The Scouting Network - England's new development system

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The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby sussexpob » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:30 pm

Andrew Strauss yesterday announced the departure of head selector, James Whitaker, as part of a new outlook on player selection that he hopes will address what is becoming an ever growing problem of lack of county talent stepping up to the increased skill level of international cricket. Fraser or Newell will both, or at least one, leave their role as the number of additional selectors are reduced to a single role, one that is being advertised only to an independent candidate without links to a county side. While Whitaker's departure was the main talking point, the most important development for the future will be Strauss announcement that the selection pool will be supplemented by "at least a minimum of twelve scouts", who will be charged with the job of roaming the English cricket scene and sniffing out talent.

One might be able to see the possible benefit of having a huge army of scouts patrolling all games of cricket taking place during the summer, making sure that they are seeing first hand any players that might be of note, even if such a move might be total situational overkill. More cricket watched should lead to more understanding of what resources you have, which is fine if the time is used to make better judgement of players through consistent familiarity of his weakness and successes, but with a scout being present at every match, it seems an almost pointlessly extravagant exercise. Realistically, in an era of endless data collection and cameras filming matches, how many scouts are needed to trawl through the handful of new prospects that arent already on the radar? Arguably, at any given time there is only 2-3 prospects for elevation to the national team making strong cases at the same time, either through historical performance, as a key youth prospect with good performance, or through amazing form. And many of these might be players who came through player pathways at the ECB (and therefore should have dossiers bigger than the bible), played in A team tours, played in national teams before, or have been floating around long enough for at least some form of judgement to have been made.

It leaves a pertinent question of what exactly these scouts will be doing, and how will they exactly fit into the current system. Regardless of any potential benefit, one overriding problem that can be foreseen with such a wide and deep scouting network is, especially when their judgement are then post-filtered through all the relevant stakeholders in the system, how influential or useful are these reports produced going to be? The National selector, England selector, Head coach and captain of the national team, the national academy coach, all of their junior squad coaches; naturally, all of these will have their own opinion on who they want to work with, which players are involved, etc. Its arguable exactly what use adding a further element to this is going to be. Local academy's are small at each county, the amount of professional players in contention away from development teams also small. And those inside international or development squads are surely better judged by those who are spending time working on their development. It is really hard to see what unique voice these scouts can have.

Yet, I believe the clue as to England's intentions with this new model can be found in the movements that have quietly been made in recent times behind the scenes. It seems widely mentioned through various media channels, and by England's lead scout Mo Bobat who has been put in charge of talent spotting, that the ECB are moving towards a US sports based scouting output. For anyone not in tune with US sports scouting models, then its suffice to say generally that they are incredibly detailed systems that seek to produce scouting reports that assess a would be player on all aspects of their performance. It seems natural, maybe even sensible, that scouts would analyse to the nth degree the capacity in a players technical and mental make up in forming opinions at their suitability for stepping up to higher levels of competition, but the problem is that in acknowledging the use of such a system, one has to also acknowledge that they also have absolute insight into the all important formula of what makes a top player. Without knowing the over-riding "answer" then what exactly does the endless data mean?

Here lies the significant problem; if there was an unshakable science that had been proved to work, then everyone would be doing it. The fact is, there is no secret formula that works, and in pretending to do so all you are really succeeding in doing is isolating your field of scope to players who satisfy what you believe is the manifestation of the required skill.

Staying with the NFL, lets take the widely acknowledged best player of all time, Tom Brady. No one has won more superbowls. No one has more Most valuable players. No one is considered better by the majority of fans and pundits. As a young, baby faced rookie leaving college he turned up at the scouting combine to display his skills and take the relevant tests to rate him for possible NFL contracts; what was to follow is a stuff of legend. His 40 meter dash measuring his speed is rated as the worst in the modern era. His agility test was right down there with the worst ever. The topless photo taken to show his physicality went viral, not for displaying his ripped muscles, but because he looked like some dweeby Harry Potter lover who would be put in a coma by one tackle. He threw badly, he displayed no arm strength. His rookie report was savage; stay the f*ck away from this guy, hes a massive failure waiting to happen. He was picked 200th out of all players that season entering the draft. There is still a big viewing market of people doing the "normal guy v Tom Brady" Youtube videos where 40 a day chainsmoking 45 year olds regularly beat all of his physical results from the combine themselves.

