Somerset assistant coach Jason Kerr says Jamie Overton and Lewis Gregory’s time with the England Potential England Performance Programme (PEPP) in South Africa this month is “invaluable” as they prepare for the new season.
Kerr is part of a four-man coaching team running the 18-day intensive training camp at the High Performance Institute of Sport in Potchefstroom. He hopes that the programme will help the young Somerset bowlers develop the strength they need to perform throughout the long English season.
Kevin Shine, the ECB’s Lead Fast Bowling Coach believes that Lewis and Jamie – and the four other young pace bowlers who arrived in South Africa this week – are already reaping rewards from “our best programme yet”.
The 2014-2015 programme started in October, with the six players primarily training as a group at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough. Each of the current PEPP bowlers will be hoping to emulate the likes of Steven Finn, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan, who are all graduates of the programme and have gone onto represent England in the Test arena.
However, Shine stresses that while the goal is for the bowlers to progress to the Performance Programme, then to the Lions, and finally to the senior England team, it is their counties who will benefit first.
“I’ve played county cricket, coached in county cricket, and so I recognise how important it is,” Shine told the ECB website. “That’s why we work so closely with the counties on this programme, and we also stress to the bowlers that the first task for them is to be playing regular first-class cricket for their counties. Hopefully, the bigger picture of the Performance Programme, the Lions, and England comes after that.
“We’re very proud of it actually. I think it’s our flagship programme in terms of the time we have with a small group through the winter, which allows us to work on strength and conditioning and then move into bowling in this phase out in South Africa. It’s evolved every year since we first set it up and this year we’ve got some real ground-breaking stuff back in Loughborough which allows us to understand how to coach the bowlers technically in greater detail than ever before.
“We keep their counties informed throughout and then we keep a very close eye on them throughout the summer. All the technical things for them to work on are jointly agreed by the players and counties. It’s a very joined-up process.”
Neil Killeen, the Durham bowling coach, is leading the PEPP for the ninth time, and this year is being assisted during the camp in Potchefstroom by Somerset’s Jason Kerr.
“Fortunately the club gave me permission to have three weeks away at a crucial time for us,” Kerr told the ECB website. “As well as aiding my development, we’ve got two lads on the programme, so to keep an eye on them it’s superb.”
Kerr added: “It’s an invaluable experience. It’s about understanding what they need to do to prepare for a very challenging county season. We’re trying to give them that robustness so they can go into the season, perform, and continue to perform throughout, which is a tough challenge for any player let alone young players with a lack of experience.
“For us to have two guys involved is fantastic, because that then drip feeds into the counties and I can use some of that information to look at other players as well.”
Kileen said: “It’s fantastic – the environment out here is second to none. You’ve got international athletes, first-class facilities, and you’ve also got the climate and at altitude as well. All put into one package makes it a pretty special place.
“These guys have been training from Loughborough pretty much every week since November,” explained Killeen. “They’ve trained really hard, generally something between 15 and 17 sessions a week. The only thing they can’t do is get outside to bowl. So as we bring them into the back-to-bowling phase, which is this phase now, we get them out here where we can do it on good grass facilities.
“It’s a bit of an education process; we’re trying to prepare these lads to go back to their counties and be ready for full county seasons as well as moving on up the ranks through the England set-up. Educating them in the ways they can train hard and still bowl prepares them really well for the season. The idea is they continue that when they get back to their clubs and hopefully spread that education around the rest of the place.”
In a special video for the ECB YouTube channel, Lewis Gregory said: “We did a lot of gym work back at Loughborough. Now this is a good opportunity with great facilities to get out there and work on your bowling, get on the long runs and get used to being out on grass which is obviously the best bet for pre-season and the start of the summer.”
Jamie Overton, who spent the first day of the camp in bed with a stomach upset, said he was feeling better and looking forward to getting stuck into training.
In the ECB video he said: “I was going well before Christmas in the gym, but now I’m pushing on with my bowling and getting ready for the summer which is the main thing for me.”
Both Somerset bowlers said they were pleased to have Jason Kerr with them during the training camp.
“It obviously helps having Jas here,” said Overton. “He obviously knows our actions better than anyone else, so yes it’s good to have him here.”
Gregory added: “It’s really good to have someone that you’re comfortable with, who knows the ins and outs of your actions. So yes for us, it’s obviously brilliant and it will be good for the other lads to get a different perspective on things.”
Jamie added that he was pleased to hear how well his brother Craig’s operation had gone this week. Craig had to pull out of the England Lions tour to South Africa last month, after suffering a recurrence of a long-standing ankle injury. He is expected to be out for the next eight to ten weeks, so could be ready for the start of the season if all goes well.
Jamie said: “I’m very pleased it went well. I’m obviously disappointed for Craig, but he’s in the best place and hopefully he can push on and get over this injury and push on for the summer.”
- The other four bowlers on the England Potential England Performance Programme with Lewis and Jamie this winter are: Matthew Hobden (Sussex), Craig Miles (Gloucestershire), Harry Podmore (Middlesex) and Olly Stone (Northamptonshire).