Five England internationals with decades of first-class cricketing experience have been given key roles in a new scouting network for the ECB’s Player Pathway.
Geoff Arnold, Jack Birkenshaw, Bob Cottam, John Emburey and Mike Hendrick are all contributing to a new focus on player identification throughout the Pathway – which incorporates the Lions, Young Lions, Pace Programme and Overseas Placements.
Arnold, Cottam and Hendrick have been keeping an expert eye on talented seamers for Kevin Shine, the ECB’s fast-bowling lead.
Emburey and Birkenshaw have been focusing on young spinners, feeding into Peter Such, Shine’s spin-bowling counterpart.
In total the five shared 5,591 first-class wickets, including 376 in Test cricket from 137 caps.
Their experience will support the England selectors – Mick Newell, Angus Fraser and the National Selector James Whitaker – who held a mid-season meeting with the ECB scouts this week, and will choose the players to travel on the various Pathway programmes this winter.
In addition, the former Derbyshire wicketkeeper and coach Karl Krikken has continued to work with national lead Bruce French to identify wicketkeepers of potential, while the batting expertise provided by Andy Flower, Mark Ramprakash and Graham Thorpe has been augmented by the return of John Abrahams, the former Lancashire captain who was the coach of the only England team to win the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 1998. In addition to Abrahams’ scouting responsibilities, he has also been added to the Young Lions selection panel - alongside David Graveney and Andy Hurry, the head coach of the programme.
Mo Bobat heads up the ECB’s new network, having been appointed Player Identification Lead last summer after several years working on what has become the Young Lions programme.
He explains: “We had been making progress with how we identify and assess high potential players for the Under-19s, primarily by learning from other environments and in particular sports in the US where the systematic scouting of talent is more common place.
“For the last year or so we’ve been trying to adopt those principles and processes more consistently across the Pathway. The decisions we make will inevitably affect players’ careers and therefore livelihoods – so it’s incumbent on us to do all we can tomake sure our methods are thorough and that we are in a position to make informed decisions.
“That was the rationale behind everything we’ve done since – trying to make our selection processes more consistent, evidence-based and robust.
"The experience of the guys we’ve got on board is invaluable in that respect – data alone will never pick players, you need expertsto do that – in our case the selectors, helped by the variety of scouts we employ at all levels from Young Lions up. But you want those experts to be as well-informed as possible – and you want the best possible system and process for collating and analysing the information they provide.
“This summer we have more than doubled the number of scouting reports for players in contention for selection for some of our programmes, and that should mean we are far better placed to make our decisions and ultimately provide experiences and support to players that can add value on top of their county programmes.
“In the last few weeks, the Young Lions selection panel have chosen 27 players from 15 counties to play some part in the Under-19s summer series against India. And we’re already well down the line for the process of analysing contenders for the Lions, the Young Lions, the Pace Programme and Overseas Placements this winter.
“The North-South Series was another important step forward in the way we approach assessing players. Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace were both out in the UAE watching the games, as were a number of other lead coaches, two of the three England selectors and Andrew Strauss, and they were able to observe players closest to England, and specifically assess how they might fit into the approach to one-day cricket that the England team have been developing over the last 18 months.
“That’s another aspect of the work we’ve done on player identification – we are now in a position to assess much more specifically a player’s readiness for England.”