Rewards yet to bear out - Abrahams
John Abrahams hopes the members of England’s Under-19 World Cup squad will one day reflect on their tours to Bangladesh and New Zealand as critical stages in their development.
The two winter trips undertaken by Azeem Rafiq’s side have certainly not yielded startling results.
England narrowly lost their one-off Test in Chittagong, suffered 5-2 defeat in the subsequent one-day international series against the Tigers, and yesterday exited the World Cup at the quarter-final juncture.
But to Abrahams, the ECB’s long-serving Elite Player Development manager, far more important than numbers and figures are the experiences of playing in conditions and cultures that could barely be more divergent.
Abrahams told ecb.co.uk: “Our task, and hope, is to see how their development comes to fruition in our domestic season, both as players and people.
“We knew the conditions in New Zealand would be similar to what we encounter at home.
“So what we did was take them away to Bangladesh, just to extend them and test them, and then back to conditions they are more used to, on and off the field.
“Then hopefully what they’ve been through in Bangladesh would serve a purpose to them.
“And I think, if you look throughout the team, there have been a lot of strong performances (in New Zealand).
“James Vince established himself last year in county cricket, so we knew his pedigree anyway. But Danny Briggs and Azeem Rafiq have bowled exceptionally well in tandem as spinners.
“Throughout the squad I’m convinced progress has been made.”
The modern-day demand of high fielding standards from all players is no more relevant than at Under-19 level, and England’s ground fielding has earned rave reviews in this tournament.
Abrahams stressed that was no accident, given that the ECB summoned a specialist fielding coach, the Sussex player/coach Carl Hopkinson, to accompany the players to Bangladesh and New Zealand.
Abrahams explained: “Our experience has shown that there are two areas they could all excel at - one of them was fielding, the other was fitness.
“And they became non-negotiable targets for the team. A lot of credit has to go to the support staff for their improvement, particularly Carl Hopkinson, who has managed the fielding side of things.”
Though Abrahams is forced to reflect upon elimination from the knockout stage, England will continue in the tournament alongside the other defeated quarter-finalists to decide who finishes fifth.
Without delving too much into a tournament format so complex even Plato would struggle to understand it, two further matches await England whatever happens. First up is India tomorrow in Christchurch.
“Much of the team ethic has been down to the support from those on the sidelines, as it were,” added Abrahams.
“There’s one or two who are understandably a little jaded, mentally and physically, so they will be rested. That will afford opportunities to players who haven’t played much.”
Abrahams had a final word of thanks for the coaches seconded to assist the development of England’s next generation.
They are Andy Pick, who left for an ICC development post before the winter, Mick Newell (Nottinghamshire), who served as coach in Bangladesh, and Mark Robinson (Sussex), who succeeded him in New Zealand.