on a decent pitch 1 or two time a week during the summer along with 2 or 3 training sessions, have some fun and get the chance to learn the roles that they like. Up until about 13 or 14 that's what it needs to be rather than the implied to push to be the next County star. Obviously the South Africans know how to develop (diverse) young crickets who don't have mental breakdowns...

Posted by Jimmyfloyd on (April 14, 2014, 13:14 GMT)

Cloudmess - I agree with you. I think it's healthy for the competition to be as hard fought as possible and the foreign players in the cc help that. But the author is not saying that the foreign players coming in are the problem, nor is he blaming them for England's winter, more that not enough English-born players are at high enough levels to match them and that this is indicative of a flawed development system in this country. I completely agree that this last ashes tour is not a cause for panic, but I would be very surprised if Burns has not had these very sensible and intelligent ideas about the development of talent in England for a long while now and the present situation is simply allowing his voice to be heard more easily. I just think these are absolutely essential ideas for the long-term health of English cricket and that suggesting that these ideas are indicative of a team that is amateur, old-fashioned, insular and mediocre is unfair on a man who is talking a lot of sense

Posted by py0alb on (April 14, 2014, 11:51 GMT)

@greenandgold. "technical perfection" is an unrealistic idealised concept that doesn't stand up to reality. Sometimes the ball moves off the pitch late in the air and you have to adjust in order to connect with the middle of the bat. If this means you have to play with the bat 6 inches away from your pad, so be it. Its better to connect with an ugly shot that than hold your pretty pose and nick the ball to first slip. In this country we put too much coaching emphasis on what is attractive rather than what is effective. The result is that JR has a very pretty technique but its useless when the ball moves around on or outside off stump because he doesn't make the necessary ugly adjustments, as was shown in Australia over and over again.

Posted by cloudmess on (April 14, 2014, 11:50 GMT)

Jimmyfloyd - Is it such a bad thing if English-born players have to work that bit harder to get into a county side and then to stay there? Whatever cricketing skills they learn should be ultimately geared towards winning matches for their team - so let them learn by doing, within a genuinely competitive environment, rather than creating these soft, artificial frameworks. When we used to have 1 overseas player per county team (sometimes none at all) in 80s/90s, we had several players who looked a million dollars on the domestic circuit, but technically and temperamentally all at sea at test level. That has happened much, much less in the last 10 years, with greater numbers of foreign players in cc (until quite recently, England had a top 7 who had all scored at least 50 on debut). Is it a coincidence? Clearly there should be a balance - but I used the word xenophobic because foreign players in cc are always, without fail, the first to be mentioned whenever Eng do badly.

Posted by Green_and_Gold on (April 14, 2014, 11:27 GMT)

@py0alb - i see your point regarding what Root said and it does look silly when you take that one play and miss into consideration. Reading between the lines and looking at the bigger picture you will see that being technically correct is better in the long run. I do agree though that there should be a balance between a players natural game and being technical. I always think that if you have a sound technical base to fall back on then you can afford to just play the ball. Maybe Root misses less balls with good technique?

Posted by ygkd on (April 14, 2014, 8:36 GMT)

Australia won the Ashes not because their youth programs aren't flawed, but because the English ones are obviously even more flawed. Whilst, I believe all cricketers should be able to cross borders as needed, the ECB has been asleep at the wheel and has relied too much on imported players. Too little has been done with UK Asian communities, as the article says, though arguably the UK Caribbean communities are obviously getting even less help. Talent-spotting at ridiculously young ages and follow blood-lines as assiduously as a racing trainer might is not cricket. Australia has similar failings, but fortunately has avoided the import path. However, their pathways programs are still too hit-and-miss. Lots of opportunities are given to 12 & 13 year olds who aren't sighted 5 years later, while others have to wait. And wait. And wait. Late developers shouldn't be so overlooked.

Posted by py0alb on (April 14, 2014, 8:05 GMT)

I saw an interview with Joe Root the other day that summed up everything that is backwards about English coaching. He played and missed at a ball outside off stump and said "its better to miss a ball with a technically perfect shot than to hit it with a technically imperfect shot".

I'm sorry but that is complete nonsense. Hitting the ball doesn't just matter, its the ONLY thing that matters. If that is what he has been coached then god help the rest of them that have been told that. I can see Flower over the winter: "Great shot Joe, even though you lost your off stump and got out for a duck there was a lovely bend in your knee".

Posted by Nutcutlet on (April 14, 2014, 7:50 GMT)

There is so much here that warms the heart. The idea that 'allrounded-ness' should be prioritised is especially welcome. To be fine cricketers, a young man or woman should first be a whole person with a handle on other matters outside cricket. In recent years things have gone far too far in the opposite direction. Obsessiveness (with cricket or with any other single activity) is never good for the personality and there can be few better examples of where this can lead than the unfortunate Jonathan Trott. How often do we read of cricketers on tour who only leave the hotel to play or practise? How many go out onto the streets to get a feel for the country they happen to be touring? It comes back to that celebrated dictum of CLR James': What know they of cricket who only cricket know? And, taking a wider view of the world, of specialists and obsessives generally, the word "cricket" can be replaced with anything. Football. Computer games. Getting rich... Supply your own! Great article!

