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Building a high performance system to make England world-beaters

Andrew Strauss, the Chair of the ECB’s Performance Cricket Committee, has outlined the process and objectives of the High Performance Review:

Over the past 42 years, England’s Men have been the number one ranked Test team in the world for a total of 12 months, and 50-over number one for 64 months. In T20 cricket, we have held the top spot for 748 days since the inception of those rankings in 2011.

At the moment, we aren’t top in any format. So we want to set an ambitious and clear goal – to become the best in the world at all formats of the men’s game within the next five years.

It’s extremely ambitious because we’ve never done it before. But why can’t it be achievable? What’s stopping us – and what else could help us get there? That’s what I want our high performance review to consider.

We’re prepared to question everything we’re currently doing and ask ‘is there a better way of doing it?’

I make no apology for wanting to be bold. This includes looking outwards to see what we can learn from other sports and having an inquisitive nature about what’s worked well elsewhere. How do other sports achieve world class performance? What can we learn from them?

Rather than relying on opinions and anecdotes, let’s be as objective as we can, and analyse what’s working and what’s not in our current set up. Let’s speak to people in all the different elements of high performance sport, inside and outside English cricket.

There’s always lots of nostalgia about ‘when things used to be better’ in English cricket. But two things are impossible to escape. We’ve never had a set of English Men’s teams which are the best in the world across all formats at the same time, so whatever we’ve done in the past hasn’t got us to where we want to go now. And the game is evolving very quickly, with the growth of domestic white-ball competitions around the world and a global ICC event every year that international teams will aim to peak for.

We want to be the best at both red ball and white ball, which means making sure players, the counties, our own international men’s pathway and those in charge of the England Men’s team environment are all aligned around this ambition.

I read a lot of speculation about the domestic competition structure. Of course, this is an important part of the picture, but it’s not the only part. The review is designed to look at the high performance system in its entirely, including the England men’s pathway and our high performance set-up.

And let’s be clear – we have no pre-built solution. At this stage the project is only just starting. There are no hidden agendas. I wouldn’t be bothering to carry out a review if I was already sitting here with specific proposals for change.

It’s also important to be clear about what’s not in scope of the review. This isn’t designed to look at the international schedule, which isn’t in the hands of English cricket alone. And we’ll only be able to look at the question of the domestic calendar in detail – what cricket is played when – after we have answered the question of what the right structures are.

I’m very keen to get to a situation where solid proposals are voted on by the game in September, to give time for counties and the England set-up to prepare for the 2023 season and beyond. So how do we plan to get to this point?

First, we are asking a range of experts and individuals with experience on high performance from within the game and beyond to help generate insight into the principles of what lies behind sustained high performance success.

A wide range of experts are giving us their insight as part of this, including Rob Key, our new Managing Director of England Men’s Cricket, Marcus North, Director of Cricket at Durham, Daryl Mitchell, Professional Cricketers’ Association Operations Director, and Mo Bobat, the England Men’s Cricket Performance Director, from within the game – as well as Kate Baker, Director of Performance at UK Sport, Manchester City Performance Director Simon Timson, Sir Dave Brailsford, Director of Sport at Ineos, Dan Ashworth, former FA Director of Elite Development, and Penny Hughes, ex chair of Aston Martin from outside cricket.

We have more people to speak to over the coming weeks to ensure we hear a wide range of different backgrounds, voices and perspectives as we seek to ensure our system is successful and inclusive.

How have we chosen these people? Because I wanted to find experts in high performance whatever that field, some who’ve been in the spotlight, others who’ve been in the background generating high performance programmes or systems. Some with cricket knowledge and expertise, others from a wider sporting background. People with different experiences, who have undergone different journeys, but all of whom we can learn from. And people who are all keen to help cricket.

Once we have identified a set of high-performance principles, we will take these, along with independent analysis and data, and input from a Professional Game Working Group – featuring First-Class County Chief Executives and Directors of Cricket – and develop a series of options for discussion with the wider game during the summer.

We’ll also be seeking supporters’ views to ensure their voices are heard, and throughout the process we’ll be engaging with leaders across the domestic game to check and challenge the process as well as having oversight from a group of First-Class County Chairs.

I believe we can all work together through this review to achieve a shared goal – because ultimately we all want our England teams to be successful. And that success isn’t just for the sake of it, it’s for the good of the whole game because international success helps grow the sport of cricket in England and Wales.

I hope that over the next few months we can build support around a plan for a high performance system that enables us to achieve our ambition for England Men’s teams to be the best in the world – and have a thriving domestic game which works for counties, players and supporters alike.

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