He won the superbowl in his rookie year, thrust in as a sub when all of his teams QBs got injured long term. People could jump higher, were quicker and more agile, stronger, but it turned out no one quite had the desire to win, the ability to remain focused, the pure ice cool blood running through his veins when the chips were down, or the head strong one track mind of wanting to win at all costs; interestingly enough, his stubbornness and attitude was held against him in his scout report because, like almost all the time, it was interpreted very negatively, and not seen as a precursor for the passion to work hard or desire to win.

It makes me think of a hypothetical situation where by two notable 90s cricketers may turn up to a net session with a scout, and how any report might reflect on them. The first, Ramprakash, with his award winning dancing feet launching him into a range of sumptuous artsy drives, the second Steve Waugh with his punchy, slugger like quality, happy to edge every ball so long as it drops safe, or wear a bouncer rather than effortlessly dispatch it to the boundary. I think we all know who would make the cut on such aesthetic judgement, but then put one in a test match in front of Curtley and Walsh, Ramps would bat like Bambi on ice, while Steve would take on almost psychopathic levels of dedication to the cause. I wonder too what a scout would make of Steve Smith's technique. They would probably, like so many in US Sports, be dismissed as a player who struggles with the moving ball terribly, and he'd be seeing out his days flipping burgers without being given a chance. So, yeah, he struggles with the moving ball, but when it doesnt move hes scores 200 and wins a test match. Worth noting Steve Smith was scouted and elevated to International status as spin bowler who could just about hold a bat.

These are classic cases of how one can judge capacity of talent. What is talent? What is the formula for being a top test batsman? Are we to say a person who has brilliant technique, footwork, a range of shots is to be seen as better than a guy who has virtually no scoring options around the wicket, but can play a square cut when you over pitch, and who has such a solid defensive technique and concentration it takes 400 balls before he offers you a worthwhile chance? The assumption seems to be that players with a larger range of technique and cupboard of shots to fall back on while thrive more, but how many of these players have the necessary mentality? I personally think I could train anyone given enough hours to start to produce shots, I couldnt train a person at all to cope with the pressure of international cricket. There is a latent capacity that is simply unidentifiable, especially at younger ages, that has the largest governing part to end result.

The main concern though, is that these coaching systems that are the result of large scale scouting dont seem to acknowledge their own weaknesses; once you assume you know the answer to what makes a great player, and it turns out to be wrong, the question is not how to improve your own systems, the blame is simply dumped on the player in question not stepping up to the plate. Despite all the testing, observations and reports, the player simply didnt have it in them. This seems quite a contradictory conclusion, as surely if these tests were at all worthwhile in assessing capacity, they would weed out those people at an early time? Hearing Andy Flower recently say his Lions team simply didnt perform and didnt learn lessons; well, your testing and player pathway design actually claims to be able to identify and predict how these players can react or how much ability they have to learn, so how can you on one hand validate that policy while on the hand acknowledge virtually a whole squad displayed a wanton absence of such qualities when tested in a live environment?

For me, its pretty simple, and always will be. Players will be born with talent, they naturally filter up. No one needs a 114 page dossier listing how their cutting ability off the back foot operates on 17 different types of wickets, against every single type of pace, spin, seam etc. There is no answer, no over-riding formula, that explains a players ability better than their performance. If a player performs, then their lack of ability that you rate as terminal to their chances is obviously accounted for by a strength that manifests itself in another area. A player with no shots might bat with a dogged determinism. A player with all the shots not scoring loads of runs is probably lacking desire or concentration required. No amount of IQ tests, academic tests, net sessions or training camps in hot countries will ever change that.

Of course, that leaves the question of how people step up, but is that a question anyone can answer? I dont think you can. There is no test for judging if a player can stroll out and be natural, or display good judgement playing at the highest level, because nothing adequately simulates that amount of pressure or that feeling. Being given an international cap could daunt the best of technical batsman, could fire up a medium-fast bowler to stretch out a few extra mph they never had. It can go either way, so the only real judge is, "how does this guy do in other situations". Then its simply a case of judging how best to coach him, how does he react, what fires that person up. Its so subjective, you can pour petrol on a rule book and set fire to it. There is no objective rule to how to treat individuals to get the best out of them, people respond so differently, and react in such different ways. This is arguably why Flower's England always had a shelf life, and no great surprise his over managed ship sank in such catastrophic conditions.