Posted by richcricketguru on (April 14, 2014, 3:26 GMT)

Good article, well thought out and sensible. The best points are 1. The importance of youth coaching is underestimated 2. Keep the base of the pyramid wider for much longer 3. Put less emphasis on pathway systems that narrow the base, and worse still start the sorting process from U14 levels. The pathway approach is for cricket bureaucrats who want to justify their existence by providing artificial competitions that they control. Let's also better support club cricket as the cradle for young player development in a more real world environment.

Posted by Jimmyfloyd on (April 14, 2014, 0:22 GMT)

Cloudmess, I don't think he is being xenophobic. He is not lamenting the fact that South African players are playing for England per se, but rather that there are not enough English-born players who are good enough to contend with them and that this points to what are obvious and objective flaws in player development in this country. He is not saying "keep out foreigners" but rather "make English players better so that they deserve their places in the team", which the 'system' is currently failing to do on a regular basis. As for the jack of all trades point, all he is saying is that players are being pigeonholed too early in their development and so are not being given the opportunity to discover what they are best at by following the "teach yourself about yourself" philosophy that he mentions. This can then be followed by reaching a level good enough for test cricket in the particular discipline they have found to be their best.

Posted by NeilBurns166 on (April 13, 2014, 20:52 GMT)

There is a systemic flaw if millions are invested in development programs and academies, if the professional game 'shops' elsewhere for pro cricketers & Internationals. I have no beef with the opportunism of economic migrant workers, and respect Trott and Pietersen's outstanding contributions. I am no xenophobe. As a big fan of Rod Marsh, and John Inverarity, I believe they inspired and 'polished ' some of England's best players (like Ian Bell) to play successfully for Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flower. Fletch was lost to our system and could have overseen a pipeline of talent to transition from u15's to county, then on to international success. Hopefully Andy Flower can succeed in this role. The England Coach needs a plethora of young talent from all UK communities to emerge, raising standards, enhancing quality of county competitions. It can occur if the new wealth is invested wisely, in quality processes.

Posted by pholpin on (April 13, 2014, 20:14 GMT)

For me, there are other key problems not addressed by this article: 1. Too few youngsters have the opportunity to play cricket - the ECB has done well with the under-10's but there is far too little emphasis on teenagers. Without a larger player base, we are missing a lot of talent. 2. As cricket is a minority sport in the UK, the decision to remove the game from terrestrial TV was a disaster. So no chance of inspiring children to play the game. And I believe the current deal runs to 2020 so no possibility of any change before then! 3. The emphasis on 'overs' cricket is a turn-off for promising players. Why isn't it played at international level? Because it is the dullest form of the game. And I have known very talented players who are also talented at other sports so have focused on those instead - just because they are more fun to play. Sadly we have been let down for many years by incompetent administrators in England and until that changes, things will not improve.

Posted by mukesh_LOVE.cricket on (April 13, 2014, 18:03 GMT)

like many fans are saying here what England need is a bit of perspective , they are not such a bad team , especially in test cricket , their core group is still young, experienced and has enough class in them to overcome this poor stretch , but few things they do need to change are - a)the captain cook - simply not imaginative or aggressive enough and captaincy seems to be weighing him down in his role as an opening bat

b)get rid of Andy flower from their set up

c)find some new coach , simple no nonsense guy like Collingwood or Gary kirsten or a tactician like Stephan Flemming

d)bring back KP and Compton

another problem is they don't seem to have a good candidate to replace cook's captaincy

Posted by CricketisMyPassion on (April 13, 2014, 17:37 GMT)

I agree with most points the author makes except the slight tinge of xenophobia exhibited in his angst about England born and bred players making up the most part of the side. What if WI thought of proportional representation for all islands and not let Barbados dominate its team composition in the 50s to 70s? England because of its colonial past must accept the multicultural society it is now and must simply look for the best who can play for England among those eligible and not put a geo tag on the players. Same with the case of age factor. Merit must decide who gets selected not his age - too young or too old does not matter.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (April 13, 2014, 17:27 GMT)

Cloudmess and the unnamed poster make excellent points! I think that whenever anyone loses in cricket (Aussies have done this with the Argus report), ex - players all sit around and bemoan the modern game and the structures within it. England is an inclusive society (more so than other countries that play the game I could mention!) and attracts many people from around the world to play. If people pay taxes, why can't they play for their adopted country? Sure, there aren't as many British born Asians playing as we'd like but England have had a captain called Hussain, have capped average players like Mahmood, Habib and Shahzad so England cannot be accused of not promoting this! The English structure and coaching set up was lauded a few years back, so it cannot be that bad! What did the Aussies do? Just get MJ on track and stop chopping and changing! When you lose: dust yourself down and come back stronger, not this perpetual self analysis.

