Parsons wants more A-listers
ECB performance director David Parsons has challenged the 10 players orginally in the B category of the England Performance Programme to push for a place on the next Lions tour.
The group of players, experienced county professionals thought to be within three years of representing England, have just completed eight days at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough.
The intake will continue their education when they escape the England winter by flying to South Africa on Sunday for a month-long training camp.
"We want these players to force their way into the next Lions squad wherever they go on tour in the new year," said Parsons. "We also want them to push their way into the A category."
Last month Parsons selected 41 players for the EPP - Somerset’s Craig Kieswetter was added last week - and well were divided into three categories according to their level of development.
Players in the A group are perceived as the next best English players, closely followed by the B category while the final group, the C batch, are younger players with little first-class experience.
"It's been a really good eight days," Parsons told ecb.co.uk as he looked back on the B group session.
"The feedback from the players has been terrific. They were really pleased with the camp and were impressed with how professional and organised it was. It was probably as an intense week as the players are likely to ever experience.
"For us it was about setting our stall out in terms of what the England Performance Programme is and the standards they need to achieve if they want to play for England. We wanted to hit them hard."
The players - Steven Finn (Middlesex), Andrew Gale (Yorkshire), Rory Hamilton-Brown (Sussex), Chris Jordan (Surrey), Chris Nash (Sussex), Joe Sayers (Yorkshire), Ajmal Shahzad (Yorkshire), James Taylor (Leicestershire), David Wainwright (Yorkshire) and Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) - were joined by A-listers Amjad Khan and Michael Carberry.
They were subjected to a wide-range of sessions - cricket and conditioning were a staple part of the schedule - but Parsons and his staff at the NCPC arranged for a speaker to talk to the group each day.
They varied in their expertise with four-time Olympic gold medalist Matthew Pinsent concluding an impressive list that included Graham Gooch, Alec Stewart and former SAS member Floyd Woodrow amongst others.
"We wanted to expose the players to examples of world-class or world's best. To help with this we invited seven external speakers. You can be world-class in a number of fields and we wanted to expose them to examples of that, not just in cricket or sport.
"The messages from each speaker were consistent, simple and clear," he said. "All had passion for what they were doing, all had a plan to make it to the top and all spoke of the hard work, dedication and commitment that is required if you are to succeed and reach the top.
"The players picked the brains of Gooch and Stewart - that was very relevant. They spoke passionately about playing for England and what it meant to pull on the cap for the first time. Matthew Pinsent brought in his gold medals."
Parsons will take the players to Pretoria this weekend where the hard work will continue.
"The main difference is that we will be outside,” he said. "We will have two four-day games, middle practices, nets and more conditioning work. We want to reinforce good habits."