I crave for a day where the national academy picks a squad for each youth age group based on feedback from counties own academy systems on who they recommend. For a Lions team to be picked on the second best 11 cricketers in the country on performance, with maybe 1 or 2 potential younger players. For a national team which is picked wholly on the basis of a selectors lone judgement witnessed with their own eyes, spending time judging players who are performing. All these massive scouting systems just seem to be a way of giving people who sell the idea of it as a science a way to waste resources and money.

Bobat loves American sports? I wonder if he ever read Moneyball....
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby Arthur Crabtree » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:05 pm

Good read.

Wonder whether a long term performer like Jonathan Lewis might have had more of a chance based on county form. He was disregarded quite quickly because of lack of pace. But shortly afterwards Sidebottom did well for England with a similar lack of pace (but more attitude). It seemed like Lewis wasn't really given a chance to succeed. Or maybe was just given enough chance to fail.

Perhaps off field behaviour will be a factor for the new scouts. Bayliss hinted at something like this in Australia.

I think charisma and even looks can give players a better chance of being noticed.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby Adi » Wed Mar 14, 2018 5:11 am

The increase in number of talent scouts is a progressive move imo without any doubt. There are few factors though which will determine that this new idea would work, which imo are as follows:


1. The depth of cricketing knowledge that they possess to select the players.
2. How often the scouts watch the matches live at ground.
3. The players speaking to the players and understanding their preparedness and work ethics. Further improving upon the identified areas of improvement before they are
pushed for selection.
4. The selectors acknowledging the inputs of the talent scouts.

The fact that they have made a revamp, suggests to me at least that they have acknowledged the problem, which in itself is a first major step towards improvement. They have also probably realized that the headcount of employees has to increase to distribute the workload, which may lead to better quality output from them with more subjective analysis on the players and the potential of the cricketing system as far as skill is concerned, or the tweaks that may be required to tournaments.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby sussexpob » Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:16 pm

Adi wrote: The fact that they have made a revamp, suggests to me at least that they have acknowledged the problem, which in itself is a first major step towards improvement. They have also probably realized that the headcount of employees has to increase to distribute the workload, which may lead to better quality output from them with more subjective analysis on the players and the potential of the cricketing system as far as skill is concerned, or the tweaks that may be required to tournaments.


Yet the problem has arised since those currently responsible got jobs in the national team. It would suggest to me that huge tours overseen by such harshly unforgiving schedules and dietary constraints produce appalling away performances. All these development teams firing up seem to have stopped players being developed. The Downton-Flower Player pathway philosophy isnt turning up many cricketers. Yet they have doubled down on the policy, made the system even more pre-determined to suit not a subjective anaylsis, quite the opposite, an analysis that all players are judged on a faux standard of what the management think is perfection. Its an indoctrination in the system of Flowerism, that the answer is to make the most simple of processes into some hugely pseudo=scientific BS. Yet there is little evidence to suggest this approach has come up with any results. Since Flower was Head Coach and then in charge of the Lions, how many of his picks for either squad that he found first went onto be better?

Its a very, very small list.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby Adi » Fri Mar 16, 2018 10:32 am

sussexpob wrote:
Adi wrote: The fact that they have made a revamp, suggests to me at least that they have acknowledged the problem, which in itself is a first major step towards improvement. They have also probably realized that the headcount of employees has to increase to distribute the workload, which may lead to better quality output from them with more subjective analysis on the players and the potential of the cricketing system as far as skill is concerned, or the tweaks that may be required to tournaments.


Yet the problem has arised since those currently responsible got jobs in the national team. It would suggest to me that huge tours overseen by such harshly unforgiving schedules and dietary constraints produce appalling away performances. All these development teams firing up seem to have stopped players being developed. The Downton-Flower Player pathway philosophy isnt turning up many cricketers. Yet they have doubled down on the policy, made the system even more pre-determined to suit not a subjective anaylsis, quite the opposite, an analysis that all players are judged on a faux standard of what the management think is perfection. Its an indoctrination in the system of Flowerism, that the answer is to make the most simple of processes into some hugely pseudo=scientific BS. Yet there is little evidence to suggest this approach has come up with any results. Since Flower was Head Coach and then in charge of the Lions, how many of his picks for either squad that he found first went onto be better?

Its a very, very small list.



I understand that there will be 5 scouts supporting the 3 main selectors. Andy Flower will be Lions coach. Correct me if that is wrong information.

Personaly don't think that if someone has employed 5 scouts whose primary job role will be to identify talented cricketers, even then the 3 main selectors will ignore what those 5 scouts say and listen totally to only what Andy has to say about selections.

