Marsh's exit will damage England system

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The Independent Online

Rodney Marsh, the Director of the National Academy, shocked English cricket yesterday when he announced that he would be leaving his position when his contract expires in September 2005. The loss of the former Australian wicketkeeper will come as a huge blow to the English game.

Rodney Marsh, the Director of the National Academy, shocked English cricket yesterday when he announced that he would be leaving his position when his contract expires in September 2005. The loss of the former Australian wicketkeeper will come as a huge blow to the English game.

Marsh, who was poached from Australia's National Academy in 2001 by the England and Wales Cricket Board, has played an enormous role in the development of many of England's brightest young cricketers. During his four years at the National Academy, 16 Test and 21 one-day international cricketers have benefited from working with the 57 year-old.

Marsh's insistence on commitment and hard work has toughened up and brought on players who would previously have coasted around county cricket. His success can be seen in the England squad currently touring South Africa. Eight members of the side - including Stephen Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Andrew Strauss - have spent time working under his guidance. Marsh was also involved in setting up the National Academy in Loughborough, and acted as one of England's four selectors. He had a prickly relationship with Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, but this is not the reason for his departure.

"It is time my wife and I went back to Australia to spend time with our grandchildren," said Marsh. "I have enjoyed every moment of my time at the ECB. The England team is now in a position whereby it can command respect from all opposition and I would expect that position to remain, if not improve, over the next few years. Those in possession of England places will have to perform at their best to remain in the team."

Hugh Morris, the performance director and acting chief executive at the ECB thanked Marsh, and said, "We will be looking for the best available person in the world for the job. The new director will need to have a very strong coaching background, a proven record of developing high performance cricketers and be someone with status and profile in the game."

Asked of possible replacements Marsh put forward the name of Mike Gatting, but a more realistic appointment would be Duncan Fletcher.

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