Suddenly speed is of the essence as far as the development of future England players is concerned. Not only is the England and Wales Cricket Board concentrating on producing fast bowlers under their new academy set-up, but it also wants to fast track them and have them ready for Test duty at the earliest possible time – perhaps even by the New Zealand leg of this winter's tour.
By then the 15 guinea pigs will have spent around 10 weeks at the Australian Academy in Adelaide, under the critical eye of Rodney Marsh, who has stepped down from his post as director of that establishment in order to take over the setting up and running of the ECB's version.
The inaugural Academy squad itself includes one or two surprises. Alex Tudor, the injury-prone Surrey fast bowler who has already played five Tests, is there to try to sort himself out physically, but David Sales, Northamptonshire's muscular middle-order batsman is not.
Tudor heads a quartet of fast bowlers, along with Yorkshire's Steven Kirby, Durham's Steven Harmison and Glamorgan's Simon Jones. David Graveney, chairman of the England selectors, said: "Kirby, Harmison, Jones and Tudor are four of the quickest bowlers in the country and they could appear very quickly on the national scene."
The omission of Sales, who has now recovered from a serious knee injury picked up at the start of last winter's A tour, is a disappointment. He has featured on three England A tours, is still only 23, has eight hundreds to his name, including three doubles and one triple, and generally seems to fulfil all the criteria laid down for selection. But there are plenty of other exciting batting selections, including Yorkshire's talented opener Matthew Wood, 24, and two teenagers, Warwickshire's Ian Bell and Nicky Peng of Durham.
It is a shame that a suitable site cannot yet be confirmed for the Academy in this country, hence the trip Down Under this winter at a cost of £500,000. But by the time Marsh comes over next April the ECB expects to have found somewhere. Bisham Abbey is the favourite, but although Sport England, who fund the ECB's élite programmes to the tune of £2m, wants them based there, it is far from a foregone conclusion. The site is a Grade 1 listed building and on green belt land, which will make getting planning permission all the more difficult.
"We intend submitting plans in October," explained Morris, "but rather than sitting around and waiting we are also looking for an alternative site and have drawn up a long shortlist of 17 possibilities and hope to decide on one by October."
This year, the players will meet up in mid-October at Sandhurst Military College where individual profiling will take place to help draw up personal programmes. Then it is off to Adelaide where they will spend three months working on five key areas: technical development; tactical development; physical development; mental development; and lifestyle management. That work will be interspersed with a handful of matches before they return home for Christmas. Then it is back to Australia for a 10-week tour, when they will mix up four-day and one-day games until mid-March.
That will be the pattern for the future, except that instead of a costly trip Down Under they will be based at Bisham, or wherever, until the New Year at which point they will go on tour.
ENGLAND ACADEMY IN AUSTRALIA 2001-2002
I R Bell (Warwickshire), S Harmison (Durham), S P Jones (Glamorgan), D A Kenway (Hampshire), R W T Key (Kent), S Kirby (Yorkshire), N Peng (Durham), C P Schofield (Lancashire), A J Strauss (Middlesex), G P Swann (Northamptonshire), C T Tremlett (Hampshire), A J Tudor (Surrey), M A Wallace (Glamorgan), M A Wagh (Warwickshire), M J Wood (Yorkshire).
22 Nov: Tasmania 2nd XI (Adelaide); 28 v South Australia Academy (Adelaide). 3-6 Dec v Australian Academy (Adelaide). 21-24 Jan v Victoria 2nd XI (Melbourne); 27-30 v ACT 2nd XI (Canberra). 2 Feb v Australia Country XI (Bowral); 11-14 v South Australia 2nd XI (Adelaide); 25 Feb-1 Mar One-day tournament. 10-13 v Western Australia 2nd XI (Perth).Reuse content