Giles salutes England development
National selector Ashley Giles believes England are continuing to improve in all forms of the game, despite their recent World Cup disappointment.
Although Andrew Strauss’ side recorded a memorable Ashes victory in Australia this winter, they have struggled to consistently produce their best form in the one-day arena.
A 6-1 Commonwealth Bank series defeat Down Under was followed by a World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual finalists Sri Lanka, but Giles - who played 54 Tests and 62 one-day internationals for England between 1997 and 2006 - is confident the team are heading in the right direction.
He told ecb.co.uk: “I think we have made progress all round. While the results might not show that recently in one-day cricket, certainly the way the team is being run can only improve our overall performance.”
Giles is particularly heartened by the strength in depth at the selectors’ disposal and added: “I think we are in a nice spot in terms of the squad and Andy Flower and his team have done a lot to put that together.
“Through the ranks now there is a lot of competition and guys in county cricket understand what the demands are in international cricket, or are starting to, and also understand the rewards that are there if they get it right.
“County cricket is far more professional than it’s ever been and if we keep it that way it will give us a far greater pool of players to pick from.”
England’s players have had to cope with a demanding schedule in recent months and Giles is mindful of the need to monitor their workload.
“From a selector's point of view, we’ve just got to look after our players and make sure that when they go out and perform, they can perform to their best,” he explained.
“There’s no doubt the guys are tired. They have played a lot of cricket.
“We’re going to have to think about rotating guys, giving them a break and doing more strength and conditioning programmes to keep them up to pace so their bodies don’t fatigue too much.
“If your best players aren’t on the park or available to play some of those big games, or are fatigued already, it’s not always going to be conducive to your best performance.”
Giles is also employed by Warwickshire as their director of cricket and was speaking at the club’s pre-season press day at Edgbaston.
The midlands county finished the 2010 season on a high with victory over Somerset in the Clydesdale Bank 40 final at Lord’s.
However, their four-day form was largely disappointing and only an excellent late run preserved their place in Division One of the LV= County Championship.
“We never set any specific targets but I think we all want to see an improvement in our championship form from last year,” said Giles.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to set a target to win it, but we scrapped around a lot last year and we did extremely well to stay up actually with the way we played on the run-in.
“If we can actually be in a good position come August, even mid-table or just above, historically we finish really well.
"The last three years we have won a trophy on the last day of the season so if we finish strongly and we are in a striking position we are always going to be there or thereabouts, but it’s important first to get yourself a base and get yourself into a comfortable position.”
Batsmen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott are likely to miss large parts of the season due to their international commitments, while Chris Woakes could also be called up by England after making his ODI and Twenty20 international debuts in Australia.
However, Giles is more than satisfied with the players at his disposal and has backed new signing Will Porterfield - formerly of Gloucestershire - to shine, along with the likes of Varun Chopra, Rikki Clarke and Ian Westwood, who has been replaced as captain by Jim Troughton.
“I think some of our young batters are going to be impressive, “he added. “Porterfield and Chopra are impressive players and I expect Westy to have a far better season without the pressures of captaincy on his shoulders.
“If Rikki Clarke gets it right, on his day, there are not many better all-rounders in the country, so he’s extremely dangerous in all forms of the game.
“We’ve got a good squad with lots of depth and competition. That can cause its own problems because guys are worried about their place but it’s a good position to be in as a director of cricket.”