A Lott of progress
England coach Mark Lane on the growth of women's cricket and the hunt for the next Charlotte Edwards.
By Oli Burley - @SkySportsOli
Last Updated: 31/08/12 3:07pm
Winning women are already inspiring a new generation in cricket.
While the 'Olympics effect' begins to take hold in other sports, there has been a 12 per cent increase in the number of under-25 females participating in the Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme in the last year thanks, in part, to England's continued success on the field.
The squad's build-up for the ICC World Twenty20 begins in earnest on Tuesday when they take on Pakistan in the first game of a two-match series ahead of a five-match contest against the West Indies.
Before then England women's coach Mark Lane took time out to run a coaching clinic for under-25 female coaches in the Middlesex, Surrey and Essex area and his message was clear...
More girls and women are playing and coaching cricket than ever before. Are the team's fortunes linked to that growth?
MARK: Absolutely - and the players are very proud of it. A lot of them are Chance to Shine ambassadors and are out at the coal-face promoting cricket day in, day out. We are all very proud of the fact that we can help to get girls into sport and the success of the Olympics will hopefully help with that. But we don't want everyone to be Jessica Ennis or Laura Trott - we want girls to aspire to be Katherine Brunt and Charlotte Edwards.
Has Twenty20 cricket helped that process?
MARK: The emergence of Twenty20 cricket is fantastic for cricket in general, but particularly for the women's game as it's short, sharp and shows the players off as the athletes they are. It also means the players have to evolve and learn to execute their skills quickly and accurately. The batters have to become big, strong hitters while the bowlers can't afford to ease themselves into a spell.
Talking of skills, what coaching tips are you passing on today?
MARK: Primarily I want to explain to the group that a lot of the drills I do with the England squad can be adapted to help the players they work with, whatever their age or level. One of the biggest things that we talk about with England is 'securing your basics' - that means knowing what they are and making them repeatable and very reliable.
Tell us more...
MARK: In the build-up to the Twenty20 series we're doing a lot of drills focused on hitting our areas. So we'll move the stumps out of the nets and get the bowlers to mark our four target zones with small round discs. Those zones might be for a yorker or back-of-a-length delivery - whichever ones we're working on. We'll ask the players which disc they are aiming to hit and then observe how they get on over the course of 24-30 balls. The exercise gives us some very clear, instant feedback about a player's accuracy and ability to perform under pressure.
So you don't need a fancy computer - you could do something similar in the playground with a piece of chalk...
MARK: Spot on. The other day I went through the drill with Georgia Elvis, who won Player of the Series against India, but equally it's something I could do with an eight-year-old at any cricket club. All I would do is make the targets bigger and get the child to chalk up the areas they want to hit so they get a real involvement in the whole process.
Is there a comparative batting drill?
MARK: I was working with Charlotte Edwards last week and we did lots of bobble feeds - an underarm serve that bounces two or three times before it reaches the batsman. That means that a player has to make sure that they can swing their hands from a strong and stable base if they are to generate any power. Sometimes you can go on the bowling machine and fire the ball out at 60mph and as long as the batsman swings her hands well enough, technique becomes secondary. But this drill really puts the technique under pressure and helps us to secure the basics on 'How are we going to hit it?' and then the 'How many?'
I'll get Lottie to target some scoring zones. After a short while I'll start to call the colours of the zones, so she has to focus on the outcome rather than her technique. Obviously if you're doing this with an 11-year-old you can make bigger zones and use fewer of them. The key is to make sure that the drill is pitched at the right level and that it is challenging. Once they are ready you can introduce a scoring system whereby the batsman gets four for hitting the target flush on and two for missing it on either side. Suddenly it becomes competitive.
Can teaching someone something new have a negative effect what they already do well?
MARK: It's our role as coaches to get everything out of the players. Along the way you will make a mistake or two along the way - but we've got to make sure that the environment that we've created allows for that to happen. Sometimes failure is fertiliser - learning what you don't do so well helps you grow and get better. We shouldn't be scared of trying new things.
England have played seven T20 games in 2012 and won them all. How tough was it to select the squad for the ICC World T20?
MARK: It's always difficult when you've got a good squad of 18 players but ultimately what we had to say is 'this is the brand and style of cricket that we are playing, this is our approach to it' and then fit the players to it. We have been successful for a while and that makes it hard to leave players out but some of the players around the fringes of the squad have improved and we want to cultivate an environment where everyone keeps getting better. If you get left behind and someone gets better than you then we're quite happy to change things.
Pakistan, West Indies and then the World T20 - it's a pretty full-on programme.
MARK: It's going to be a fantastic six weeks. We've played really well this year and we're really looking forward to the next stage. Our batters up front - Laura Marsh and Charlotte Edwards in particular - have been fantastic. Nevertheless we've been working hard to make sure the middle and late order respond well to pressure just in case we lose a couple of early ones.
You came back from 2-0 down to beat India 3-2 in the NatWest Series so the squad clearly isn't short of resolve!
MARK: Losing those two games was a good thing for us because we had to step up and show some character. It's always good to have a bit of a reality check if you can turn it to your favour; it gives you an opportunity to judge where you are and check if you are doing things right. The players showed a lot of determination to come back and win the series 3-2.
That final victory was doubly sweet for Jenny Gunn, wasn't it?
MARK: Absolutely. Jenny was awarded her 100th England cap before the game, which just goes to show the commitment people like her have put in. Plenty of hard work goes on behind the scenes that people just don't see so it was great to honour a player as dedicated as Jenny who has committed many, many years to England - and always done a brilliant job!"
Over 45,000 coaches have been trained by the Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme with a 12% increase in under-25 females benefitting from the scheme in the last year.