The Ashes series just completed has been a sobering experience for anyone who cares about the England cricket team. So much so, that I don’t really want to say anything more about it, now, other than to wish the coaches and senior players every success as they sit down to work out a plan for 2014 and beyond.
But as a coach working mostly with Under 11s, I am looking a lot further ahead. There’s not a lot I can do this winter that will help England regain the Ashes in 2015. But as coaches, we can look ahead to Ashes tours, and Test championships, and T20 World Cups, in 2025.
Where do you see the game in 10 years’ time? And how can we, as coaches, prepare young players for that future?
Back to Grassroot – crystal ball gazing
I wrote an article on this topic, published in the December 2013 issue of Grassroot Magazine (now sadly defunct – text available here, however) – this was really a synthesis of ideas from conversations with colleagues, in person and online, with a little bit of crystal ball gazing on my part.
One thing is (I believe) indisputable – that there will be change, in the formats and structure of the game at club level, and, consequently, in the core skills needed to be successful, at all levels of the game.
Future cricket – one possibility.
I would expect that the traditional time and “long form” limited over formats will still exist in 2025, with typical club games lasting 6-7 hours. There will certainly be more T20, driven by the IPL, the Big Bash, and the ECB’s new T20 Blast, but also by the dramatic excitement and immediacy of twenty20.
But as players have less time to commit to recreational play, even the 2.5 hours a T20 game takes to complete might be considered too long. We could see a move towards even shorter format games, indoors or outdoors in enclosed spaces (“cage” or MUGA – multi-use games area – games). Formats might develop along the lines of LastManStands, or the very popular indoor cricket (6-aside, 12 overs/innings) or even “street20” (again 6-a-side, but played over just 5 four-ball overs per innings).
And if this becomes the basis for club cricket, it will be the environment in which future professionals learn their game. There might never be a serious international street20 competition, but young players will need to experience success in this format (or something like it) if they are to remain in the game long enough ever to develop into the County and International stars of 2025.
Players and coaches will have to adapt to these new formats, developing techniques that can cope with the faster run rates that the shorter games demand. And, perhaps more importantly, players must be prepared, technically and mentally, to adapt, again and again, during their playing careers.
Do you recognise this version of the future? Or do you see the game evolving in other ways?
And what should we be coaching now?