A surfeit of consultants in cricket

WHEN English coach Duncan Fletcher wanted to check out the Sri Lankans prior to the first Test match in England he didn't go to Durham himself, nor did he send the bowling coach, the batting coach, the scorer, the fitness consultant, the biomechanic, the dietician, the public relations manager, the padre, the team manager or the psychologist, but the team analyst.

Just who and what a team analyst does I haven't a clue and in a game which is producing more consultants than the White House I am left wondering what is left for the coach and players to do.

I have been most concerned by the number of ancillary personnel being assembled to assist teams throughout the world, but England seem to have many more than any other team.

If they all assemble for a Test match the players will have no seat in the dressing room.

I am all for innovations and probably introduced more than most when I coached Australia.

Outside aid can be of help for it introduces a new perspective when seen through new eyes.

Those eyes, however, must be perceptive enough to understand the different requirements needed for cricket.

Most games are over in a couple of hours. Golf can extend to 4 or 5 hours but cricket can go all day or almost all night depending on what type of cricket is being played.

There is certainly a role for consultants to be involved in cricket, but they must be the right ones and supplying a essential service.

It appears to me at present that England are just too desperate for success and grasping at straws in their bid for miraculous improvement.

By appointing so many helpers I believe they are trying to say we are giving the players every assistance possible.

It probably all began under the coaching of David Lloyd. This was certainly obvious in his regime and I well remember the huge cast assembled in the dressing room at Edgbaston for an international fixture and how confused and resentful the players were.

Watching from the adjoining dressing room it appeared that meetings were being held every 30 minutes and the team was being split into separate little groups. Not the best environment to create team harmony and togetherness.

I can clearly understand the pressure the English management is under and the desperate desire for success.

English cricket is under a great deal of pressure and the structure of their game has been roundly criticised.

I too have been a critic of how cricket has been run, but never of the natural talent that is available.

One of my strongest criticism has been the poor work ethic of the English county cricketers.

Some of this can be put down to complacency and laziness, but much can be put down to the fear of injury causing a premature ending to careers.

Unfortunately this is not being helped by the so called experts encouraging this concern and recommending a reduction in the amount of cricket played.

This is now an accepted theory world wide, particularly amongst pace bowlers where rest and rotation is now the norm.

But, is it right? I have not seen any medical studies to prove it. Plenty of theories but no valid proof.

Indeed if this is so, why in a period where players are supposedly fitter and stronger, why is it that they require R&R when they are generally bowling many fewer overs per year than any other period.

Not so many years ago the likes of Alec Bedser and Freddie Trueman would bowl in excess of 1,000 overs per season in county cricket alone.

When you added Test and overseas touring fixtures many would bowl up to 1,500 overs a year.

Test cricketers these days would hardly bowl half of this.

This is particularly noticeable in the reduced county programme where now 500 overs is considered a tough programme.

Is this new desire to rest players reducing the number of injuries.

While I haven't seen any study that has been done on this, my gut feeling is there are no less injuries today than in the past.

I do not know of one sport where you can practise and play less and get better.

As one great South African golfer said, "The more I practise the luckier I get."

With these thoughts in mind I have found it difficult to understand Duncan Fletcher's decision to stop his players from participating in English county cricket after the New Zealand tour.

If ever a team needs practise of the right quality, it is England.

They have played a fair amount of cricket over the last twelve months. But not all that much for almost every Test in that period has been over in less than five days and many in just three.

English cricketers need as much cricket as they can get, if they are to be more competitive and English county cricket needs their best players in action as much as possible.

Like in Australia and throughout the cricketing world, if you take the best players away, the domestic standards drop.

This is certainly the case in England. If England are to improve it must be back to the basics.

New ideas are interesting, but in the end the best players in all sports are the ones who master the simple fundamentals of their sport.