My understanding is that the 5 scouts will suggest players for Lions and international squad. Andy will coach if they are in Lions squad. The scores that the players suggested by 5 scout will be there for everyone to see. Subjective aspects of the players game like work ethics, attitude, preparedness will be the basis in itself for the selection into higher squads. So a subjective and statistical view is obtained. Nobody except these selected players will have any influence on their performance.


If Andy does not plays a decided number of players from this talent pool then that has to be questioned. If he plays them and still the players keep on flopping then there has to be a strong case for the odd player being the next big cricketing talent.

As far as talent identification and fast tracking, the only recent experiment that can be said to work to some extent with hiccups inspite of fast-tracking is Akila Dhananjaya of SL who Mahela picked after seeing him in nets. By that time Akila had never played even a first class or list a match, neither was in the Under 19 team. Having said that even Akila was dropped because he found it tough to come upto international standards. Even he's reasonable and not doing great.

What i mean to say is that finding talent is not so easy as it is seems. Otherwise most countries would have found more number of players and even better quality of players than Akila Dhananjaya. Almost all teams have players in their squads who have progressed through U-16, U-19,U-23, State competitions, domestic competitions. So if England are expecting to find 11 players out of this progressive system then good luck with the magical strategy.

So the question will become if the progressive players are the only options then why scouts are required. Scouts can be used to identify the players who can be fast tracked. For example scouts are watching a Natwest T20 and they find a player in one of the squad who doe snot has a big reputation but he is identified as talent then he get fast tracked by bowlign to international T20 batters of england in nets and then the views of batters and coach of T20 team will give feedback on such sort of players. Similarly one scout can work upon the lowest level. Like one might keep a watch of second 11 players of counties and find a pool of few cricketers who cna be fast tracked. Hasving said that it won't be wise to pick a player playing the harries Shield or Giles Sheild to be picked for international matches. I guess the scouts will know how many levels someone can be fastracked.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby The Professor » Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:51 pm

Seems the selection team is to be headed by......Flower.

Ridiculous
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby sussexpob » Tue Apr 17, 2018 10:55 pm

The Professor wrote:Seems the selection team is to be headed by......Flower.

Ridiculous


On top of his current role?
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby The Professor » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:09 pm

Oh....confusingly the Times is now saying gone to Ed Smith
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby sussexpob » Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:01 am

The Professor wrote:Oh....confusingly the Times is now saying gone to Ed Smith


If in doubt, give it to the Oxbridge graduate who says very little of substance, but in a very posh way....

Seems very English cricket.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby sussexpob » Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:27 am

Bhave has put an article up on another thread that claims Flower, think its from the D. Fail
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby Dr Cricket » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:04 am

TBH they said 3 people will get the job.
Certainly not an one person job.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby Dr Cricket » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:09 am

If smith gets the job it would be odd considering he doesn’t seem to be the smartest tool in cricket and he never really done anything that justifies him being a selection.
In reality his only link to the job is that he played cricket in test cricket.
Not really seen anything he done that justifies him getting the job.
At least flower and the rest could claim they have experiences at selecting people.
His career in cricket writing was faltering as well after being caught plagerising for cricinfo.

In TMs he wasn’t that smart in cricket talk either, I hope he not getting a job because of his degree and uni background.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby sussexpob » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:13 am

Ah yes, it was Smith that copied an article from another publication, something like New Statesman or the Economist. Has he wrote for Cricinfo since?

He strikes me as a more extreme atherton.... not a lot of substance to well written words, but at least Athers is an interesting commentator, and occasionally hits his mark.

Seem to remember both those era crappy openers, James and Smith, being terrible journos.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby Dr Cricket » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:24 am

Nope not been seen again.
Surprise smith gets the job when ecb set the requirements for the job it was a pretty big asking list for it considering the guy had to play international cricket, have experience of the job.
Doubt smith actually fulfils that role considering he only played 2 test and he not exactly well known and Experianced for the Job.
Maybe ecb struggling to find people interested in the job.
They only really got flower, newall and journalist that not got any jobs now.
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Re: The Scouting Network - England's new development system

Postby Dr Cricket » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:24 am

Nope not been seen again.
Surprise smith gets the job when ecb set the requirements for the job it was a pretty big asking list for it considering the guy had to play international cricket, have experience of the job.
Doubt smith actually fulfils that role considering he only played 2 test and he not exactly well known and Experianced for the Job.
Maybe ecb struggling to find people interested in the job.
They only really got flower, newall and journalist that not got any jobs now.
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