The ECB’s 2022 High Performance Review, led by Andrew Strauss, has attracted extensive scrutiny for the suggested new playing schedule for First Class and List A, but remarkably little for those elements of the Review that relate to creating a high performance culture away from match days i.e. coaching, pathway, player development.
In amongst the less-discussed sections of the Review is a proposal to “embed…[What It Takes To Win] WITTW into the ECB coaching curriculum.”
It certainly makes sense for coaches to help players to develop and deploy skillsets that contribute to winning.
But I have concerns, ideological and practical, on the choice of WITTW as an appropriate model within cricket.
Might we be better concentrating on What’s Important Now?
ECB Review & WITTW
Recommendation no. 2 section of the Strauss Review: Improve our shared understanding of “what it takes to win”.
- Update What it Takes to Win (WITTW) research on the batting and bowling skills required to win in Test and limited overs cricket. This includes broadening the analysis to include a deeper understanding of the physical and psychological factors that predict how well a player may perform in elite cricket.
- Embed the game’s WITTW analysis into the ECB coaching curriculum and the wider network ethos.
More research into how the game is actually played, continuously updated and translated into words that coaches and players can understand and implement. What’s not to like?
My concerns — ideological and practical — are directed towards the 2nd bullet point.
“Winning isn’t everything” vs. “Win at any cost”
Some of the “Olympic” sports that adopted WITTW have an unfortunate record of emotional and physical abuse of athletes by coaches. The use of performance enhancing drugs might have been reduced, but questions remain around the un-necessary use of prescription drugs through Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs).
Playing to the limits of the Laws falls well within the scope of a WITTW philosophy. Should we expect more Mankads?* Bowlers coached to flex their elbow to 14° but no more, to gain the maximum advantage of spin and pace? After all, “Tommy John” surgery can repair any injuries the bowlers suffer.
It is to be hoped that the presence on the review panel of Dave Brailsford (now Director of Sport for Ineos Grenadiers professional cycling team, but previously Performance Director of British Cycling) and Kate Baker (Director of Performance, UK Sport) have informed the potential implementation of a WITTW strategy.
WITTW, especially when based on “analysis” of games, is in a state of continuous evolution. Today’s innovation becomes tomorrow’s “old hat”.
So unless the research supporting WITTW is updated continuously, in real time, and implemented by coaches and players just as promptly, it will be out-dated by the time the players are back on the park.
And will the players be receptive to a new breed of coaches, forever coming up with new tactical and technical tweaks?
I would suspect that pathway coaches (seemingly way below the scope of the current review) will have the responsibility of helping players to develop and enhance certain psychological attributes before they reach the High Performance environment.
And this might require new skills from coaches — more psychological mentor than technical and physical task master, perhaps.
What’s Important Now
I have posted previously about focussing on WIN i.e. What’s Important Now.
Outstanding performers always seem to find a way to WIN – that is, they know What’s Important Now! And that intangible ability – call it intuition or anticipation, game sense, or street smarts – needs to be nurtured, alongside technical & physical attributes.
Whilst players will present with different levels of these intangible gifts, they should all be encouraged to develop their understanding of What’s Important Now. That requires their coaches to provide technical and practical support (the science bit) and to support appropriate development of those invisible individual attributes, such as attitudes, emotions & thoughts, that contribute to that WINning insight on the pitch.
A WINning philosophy can most certainly incorporate What It Takes To Win.
After all, winning is important.
But it allows for the nuances of what is “right”. Right for the player. Right for the game. Right at this particular point in time.
* FWIW — I see nothing wrong with running out a non-striker who leaves his (or her) ground early, nor even against a premeditated run out.
Batters — stop trying to steal an unfair advantage and stay in your ground until you see the ball actually released. Simple.