Posted by MasterBlaster100 on (April 13, 2014, 16:56 GMT)

I agree with Neil Burns AND cloudmess 2nd post. How is that possible they seem to have opposing views. Well picking your best team (yes I mean KP not ready to move on yet!) and changing captain is common sense and would be the fastest way to transform England. Lehmann did the same trick in a few weeks. But Burns is talking about the next decade or two and there is a lot of truth and sense in his long term plans. Especially about specialising too young. KP was an offie in his teens. Ashley Giles was a medium pacer. And sri lankas latest star batter was right handed as a youth. Curtly ambrose didnt play cricket till he was 17..craig white was a keeper, then an offie and only in late 20s did he become 90mph all rounder. Tom cartwright was seen as a batter by warwickshire and 7 years later moved to somerset started taking buckets of wkts and played for Eng..Broad and Botham didnt get taken seriously as bowlers till their late teens. Warne was a football player. And so on and so on and on..

Posted by py0alb on (April 13, 2014, 16:10 GMT)

The best players often make very poor coaches. Here's the only checkpoint you need: get cricket back on terrestrial tv, even if its just a county T20 game once a week during the summer.

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 14:33 GMT)

While the article proposes some sensible steps it pays only lip service to the key issue - crickets popularity and appeal to youngsters.

This surely the key issue which needs to be addressed before the other areas can be effective.

Football is year round, cheap to play, can be practiced/played on any patch of ground with 1 person upwards, is light years ahead of cricket in terms or talent identification/coaching/grass roots structure/has immense visibility via all media outlets/is untarnished by the elitist roots of cricket etc etc.

Oh yes - there's the small matter of potential financial opportunities and rewards.

Vast rewards to members of 20 premier squads and handsome rewards to another 20 odd squads [say 800 players]

Versus much reduced rewards to [say] 25 players and mediorce rewards to another 200.

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 13:31 GMT)

erm. We've had one really bad winter. We weren't doing that badly before. It was Australia whose system was messed up a couple of months ago. I think a little perspective from all concerned.

Posted by cloudmess on (April 13, 2014, 13:23 GMT)

One of the biggest problems when England do badly in an Ashes campaign, is that everyone is then putting forward their theories about "overhauling" the game - and usually such theories are accompanied by a mild xenophobia and fear of the modern world. Just a year ago Australia was doing the same, coming out for all kinds of theories about the malaise in their game. Was their solution a radical, grass-roots overhaul? Or did they simply realise they had the wrong staff in charge of the team and appoint a tough, charismatic, personable coach, with a shrewd understanding of the game? As things stand, the ECB would rather start commissioning reports and finding all kinds of complicated solutions and excuses - rather than give their national side the best chance of succeeding by simply a) playing their best team, b) appointing a tactically aware captain and c) attracting a first-class, international coach who isn't just going to be an ECB puppet.

Posted by Hardy1 on (April 13, 2014, 11:35 GMT)

While this isn't necessarily the reason for the national team's recent problems, I feel that the biggest issue is that cricket in England is simply not very popular & doesn't have anywhere near the participation rates as football, tennis or swimming for example. On the other hand, cricket is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the subcontinent & arguably in Australia too, & not too far behind in New Zealand.

Posted by cloudmess on (April 13, 2014, 8:13 GMT)

There is much here which smacks of the old "amateur" attitude towards running English cricket which was prevalent into the late 1990s. 1) keep out foreigners. Even if they make better coaches than ours. Forget the era-changing contributions of Fletcher and Flower over the past 15 years. 2) by that same token, only pick England-born players. 3) Forget all this new-fangled fitness stuff, and let's have more net preparation etc - getting your elbow high and not cutting before June etc - let's install more technique, the real "art" of playing cricket. Let's forget that one secret to the WI success of 1980s was that they were so much fitter than other teams. 4) It's better to be a jack of all trades, because we play the game for fun after all - someone who can bat and bowl a bit, even if he is not quite good enough at either at test level. 5) Chop and change - pick Root again when he's past 30. 6) Marginalise coaches. 7) In summary: Let's be old-fashioned, insular and mediocre again.

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 7:45 GMT)

So much that is patently true, and common sense. Who's going to listen, and act?

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 7:38 GMT)

A brilliant article with very many excellent points.

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 6:47 GMT)

A very well constructed and thought out article that will definitely repay following. The bit about developing the art in preference to the science of the sport is particularly appealing.

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 3:55 GMT)

Sorry but the "South Africanisation" of English cricket is bogus nonsense. In the last ten years how many genuine South Africans who learnt their cricket in South Africa and made their first class debuts in South Africa have played for the England Test team? By my reckoning just two. Pietersen and Trott. Players like Strauss, Prior, Compton, Meaker etc for cricketing purposes are English. They grew up in England, learnt their cricket in England and made their first class debuts in England. Being born in South Africa doesn't necessarily make you a South African! As things are Pietersen will never play for England again and Trott will struggle to. In terms of British Asians the reasons there haven't been any "superstars" is because they haven't been good enough. Plenty have been tried but Hussain and Panesar are the only two to have really performed in the Test team recently. I am not sure why you think the Asian population should be such a source of talent. Lazy stereotyping.

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