A progress report from the ICC High performance manager Bob Woolmer on the months trials and tribulations

Happy New Year and a prosperous one for all, these words will echo for day after the celebrations end. The High performance programme too will now move into the next phase, with the four countries taking on the recommendations and start putting them into practice.

Watching the latest Test series unfold in Australia and Sri Lanka it is worth noting the fantastic progress that Sri Lanka have made since admittance to the Test playing ranks. It is also worth noting where Australia is in comparison with the other countries.

It would seem that they are indeed out on their own with convincing and dominating wins over their nearest rivals South Africa. The gap would seem to be huge, but in cricketing terms it may not be as big as forecast. Don't get me wrong Australia have outplayed South Africa so far and there does not seem to be much evidence of a South African revival, although one can never right them off. It is Australia's structures that need to be studied and copied. The marvellous practice facilities, the attention to detail and the support they receive from there administrators, public, sponsors and media. It all lends itself to an unstoppable force.

I have been fortunate to visit Australia over the years and to see how their cricket has grown, certainly at International level and something that really struck me was the attitude of their top-flight players. We here it again recently with Matthew Hayden saying that he was pleased with his form but felt he could get better. This continual desire to achieve more is a lesson in itself.

Psychologists would refer to it as selfdetermination. Coaches would say that Australia keep looking at themselves in the mirror and they keep asking the main question, how can I improve?

Technically, Physically and mentally, like great scientists they keep trying to prove theories incorrect as opposed to sitting on their laurels. Australia is a great team because they have the right attitude. There is no doubt that there is a tremendous learning as well as working ethic within the team. They have also studied how they deal with the public through the media. Any mistakes and they soon rectify them. A slight blip against New Zealand was just the spur they needed to bounce back to greater heights against South Africa.

Interestingly too Australia's culture embraces sport, Cricket is their major sport, yet for a relatively small country they produce a never ending line of great sportsmen. As a sport lover, I take my hat off to them. The challenge then for all of us in cricket coaching and performance enhancement, is not only to emulate their successes but to try and forge ahead of them; I suppose inch would be better terminology.

For Kenya Canada, Namibia and the Netherlands, Australia's feats may seem out of reach, but skill attainment and fitness and mental improvement is not the preserve of Australia! It is up to the rest of the world to have the same attitude as the Australians and to create similar structure, tailored to each country. This means mobilising people who are keen, knowledgeable, dedicated to the cause and also able to develop expertise.

This of course will mean some serious work from each member of the respective teams and some fancy footwork from the administrators to get new sponsors to make sure the practice facilities are always available and up to scratch.

Australia has shown the way, we must get on that path quickly and make sure that lessons are learnt quickly and acted upon. The U19 (junior World Cup) has shown that Australian cricket still has depth and I suppose it was no coincidence that South Africa lost to them in the final recently at Lincoln home of probably the number one Academy facility in World cricket today.

Combined with the U19 World Cup the ICC has structured a number of meetings to discuss the future of World cricket and to put in place structures that will ensure cricket goes from strength to strength, that is after all the legacy left to us all by Bradman, Cowdrey and many other great names.

I was invited by Andrew Eade (Development manager) to the development conference in Christchurch (what a lovely city) and was fascinated by the depth and commitment of all the Development officers through out the World. Indeed I was staggered to learn that 76 countries now sit under the development wing and that the ICC vision is that by the year 2005 that over 100 countries fit the criteria needed to be aided and assisted by the ICC.

This vision of truly globalising the game is indeed a noble one. It is therefore even more important that those countries with the ambition to make Test and one-day status put in structures that will enable them to do so.

It was also intriguing to hear of the many stories from Papua New Guinea to Uganda of the tremendous progress, and as High performance manager of the methods and problems that each development officer had. I came away from that conference with a greater and renewed respect for many people who toil, without much glamour indeed none at all and with a greater desire and enthusiasm to assist and help.

It also brought home to me the need to press on with the second phase of the High Performance programme. I can report that Jeff Thomas from Australia has accepted the post of Coach to Canada for the World Cup, and that Andy Kirsten has agreed to assist Sandeep Patel in Kenya and that Eric Simons will assist Namibia. Emmerson Trottman is with Holland and they are being aided and assisted by Dougie Brown, Graeme Welch and Keith Piper at the Indoor centre in Birmingham. New bowling machines have been delivered to all countries and Kenya will be proud operators of a new Computerised analysis system called Crikstat.

Shortly too we will be able to monitor the progress of all four teams as they come together in the Six nations Challenge being held in Windhoek Namibia in April. Here we will take the opportunity to play against Sri Lanka 'A' and Zimbabwe 'A' with a number of specialists on hand to help. Dermot Reeve, will be giving the sides the benefit of his one-day expertise and along with psychologists, nutritionalists and members of Cape Town's Sports Science Institute headed by Professor Tim Noakes, the teams will be exposed to the latest fitness, mental and cricketing techniques available to all the major International cricket teams.

Exciting times ahead for us all.

Bob Woolmer