Simply the best
This feature by David Parsons was taken from the ECB's official programme for the England v New Zealand npower Test Series - you can buy all your programmes online here now
The ultimate goal of creating a winning England team which is also the undisputed number one in the world is something which constantly drives those of us involved in the National Cricket Performance Centre.
Every time we get out of bed in the morning it is an aim which motivates us hugely. All of us working here at Loughborough are dedicated to the process of helping England’s current and future players be the best they can be.
We want to prepare players so that when they come into the England senior teams they are not just there to make up the numbers. We want them to be ready to raise the standards of the team and to be able to make a significant contribution straightaway.
Look at someone like Mike Hussey of Australia, who was 30 before he made his Test debut but has been incredibly successful since breaking into international cricket. That is the sort of impact that is possible.
This ambition for cricket in England and Wales is why the way we now use the bricks and mortar of our Loughborough facility has changed somewhat since it was first opened in 2003, and why the centre was renamed last June.
The original concept was for it to house the National Academy’s group of players, then, after Peter Moores had taken over from Rod Marsh, a distinction was drawn between the Academy and the building itself, which was then called the National Cricket Centre.
Now, following last year’s recommendations of the Schofield Report, the facility has evolved again into something which is for the benefit of all England teams, men and women, from Under-15s all the way up to the senior England squads.
On the mens’ and boys’ side, I’d say that more than 100 elite cricketers now regularly use the National Cricket Performance Centre every year. That figure can be broken down into 20-25 England players, 20-25 England Lions and England Performance Programme players, and 50-plus players from the U15 to U19 age groups and development programmes.
The sports science and medical staff we have here are working on a full-time basis with every elite cricketer, as are specialist coaches such as Kevin Shine, the lead fast bowling coach, and Richard Halsall, the lead fielding coach.
Soon I am hoping to announce new appointments for both a lead batting coach and a lead spin bowling coach, the latter position being one I myself held before I was invited to take over from Peter Moores as Performance Director as a result of him succeeding Duncan Fletcher as England head coach just over a year ago.
Guy Jackson and Jo Pearson head up the management of the Performance Centre here, and David Rose and Simon Timson are in charge of the performance analysis and sports science/medical teams respectfully. All the ECB’s top-end coach education programmes take place at Loughborough, too.
In short, we now have a system and an England teams structure far more joined-up than it was in the past. And because every elite cricketer uses this facility as a base it is easier for players to see the pathway to the top. This, in turn, allows them to make a more seamless transition from stage to stage.
Our big challenge, going forward, is to become even better at identifying those players who have the potential to be world-class and to make a difference at senior international level.
We don’t want to exclude players who have the ability to grow and grow within the support systems we have in place, even over a number of years, but at the same time we want to make sure we don’t miss anybody else.
Working with all 18 counties, and their academies, is therefore massively important to us – as is monitoring the performance of our leading emerging players through the England Lions games both at home and abroad.