The ICC's Winter Training Camp (WTC) has been about more than simply improving players from the six Associate countries to have qualified for the 2007 World Cup.
The concept, driven by Richard Done, the ICC's high-performance manager, and Scotland and WTC head coach Andy Moles, has also been about coaching in every sense of the word. The 11-week camp at the University of Pretoria's High Performance Centre has educated Associate coaches, given current senior players a chance to advance their coaching skills and offered all 23 players attending an opportunity to obtain coaching qualifications.
After all, the ICC's Development Program, in place since 1997, is about more than simply improving the on-field performances of those countries below Full Member status. "The future continued development of Associate and Affiliate countries depends not just on the improvement of playing standards but also on the continued improvement of all parts of the cricket support network," said Done. "Coaching is a key element of this process."
That wholistic approach was behind getting two current players, Bermuda captain Clay Smith and John Davison of Canada, involved in the coaching process in South Africa. Smith was unable to stay for the whole duration of the WTC but Davison has remained and benefited from the experience.
"Both John and Clay have expressed a desire to stay involved with the game through coaching after they finish playing and the chance to work with experienced coaches like Andy Moles and [bowling coach] Bob Cottam has been ideal for them," said Done. "John, in particular, has had an invaluable opportunity to work side by side with high quality and experienced coaches for the full 11 weeks and it will stand him in good stead for his coaching future."
Ahead of the WTC Davison had been studying for his Level 3 coaching award in Australia and he added: "The WTC has really helped me in my coaching outlook. It has been a big help to see the coaches here, how they work with players in a group and one-to-one and how they structure sessions. I am looking to get some coaching experience at club level so my time spent here should help when it comes to working with players when I get back to Sydney. My plan is to play until the World Cup in 2007 but the experience I have gained here means that I am also in a position to give something back to Canadian cricket, something I am very keen to do."
The original plan at the start of the WTC was for the coach of each Associate represented - Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands and Scotland - to attend for two weeks. The idea was that they could see the technical, physical, tactical, mental and personal work put in by the players in Pretoria and take that as a benchmark for their future work.
Scotland's coach Moles has helped run the course but the plan was diluted by Kenya and Canada's current lack of a coach while Gus Logie, the coach of Bermuda, and Peter Cantrell, his equivalent in the Netherlands, have been unable to attend.
However Adrian Birrell, Ireland's coach, was able to spend two weeks at the WTC towards the start of the program and commented: "I was hugely impressed by what I saw. What I did see was the way the players and coaches covered all bases from the physical to the technical and even the psychological aspects of the game. On that basis it has now been a case of me going back to Ireland and spreading the news about the way things are being done by our three players at the camp and how they will definitely be better players when they get home because of it."
All the players attending the camp have studied for a Level 2 coaching award and Done said that, too, was a crucial aspect of the work done at the WTC. "Understanding your own game is a vital part of any cricketer's development and completing a coaching course is one way to help gain that knowledge," he said. "The course will provide players with a much better grasp of their own strengths and weaknesses and it means they should be better able to evaluate the advice they are bound to get during their careers.
"On top of that there is the added bonus that each of the WTC players will now be in a position to return home and put something back into developing other players and that drip-down effect is a long-term key to developing talent in Associate countries."
The players completed the written part of their Level 2 course on Monday and they will get the chance to put their newly-acquired skills into action almost immediately as they will head to Soweto to coach some local children later this week.
Tom de Grooth, the Netherlands batsman at the WTC, endorsed the coaching program when he said: "It has definitely helped my game. It means I am able to understand what I am doing and the mistakes I have made a lot better and also know how to put those mistakes right. That also means that when I see others making those mistakes I will also know how to help correct them too."
Done concluded: "The most positive aspect of our emphasis on coaching is that it has helped encourage an environment of excellence. There is little doubt the players have run with that and enjoyed it."
Players attending the WTC
Bermuda - Jekon Edness, Jim West, Stephen Outerbridge & Azeem Pitcher
Canada Qaiser Ali, Umar Bhatti, Kenneth Carto & Henry Osinde (plus John Davison, who is filling a coaching role)
Ireland Trevor Britton, Kenneth Carroll & Eoin Morgan
Kenya Nehemiah Ngoche, Alfred Luseno & Kalpesh Patel
Netherlands Tom de Grooth
Scotland Richard Berrington, Kasim Farid, Gordon Goudie, Ross Lyons, Dewald Nel, Qasim Sheikh, Fraser Watts & Sean Weeraratna