Alec Swann - Lions playing an important role for any future success

WITH England sitting atop of the world rankings, it is a logical conclusion to draw that the county game is doing its job and doing it well.

The days of players coming into the national side and looking unprepared for the demands of the international game, while not gone for good, are far less frequent than they used to be.

And that is down to the strength of the domestic structure.

If you witnessed any of the England Lions’ 10-wicket demolition of the West Indian tourists last week, it would’ve been immediately apparent that the production line is in very fine fettle.

Not all of the Lions would, or will, make a fist of the elite level of the game as something that resembles natural selection will always exist but to turn out such a strong second string – and this is without the likes of Ravi Bopara, Graham Onions, Eoin Morgan and Monty Panesar – paints a picture of rude health.

While there is an element of long may that continue, the contest indicated that the Lions have an important role to play in any potential future success.

There is, and always will be, a signififcant gap between the county game and the international one and anything that can be done to provide a bridge between the two has to be welcomed.

There was definitely a different feel to the game at the County Ground if compared to any run of the mill county fixture.

The access to players, for both the media and the public, was far more restricted, the support staff of the Lions’ side was more plentiful in number and there was greater interest in the game than would’ve been the case if it was Northants providing the opposition.

In simple terms, it was an international fixture on a smaller scale.

And if the powers that be want players to come into the international game prepared for what they will encounter then this is a sensible way to go about it.

The county game, a domestic final and a handful of well attended Twenty20 games aside, will never be able to replicate what the higher level offers.

If stripped back to the bare essentials, it is still one man with a ball in his hand and another with a bat however high you go but it is in all the peripherals where the difference lies.

The Lions can’t replicate the attendances but they can simulate the whole experience, be that in the way they train, the conditions they encounter on tour or the way they have to deal with the media.

If you question anyone who has played at the top level, they will point to the attention as the biggest change.

To get to that level, the ability should be there and if the rest is taken care of then the chances of succeeding must be increased.

And that has to be a good thing.