Sir Ian Botham created a stir with his thoughts on the IPL, as delivered in his MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture.
But it was another comment, from Matt Prior in the post-lecture Q&A, that really caught my attention.
Speaking on the County Game, Prior observed “I find that a lot of young players coming through are over coached”.
He went on: [when they walk out to bat, young players] “…almost need the coach next to them…they are not able to make decisions for themselves.”
There is something in this, but also a certain irony coming from a player who was a member of what was described as one of the best-prepared England teams ever to tour Australia…before losing the Ashes 5-0.
Could it be, then, that the England team in Australia were over-coached? Or (not quite the same thing) over-reliant on the support from their coaches?
It is well worth tracking down the BBC interviews with Andy Flower and David Saker from November 2013, as the England team prepared for the Ashes – see Project Ashes, Monday 4 November, for a text summary of some of the conversation.
Nothing was to be left to chance, right down to the 85 page dossier listing the team’s dietary requirements.
And, in case this planning all sounded a little bit regimented, there was even provision for downtime and for players to be empowered “to grow as both players and individuals.”
Very easy to criticise, with hindsight, but before the tour, the meticulous planning was held up (in the English press, at least) as the modern route to success Down Under.
But perhaps Prior’s comments on the County game point to a recognition that it is not enough to be well supported. Or that it is possible to have too much support.
Great support, at every level, is an essential for success in the modern game.
But ultimately, perhaps, the moral for the player might be “Pack your own bag; carry your own bag”…or bring your own lunch.
Matt Prior on the county game:
I find that a lot of young players coming through are over coached…
…coaches now are so controlling that they don’t allow players to go and express themselves…
we’ve all, growing up, made mistakes and you learn from those mistakes…you have to be allowed to make those mistakes.
[When they walk out to bat, young players] almost need the coach next to them…they are not able to make decisions for themselves.
From: MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, 2014
Post-lecture Q&A, part 1, with Sir Ian Botham, Sunil Gavaskar and Matt Prior [listen from 5.50 on for Prior on the modern County game]