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News

Change essential to produce exceptional players

Mark Butcher has added to the pressure on the ECB by calling for a reshaped domestic system capable of producing exceptional players

Mark Butcher has added to the pressure on the ECB to reshape its domestic programme to help produce players of "exceptional quality" as the fallout continues from England's disastrous World Cup campaign.
"For 20 years or so I have felt that we do not give our best players the best opportunity to be as good as they possibly can," Butcher tells ESPNcricinfo.
"England cricket has always churned out competent players - good cricketers, solid individuals etc - but we produce very rarely cricketers of exceptional quality, cricketers who will make a massive difference in world tournaments, as have been evidenced by the fact that we have never won a 50-over tournament.
"Because of that you have to look at the style of cricket that we play, the amount of cricket we ask our players to play when they are learning, and the standards of it.
The ECB, under the new leadership team of chief executive Tom Harrison and chairman Colin Graves, is perceived as more receptive to change in England's professional game that will emphasise relevance above tradition.
"The bottom line is that England's players on this trip have just not been good enough," Butcher says. "The batsmen have not been in good enough form and when they have been in good form they haven't been aggressive enough.
"The bowlers haven't been able to move the ball when the ball is new, they haven't been able to bowl good variations or good yorkers at the death. It's just been very average cricket I'm afraid.
"I think the time has come for change. We go through this every four years. The last World Cup was a disaster, the WC before that was a disaster and something needs to change. It is evident that world cricket - and particularly world one-day cricket - has moved on largely because of Twenty20 cricket."
That begs the question whether England should regard the exposure of its players in IPL as a benefit and whether its own T2 tournament is capable of providing the grounding England players need when they rarely play in it.
Butcher is also pessimistic about England's chances in the Ashes this summer, dismissing the notion that all be well once they return to the Test format.
"We lost the last Ashes series 5-0 and that was a series we were expected to win," he said. "Australia's side will be by and large the same - if anything strengthened because Mitchell Starc is becoming the international bowler we thought he would - and our batting resources are not looking particularly strong. I hope England win the Ashes but on the evidence I have seen I can't see it happening."
Neither would he expect any return for Kevin Pietersen - a daily topic of conjecture - to be a miracle cure.
"A Kevin Petersen return would be extraordinary in boosting the profile of the sport but whether or not it would make the massive difference required to lift the time I'm not too sure. Kevin has not played any long-form cricket for 18 months and his run scoring has not exactly been prolific in the short form either."