In the 1990’s there were several disappointing performances for England and one of the reasons for this was the players excessive duty to their counties, meaning that England could rarely field a full strength side for their tours. Following this was the introduction of central contracts, which gave the England and Wales cricket board the ability to manage their players better and more efficiently by reducing their work loads and making them unavailable for their counties if need be.
By 1999 England were ranked the worst Test nation and since the introduction of central contracts our fortunes have improved, despite the odd blip. So can this success all be down to central contracts? Do we simply have better players than everyone else at the moment? Or have other teams lost their aura and star players? Whatever you believe there is no question that the reason England are currently ranked the number one test nation is due to the fact that they have an incredible number of resources to work with. From high calibre batsmen to tall fast bowlers – England have it covered, a brilliant system that deals with coaching, man management, along with strength and conditioning forms a near perfect structure for sports management. England have such strength in depth due to ample amounts of pre-planning and being one step ahead of their opposition, young stars found in county cricket are now being managed from an early age so that they don’t pick up niggling injuries that last out their careers, unlike others before them such as Simon Jones, Andrew Flintoff, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough and many more who may feel aggrieved at their huge amounts of injuries that limited their international appearances. Steven Finn for example is currently one of the most promising young fast bowlers after a successful ashes tour down under, since then he hasn’t been seen that much due to his strength and conditioning commitments and England limiting his availability in order to keep him injury free and match fit.
But England only have the ability to manage players in this way due to central contracts which allows them to have near, complete control over their players cricketing commitments. The financial rewards are handsome; you get a lovely new car and security in England’s future ambitions for you as a player, clearly it is something that every young county cricketer aspires to. Many believe it is the reason England could at any one time pick up to 9 different bowlers that would do a good job at test level. This strength in depth and competition for places could be the reason for England’s success, especially when you consider the ability of the replacements. Graham Onions couldn’t get a hint of a return into England’s attack, even after his brief but very impressive stint in 2009/10 and a successful season for Durham. Are central contracts the reason England’s selection is now more consistent and players experience fewer injuries? Are central contracts responsible for England’s rise to number one? Whatever you believe England have a great system that’s definitely working and long may it continue.