LONDON, April 19: English cricket chiefs unveiled a new national plan for the sport here on Tuesday, with a target date of 2009 for the national side to become the best in the world replacing the 2007 goal announced in a mission statement four years ago.
England have risen to second in the world Test rankings since 2001 and are now only behind world champions Australia whom they host in an Ashes series starting in July.
And with another campaign against the all-conquering Australians — who have won all eight Ashes series since 1989 — scheduled for 2007, recently-appointed England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive David Collier felt 2009 was a more realistic date for the side to reach the sport’s summit.
“We have had a successful run and won the last four Test series,” Collier told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme. “We want our men’s, women’s and disability teams to be number one or two in both the Test and one-day games by 2009,” the former Nottinghamshire chief added.
The plan also introduces performance-related payments for counties based upon the number of England-qualified, as opposed to overseas, players in their teams.
Counties are restricted to two overseas players per side.
However, the performance proposal is an attempt to help close the loophole whereby overseas players can qualify through a European Union passport or the Kolpak ruling, which allows cricketers who come from countries with a trade agreement with the EU to escape being classed as “foreign.”
England captain Michael Vaughan said: “I was consulted on a number of issues and all I asked for a bigger pool of players to pick from to play for England.”
“But we don’t want to pick from mediocre players. There are a lot of issues with Kolpak and overseas players, but if you’re good enough and prepare and work hard enough you should be able to get into our county teams — if you do that you have a chance of playing for England.”
Ahead of the Ashes series some counties have been criticised for allowing the likes of Shane Warne and Simon Katich to get used to English conditions ahead of the Tests.
But batsman Vaughan added he was not against top-class overseas players in county cricket, saying he had gained from playing alongside Australian Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan at Yorkshire.
“Through Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan playing at Yorkshire, it brought my game on a hell of a lot more than maybe if they hadn’t been there.
“You want people coming over here adding something to the game, we certainly don’t want players coming over here at the end of their careers who are not within a certain standard.”
And of plans for England to be the world’s best team in four years, Vaughan said: “We’re on the right track. I thought we were a long way off a couple of years ago but when you see someone like Andrew Strauss coming into the side and doing so well, so fast who is to say that there are not a number of other players in county cricket who can’t come in and do as well as he has?”
England want coach Duncan Fletcher, the former Zimbabwe captain and a key factor in their recent success, to still be in charge at the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.
“We highly respect Duncan. He has become an integral part of English cricket and we believe he is one of the best coaches in the world,” Collier insisted. “We see his long-term future with the ECB.”—AFP
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