Hunting for English talent
Every day at a cricket ground near you a dark foreboding presence descends. How do you know of its arrival? A loud cry goes out: "Keep your hands off our players Miller". In fairness it could also be Whittaker.
I refer to Geoff and James, who prowl looking for the right men to lead England onto great things such as winning the Ashes. The third man is Warwickshire director of cricket Ashley Giles.
Forty thousand miles is the rough estimate of the distance the national selector covers trying to get around the right games to look at the right people. It's a skill.
Over recent years the judgements which have most impressed me include Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan. Both were very good county players, but put an England shirt on them and they have grown. Stats alone wouldn't have told you that.
Not everyone is a fan of two divisions but one fear that players from the lower league would be at a disadvantage in terms of international recognition has not happened.
The skill of the selector is beyond watching, but also to listen and discover if the individual has character and temperament. Those qualities can be found no matter what division you are in. The present selection panel seem to be making a decent job of it.
Graeme Swann has become one of the most feared spinners in world cricket after being schooled in the county game
What has stood out for me in recent years is better communication between the national set-up and county coaches. Coaches I've spoken to seem to agree. Geoff Miller talks of attempting a middle ground when it comes, for example, to picking players for the England Lions squads.
Right now they're more than aware that such a game is taking place the same week as a Roses match in Liverpool. If they remove too many of one side and not the other there will be very loud cries of anger. These days I trust them to make the right calls and respect the integrity of the competition.
One notable occasion last year which still angers me was when several players were forbidden from playing for their county teams because they were due to meet the Prime Minister for tea. It made the game a laughing stock and was a shame upon the decision makers. Although that wasn't the selectors of course.
Another example of being inclusive is the work given to some county coaches with national squads. Mick Newell, of Nottinghamshire, spent nine weeks with the England Lions in the Caribbean earlier this year. He found the experience, from the lifestyle change of so much time away from home to learning new coaching tricks, very beneficial.
He told me: "The challenge is do my methods work at that level and is there anything I need to change? They wanted me to try a couple of things where you might sit down at the end of every session and say who won that session and place a tick or a cross. I tried to do it but it wasn't me so, because it wasn't me, I abandoned it after a couple of games. Instead I analyse what has taken place with the captain and work out the way forward from there."
Long team meetings aren't Newell's thing either. Hallelujah say all of us workers to that.
Mick describes his way as relaxed but with very high standards expected of the players, with a very good base of support staff around him. "You trust them to get on with their jobs," he said. From a distance that appears to be the way Andy Flower operates, so in the future perhaps Mick will get more opportunity.
I hope he doesn't mind me adding that I have seen him watching his team play and at times he's anything but relaxed, but I know what he means.
But, in reference to the relationship with the national management, things are going in the right direction.
Whilst writing about selection, why don't we use the post-blog discussion to mention any individual performances you see. You may not want to lose your players to England but it would be a useful exercise and, who knows, the England selectors might take note. The same goes for any unusual or funny moments you come across.
Thank you to the one chief executive who replied to my blog of three weeks ago by sending me a document stating clearly their mission is to be the best cricket club in the world. I look forward to meeting with him soon and telling you more.
Finally, I'm often told I have the best job in the world watching cricket every day all summer long. Well, last week I was begging a CEO to allow me to use a room to work out of which was full of still-to-be-installed urinals. How glamorous it was. Apt for a career going down the pan! I thought I would get that bit in first.