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Tuesday, August 24, 1999 Published at 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK

Sport: Cricket

Hussain slams county system

Hussain: County game breeds mediocrity and must be overhauled

England captain Nasser Hussain wants an overhaul of the county cricket system which he says is dragging down the country's most talented players.

John Major: We need a hero
Hussain says changes must be made to the domestic competition if England are to lift themselves off the foot of the unofficial table of Test playing nations.

Hussain, speaking on BBC1's Onside programme, said: "We have the cricketers but we need a system of selection and unity to get the best out of them.

[ image: Andy Flintoff has performed wonders for Lancashire....]
Andy Flintoff has performed wonders for Lancashire....
"Our system at county level is not the best but at Under 19s we are the best in the world.

"Unfortunately some players get lost in the mediocrity of county cricket.

"An example would be Lancashire's Andrew Flintoff, the more he plays in county cricket, the more he gets dragged down."

Hussain promised changes ahead of this winter's South African tour but re-affirmed his pride in the side which slumped to a series defeat against New Zealand at The Oval.

[ image: But he was out for a duck against South Africa in the World Cup]
But he was out for a duck against South Africa in the World Cup
"The time has come with a new coach and a new season to make changes. We need a backbone of a side and more players like Michael Atherton to show us exactly how to go about being a Test player."

But former Australia batsman David Boon, now captain at Durham, disagrees.

"I don't think county cricket is bad at all.

"Ten to 15 years ago when England were beating Australia nobody whinged about anything then. Now that it's not happening you're looking for change all the time.

Sticky wickets

"The biggest problem I've noticed since I've been playing over here is the bad surfaces you've got to play on. That, to me, is an essential thing to look at first."

Instead Boon insists the main thing needed if England are to progress is a national academy for young players.

Durham's academy has produced three players currently starring for England world champion Under-19 side, currently 1-0 up in their series against Australia's youngsters.

"A national academy is something which has to be seriously looked at here in England.

New kids

"It has proven its worth in Australia and here in Durham, on a very small basis, you can see how an academy helps young cricketers.

"The Australian academy started from scratch and it was three or four years before you started seeing the emergence of some young academy kids in Sheffield Shield sides.

"You hope that some of those go on and fortunately we've seen quite a few who have been to the academy are now playing Test cricket."

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