Planning ahead, looking back
Posted in England in West Indies 2009
It's been a busy time since the start of the year.
We are working on broadening the coaching structure for umpires, officials and scorers. The ECB Association of Cricket Officials (ECB ACO), which is the former Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers and the ECB Officials Association, is actually run by officials with its own board. This was formed on January 8.
Before, an umpire's training centred on knowing and applying the laws of the game. Now, we are trying to help them with their decision making and other important parts of being an umpire, like the man management of players.
We are always working on making cricket more accessible. In London we are trying to regenerate park pitches which will provide more people with the chance of playing cricket. We are working on a pilot project with Lewisham Council at the moment.
We are also doing a lot of work on indoor cricket. The Australian form of the game, eight-a-side, was very popular in the '90s, but the rise of commercial rates for buildings saw it die off. Working with the cricket boards, we are trying to get it going again. We are hoping to set up multi-sport centres where indoor cricket can be played along with football and netball.
It's about the community and getting youngsters playing sport. In areas of the country that have difficulties, sport, and cricket, can pull people together. Being a sport that attracts multi-ethnic groups, cricket can be a powerful tool.
On Saturday I am off to Barbados, but I am not just going there for the cricket.
We have meetings arranged with the West Indies Cricket Board and the Barbados Cricket Association regarding their coach education. They know they need to improve that.
Tim Lumb, who works at the ECB Community Coach Education Office at Edgbaston, has done a great job getting coaches from the Caribbean up to the standard they are now and they have people in place to take their coaching to the next level. The BCA also want to use our Chance to shine initiative to get more youngsters playing cricket in schools.
I am looking forward to seeing the Third Test at the Kensington Oval.
It's been an unusual series so far. No-one really expected West Indies to win the first Test in such a fashion and no-one really expected Sabina Park to be so spinner-friendly after years of fast bowlers enjoying success there.
We then had the sand pit at Antigua - that was a strange episode. Credit to the WICB for rectifying their mistake by making quick decisions to get the game back on. It was great news for the thousands of England supporters who had travelled out there. They must have wondered if they were going to see any cricket at all.
It was good to see England play positively too. We remember what the Rec was like in the past - pretty flat - but we showed our intentions from the first ball and are in a strong position to win the Test.
Playing in the West Indies is tough. I remember back in 1986 when I broke my nose in Jamaica and worked really hard to get back into the side, only to have my thumb broken by Vibert Greene in a tour match in Barbados on my return.
I remember the 1980/81 tour and Michael Holding's famous over to Geoff Boycott - I was next in! I'm not sure I actually saw much of it, though; I was busy stretching and getting myself loose in case I needed to go in. The crowd were amazing that day, full of West Indian and England supporters getting behind their team with drums and voice.
Batting against their quick bowlers was always a challenge, but I enjoyed that. They had Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Patrick Patterson, Wayne Daniel, Sylvester Clarke - I think they had 14 quick bowlers to choose from at one point.
You knew the bowling was going to be quick. There was no point telling yourself it wasn't going to be fast. You needed to try and get in for a couple of hours and find some rhythm, but that in itself was always hard as the wickets were different on each island you went to. Having said that, their batsmen always seemed to be in good nick.
It was always disappointing for me that I did not get a hundred against the West Indies. I did manage one in a vets game against them in Sharjah, though.