The ECB has confirmed the cancellation of their pace programme and overseas placements.
With budgets strained – not least by set-up costs for the new tournament, currently The Hundred – a review of funding was undertaken and the two areas identified as most expendable.
The pace programme, which has seen the most promising fast bowlers in domestic cricket given specialist coaching and opportunities to develop, has been criticised not just for its cost but its failure to deliver. Few of the eight seamers who went on it last winter were fit at the start of the 2018 season and one of those who was – Toby Roland-Jones – experienced a recurrence of a stress fracture that ended his season.
The last programme saw the bowlers invited to numerous training camps at Loughborough as well as two warm weather training camps in Desert Springs and one two-week one in Potchefstroom.
The overseas placements, meanwhile, saw eight promising young players given opportunities to play good level club cricket during the English winter. It was a scheme that sought to benefit young spinners, in particular, and had seen Mason Crane and Matt Parkinson play Grade cricket in Sydney under the watchful eye of Stuart MacGill, while several offspinners – most recently Glamorgan’s Andrew Salter and Hampshire’s Brad Taylor – have been placed with Jeetan Patel in Wellington. Middlesex’s Max Holden and Somerset’s George Bartlett also played club cricket in Perth.
It is understood there will be no reduction in the Lions (or Young Lions) commitments – they are to travel to the UAE before Christmas to play Pakistan and tour India after Christmas – and that no redundancies will be made. It is also understood the ECB hopes that counties will continue to arrange overseas placements, but such trips will not be centrally funded.
“ECB’s priority over the next 12 months is to ensure our Player Pathway programmes continue to provide the best possible support for England teams ahead of our winter tours, and next summer’s Cricket World Cup and the Ashes,” said an ECB spokesman.
“We remain fully committed to developing the Player Pathway and the Performance Centre, and will consider opportunities for further investment in our next financial planning cycle from 2020 onwards.”
The timing of the news is intriguing. While it is not long since the ECB announced a lucrative broadcast deal (for the period starting in 2020) and they can expect a large surplus in 2019 – the World Cup profits are expected to be around £50m and it is also an Ashes year – all the signs are the organisation is facing significant financial pressures.
They recently published accounts that show their reserves have dropped by around GBP65m in two years. Those reserves – which the ECB say they aim to keep at 40 percent of turnover – were down to GBP8.6m, down from GBP73.1m in 2016.