England have recently announced their England Women's Performance winter training squad (EWPS) for 2015/2016, which is exactly the same as last winter's squad minus Sonia Odedra. The squad is made up of the 18 contracted players (named in May 2014), plus non-contracted Jodie Dibble, Beth Langston and Fran Wilson. In the words of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" - the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In fact a little research suggests that very little has changed in the England camp over the last few years. Here is the 15 player squad from the summer of 2012 selected to play the Indians :-
Looks very familiar! In fact the only players that have left - Brindle, Colvin and Rowe have done so of their own volition. Certainly Colvin would still be there if she had not decided to take a break from international cricket. These 12 plus Kate Cross, Tash Farrant, Rebecca Grundy, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver and Lauren Winfield make up the current 18 contracted players.
Compare this with the Southern Stars contracted player list from 2102 :-
Only those in bold are still contracted players. This shows that just nine of those 18 players are still contracted. The other nine have been replaced by Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Renee Farrell, Holly Ferling, Grace Harris, Delissa Kimmince, Megan Schutt and Elyse Villani.
Perhaps the lack of change would be understandable if the England players were all still young. But in fact three of them are over 30 (the oldest being Charlotte Edwards at 35), and the average age for the England contracted players is 25.66. Only Kristen Beams and Alex Blackwell are over 30 in the current Aussie squad and captain Meg Lanning is just 23.
There is of course something to be said for stability in a squad, but new players need to be introduced, played and brought on. England appear to have gone stale. Not only do they not look beyond the current 18 contracted players, but those contracted players have not changed for 18 months and it looks unlikely they will do so for another 14 months. That is not healthy.
The departure of both Paul Shaw (Performance Director) and Lisa Keightley (Head of the Academy) may prove a catalyst for change, but it will depend who takes over from them. More time and money needs to be invested in the Academy players, and Academy games and tours need to be just that. Not games and tours for contracted players. If contracted players need game time then more games should be organised for them. In the so-called Academy tour to Dubai in February five of the 14 players chosen were contracted and four more were from the EWPS. Only five players were genuinely from the Academy. In contrast the Aussies took one young contracted player (Elyse Villani) and included seven teenagers in their squad. In the two day "Academy" game against Australia this summer seven contracted players played, two EWPS players and just two genuine Academy players. Not only did this not benefit the England Academy players, but it meant Australia had a better warm-up game.
The women's game is moving on around the world and England cannot afford to keep looking back. Let's hope the new Head Coach can install that philosophy throughout the England player pathway.