ECB puts back target to produce world-beaters by two years

In 2001 the mission statement of the England and Wales Cricket Board was for England to be the leading Test and one-day team in the world by 2007. Yesterday, at the launch of the ECB's latest strategic plan - "Building Partnerships, From Playground To Test Arena" - the date of this goal was put back to 2009.

In 2001 the mission statement of the England and Wales Cricket Board was for England to be the leading Test and one-day team in the world by 2007. Yesterday, at the launch of the ECB's latest strategic plan - "Building Partnerships, From Playground To Test Arena" - the date of this goal was put back to 2009.

Under the leadership of Michael Vaughan, England have made enormous progress in the last 18 months, but this statement basically equates to the ECB saying that it does not see England beating an Australian side which contains Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

To reach this objective the ECB will increase its funding into England's men's, women's and disabled teams from £12.3m to £17.4m over the course of the next four years.

This extra money will allow Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, to select and train a development squad of 25 players during the summer. The counties' annual hand-out (£1.3m) will also be incentivised. Twenty five per cent of this will be held by the ECB, with the teams that develop and produce England players receiving greater rewards than those that do not.

On the back of England's anticipated success, and with the help of further investment, the ECB is hoping that three of Vaughan's side will be instantly recognisable to 10 per cent of the population by 2009. The status of these players will keep open the pipeline of players, spectators and supporters who enter the game.

The ECB has identified a £50m shortfall in funding for the game. Hundreds of clubs and schools require money to install decent facilities and repair decrepit clubhouses. In an effort to help these clubs the ECB has set aside £5m from which interest-free loans can be made.

The board also wants 50 or more English qualified players to average more than 45 runs and take more than 40 wickets in first-class cricket.

England 'A' and Academy Representative Teams will, at the counties' expense, play fixtures against touring sides.

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