Academy players ready for call
Michael Vaughan’s presence at the England National Academy in Perth has given it an unusually high media profile.
Vaughan began his recovery programme after undergoing knee surgery in the summer by playing for the Academy side against Western Australia’s 2nd XI on Wednesday.
The Ashes-winning captain was pleased to come through the game without any serious discomfort despite being dismissed for a duck as the hosts won by 40 runs.
While Vaughan’s return to action was good news for England fans, the performances of emerging talents like Jamie Dalrymple and Ravi Bopara pleased National Academy manager Guy Jackson.
The two all-rounders shone in a seventh-wicket partnership of 104, Dalrymple hitting 78 and Bopara made 43 after earlier accounting for five Western Australia wickets between them.
Jackson was delighted with the pair but keen to see the result in perspective as part of the winter physical and technical development programme.
“This isn’t a playing tour. The games are nice distractions. It’s about getting the players fit enough and match ready to play if they were called up (to the Test squad),” he said.
“Secondly to make sure the guys who are going to play in the VB Series are acclimatised and match fit.
“And for the younger members in the Academy squad playing alongside people like Rob Key and Michael Vaughan, giving them experience of playing overseas and of being part of a squad like this.”
Ed Joyce has already been called up to Duncan Fletcher’s Test squad after Marcus Trescothick returned home with a stress-related illness.
Joyce and several of the Academy squad will hope to be involved in the triangular one-day VB Series between England, Australia and New Zealand which starts after the Test series in January.
Jackson and his support team are working hard to strike the right balance for the Academy players, some of whom are pushing for international places while others are seen as future prospects.
“There’s so many different edges to this performance camp and we’re trying to tick all the boxes,” he said.
The Test squad will soon be arriving in Perth after the second Ashes Test in Adelaide and Jackson is preparing to do whatever is necessary to help them.
He added: “We’re here as a support resource for the Test squad. If they want net bowlers, or more likely if they want their guys not playing to come and work with us in match situations, then that will be the case.
“These guys are out here and acclimatised and if they are needed they are ready.”
The Academy squad have a rematch against Western Australia 2nd XI on December 6 at Hale School, where they are based, followed by the Lilac Hill Festival match between an ECB Chairman’s XI and a Cricket Australia XI on December 8, also in Perth.
“The Ashes guys who are not playing will play in that and the rest of the squad will be ours,” Jackson said of the festival match.
Not only will that give the Academy players a chance to stake a claim to take part in the VB Series, but it will also provide them with more valuable experience against what is likely to be a strong host side.
Jackson hopes to arrange another fixture for his players but is keen to emphasise the importance of their daily routine in Perth.
A normal day can start at 7.30am with fitness work on the beach before breakfast. The rest of the morning usually contains more fitness work before nets and training after lunch.
The squad can receive physio during free time in the late afternoon and, with the exception of the occasional team meeting or official function, usually have the evenings to themselves.
Jackson praised the facilities at Hale School, comparing them to those at the National Cricket Centre in Loughborough.
Hale also happens to be where the England rugby union squad trained ahead of their victorious 2003 World Cup campaign.
With the cricket World Cup in the West Indies just a few months away, Jackson is hopeful that the school is again playing host to future world champions.