Counties can do more to develop young players and India are the example to follow, says Rob Key

After India impressed with victory in both the ODI and T20I series on their tour of South Africa, Rob Key explains why their youth development model is the one to follow and how counties can go about doing so…

When it comes to youth cricket and systems, India, with Rahul Dravid, in effect, academy director, are the model to follow.

Yes, they have a lot of people playing cricket but it is their system that enables them to develop players and make the most of that advantage.

That Dravid is in charge of their youth cricket, at least the Under-19s and the ‘A’ side, is massive. I think that is the model that every county should look at; get the best person you possibly can at an academy level to run not only the academy but to oversee all youth cricket in the county.

I just don’t think that happens at all counties. You can have people that might have the qualifications but haven’t played at the top level and don’t understand, for example, the difference winter practice can have in terms of creating robotic cricketers.

In an ideal world, what you want is for every county to have someone in place who has that understanding. Not every county can have a Rahul Dravid, but there are plenty of people around who have played first-class cricket, have been great mentors and are good judges of talent.

Just because you have played doesn’t mean you are a good coach necessarily but if the right person is available, get them in – look at Steven Gerrard at Liverpool Under-18s. You want someone with a really good cricket brain, who played a lot of cricket and can then help players to come through.

A lot of counties have their own identities as well and you want someone who can push that through. Lancashire, for example, have always had a distinct way of playing the game and a type of character they brought through and you want people who can instil that and continue to build on those values at every county.

That doesn’t happen at all of them, maybe due to finances but if you look around and, if you argue that the best coaches are needed at youth level, how many counties have got that?

I don’t agree that these players are produced by the England set-up, this is more down to county academies. Then the England set-up pick the best of those.

The best technical coaches should be working at age-group cricket, in charge of the academies and they can then push their philosophy right the way throughout the system with the coaches able to facilitate their views on things.

That way every county, every system, has a simple message running through it so when Under-12 players become Under-17s they are already part of their philosophy.

We often assume that the biggest impact on young players and their development is first-class cricket with the England team and the top county teams but actually they are often just a product of what has happened before then.

You want your best coaches having the biggest influence and that is throughout the youth set-up. Those people need to be at the top of that tree so they can bridge the gap between youth cricket and the professional side. Your best judges have to be in a position to make sure the best people are getting into your system.

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One big issue for counties is that cricket can be too expensive for people. I’d be interested to know the cost of playing youth cricket now when you take into account all the kit, coaching sessions and travel involved.

It should be that it is a service provided for as many people as possible, who have got some ability, not just for people who are able to pay a few grand extra a year in coaching.