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Bruce French steps down from England wicketkeeping coach role

James Foster set to replace long-standing coach on South Africa tour

George Dobell
George Dobell
Bruce French shares a smile with Jos Buttler, England v Pakistan, Ageas Bowl, 2nd Test, 4th day, August 16, 2020

Bruce French shares a smile with Jos Buttler  •  Visionhaus/Getty Images

Bruce French has stepped down from his role as national lead wicketkeeping coach at the ECB to spend more time with his family.
French, a former England wicketkeeper himself, has earned an excellent reputation as a specialist coach and joined the ECB in 2009. In that time, he has played a significant role in helping a generation of players improve their keeping.
While the outstanding talents of French's time in the role may have been Ben Foakes and Sarah Taylor, it was perhaps his work with the less natural keepers which proved most significant. With England keen to ensure their keepers were also producing runs, the likes of Matt Prior, Craig Kieswetter, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow were all entrusted with the gloves. All improved markedly under French's expert tutelage, with Kieswetter playing a key role as England won the World T20 in 2010, Buttler completing a not entirely straightforward run-out to secure the World Cup title 2019 and Prior, perhaps the most improved of the lot, making a major contribution to the England side that rose to No. 1 in the Test rankings in 2011.
There was an irony in French's role in turning these batsmen into proficient keepers. His own international career was limited to 29 games (16 Tests and 13 ODIs) in large part due to his relatively modest ability with the bat. He was, however, a fine keeper who enjoyed a career spanning two decades with Nottinghamshire. French was also on hand to present his nephew, Jake Ball, with his Test cap when he made his debut in 2016.
Another former England keeper, James Foster, will fulfil the role of wicketkeeping coach on England's upcoming limited-overs tour of South Africa. Foster has not yet replaced French on a full-time basis but, like Marcus Trescothick, has been employed on a consultancy basis for this tour. It would be no surprise if he were to become a more regular member of England's support staff, following roles in T20 leagues around the world, including with Kolkata Knight Riders in the recently-concluded IPL.
French is the second long-standing member of England's support staff to stand down in recent days following the departure of operations manager Phil Neale; a reflection, perhaps, of the demands of living and working in bio-secure bubbles. French will, however, remain on hand as a part-time consultant. Aged 61, he remains admirably lithe and athletic.
"English cricket owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bruce for the fine work that he has done over a number of years," Mo Bobat, England men's performance director, said. "For some time, we have been able to select from an oversupply of excellent wicketkeepers and Bruce has played a significant role in developing those players.
"There is much that Bruce should be proud of and this includes numerous memorable victories in both home and away series for England and of course, our historic World Cup win in 2019. Bruce has also ensured that his coaching insight has been effectively shared across the game through our coach development programmes. I wish Bruce every success in his future endeavours and have no doubt that he still has much to offer as a coach in the game."
Ashley Giles, England men's managing director, also offered his thanks. "I would like to thank Bruce and those that are leaving the performance department for their contribution to the elite set-up over the past few years," he said. "It has been a challenging time for all, but I am very proud of the efforts of every individual and the loyalty they have shown in maintaining England cricket at the forefront of international sport and competition.
"I have worked alongside some talented people and the dedication and professionalism shown is renowned across the sport. Those that are leaving the ECB can look back on having made a significant positive impact that will be remembered for a long time. I wish everyone all the success in the next chapter of their personal lives and careers."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo