When we launched the high performance review, the England Men’s Test team had just endured a difficult year, including defeats in the Ashes and the Caribbean over the winter.
Since then, with the arrivals of Rob Key and Brendon McCullum, as well as Ben Stokes’ impressive start as Captain, we’ve beaten the current World Test Champions 3-0, pulled off a remarkable run chase to level the series against India, and seen some welcome positivity return.
Does that mean all is well and we don’t really need this review? I don’t believe so. We need it every bit as much as we did back then.
Naturally I’m delighted to see this change in fortunes and I’ve loved watching the thrilling way the team have been playing. Rob Key warned us to hang on for the ride, and he and Brendon are certainly delivering on that.
But the high performance review is about building sustained success. We don’t just want to succeed in one series, for one year, or in one format at a time. We want to be best in the world across all three Men’s formats – Test, 50-over and T20 internationals. By this we mean that in five years we are number one ranked team in at least one format and at least number three in all of them – and to be able to sustain this for years at a time.
The game globally is undergoing fundamental change. Domestic leagues have grown in power and pull, we now have an ICC international white ball competition scheduled every year, and players have an unprecedented choice of what cricket they want to play. We need to future-proof our game. Winning four Test matches – thrilling though it has been – doesn’t change that need. We need a system that’s aligned from top to bottom, that ensures a strong, high-performing, domestic game that fans love and which provides us with the pipeline of England stars ready for the international stage.
I’ve been encouraged in the conversations I have with Chief Executives and Chairs across the game. I believe we have a shared interest in sustained success for our England teams because winning England teams grow the game – and that’s good for all of us.
We‘ve now completed the first part of our review. With the help of an expert panel which I talked about in my last blog, we’ve identified a set of principles which underpin sustained successful high performance in any setting. You can read a summary here but at the highest level if we’re going to succeed we need:
- A game-wide commitment to high performance, underpinned by extraordinary leadership at all levels. This means aligning behind a common vision and then making the choices and decisions necessary to effectively execute the strategy. It will also require being ruthless in allocating resource.
- An understanding and implementation of a game-wide plan based on a ‘what it takes for us to win’ framework. This ensures that there is connection as well as clarity in the role, function and responsibilities at all levels of the game.
- Effective talent ID and player development to produce a pipeline of good players. This requires solid county and ECB talent identification, high quality coaching and support, specific skills development, appropriate facilities, and ensuring players aren’t just practising but are getting experience of winning and losing as well.
- Those players need to spend quality time on task. This means competitions delivering the best versus the best, playing in conditions which are representative of the international game, an appropriate balance of matches, training, and rest, and incentives to attract, develop, and retain talent.
- And we need a strong performance culture in our teams, including inspirational team leadership, as well as ensuring that our players are in the best possible physical and psychological state to play their best. In order to do this, we need a culture which is open to challenge and innovation.
We will now use these principles to guide us through the remainder of the review. With the work of the external panel complete, the job now is to translate these over the next few weeks into a series of options for the game to discuss.
There are big issues to grapple with. I think the work we have done so far demonstrates that we need clarity, alignment and buy-in to what our priorities are, and to be able to make clear choices based on these, even where these may be uncomfortable. We will have to ensure we focus our resources where they have the most impact. And we need clear responsibility and accountability at all levels.
We are now working with subject matter experts and a working group of the professional game – made up of CEOs, Directors of Cricket and the Professional Cricketers’ Association - to develop clear options for the whole game to debate. We’ll also be speaking to supporters this summer.
I recognise that there is a lot of interest in what any options around domestic structures and competitions might look like – indeed, I continue to read speculation attributed to the review which we haven’t even discussed. However, it’s important to reiterate that this review is about more than that – it’s about the England performance setups and pathways every bit as much as domestic competitions. When we have developed these options, I’ll update again then, and there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss them.