Sunday, 27 March 2011

England's One Day Failings

Yesterday I wrote about the men who were in England's ODI squad, and the immediate direction they can take. And before the World Cup even started, I named a potential team for the next summer of ODI cricket (which still doesn't look too unlikely).

However, while the short term can be looked at, the facts remain that England haven't been a top-level ODI side since reaching the final in 1992. We've consistently underperformed, citing the same reasons time after time. Ultimately, England's failures in ODI cricket aren't due to tiredness or injuries, it's a much deeper problem. Put simply, we aren't producing enough ODI quality players - or if we are, we aren't picking them. Test cricket and ODI cricket are very different disciplines - while key skills can be used in both, for players to be the very best in ODI cricket, there are other elements needed. It's widely recognised that England have a very good test side, and not such a good ODI side. But the ODI team is basically the test team without Alastair Cook. So the players who clearly have the aptitude for test cricket patently don't have the X Factor in ODI cricket needed to win World Cups.

Much of the reason must be looked at in county cricket, where the One Day competition is put in as an afterthought. And the fact that it doesn't even take the same format as international cricket doesn't suggest players are learning the skills required for ODIs. The nature of ODI selection is also wrong. Of yesterday's England side, Strauss, Bell, Trott, Prior and Tremlett were given ODI chances (or reprieves) almost exclusively on the back of test form. While this doesn't mean they are bad One Day players, it shows that selectors are only looking at the pool of international players rather than those who are proving themselves consistently in domestic List A cricket.

And even when young guys are being selected, they're given very little margin for error before being discarded. Think Davies, Kieswetter, Denly, Rashid, Woakes. These are the players who have been performing well in domestic List A cricket who are removed for those with iffy One Day records but have performed well in tests. The selection of Prior over Davies is a case in point.

Another thing - English players don't play enough One Day cricket. I'm not talking about ODI cricket, where the 400 cap club is becoming increasingly unexclusive; but one day cricket of any sort. Once a player is picked for England, the only List A cricket of any type will be ODIs, as he is very rarely released to his county for one day games which are crucial for his development. Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad didn't play any One Day games for Notts last year, and Ian Bell has played double the ODIs than domestic One Day games. England are taking the view that international cricket is a place where players have to learn skills quickly, but it's also a place where flaws are exposed and we've already seen how keen the selectors are to dispose of those who don't swim immediately after being thrown straight into the deep end. England would be far better off using the domestic One Day tournament as a breeding ground for international cricket, where players can hone their skills and learn about the ways of One Day cricket, before picking players when they're ready for international action and sticking with them.

England's failures in ODI cricket are deeper than immediately meets the eye, but they can be rectified. There are some players who have been consistently performing at county level, and the selectors shouldn't be afraid to pick them. And if they are to pick them, faith needs to be shown in them. And England's established players should be given the opportunity to go and play One Day cricket for their counties, where they can develop their game away from the glare of ODI cricket, and learn the appropriate skills for ODI cricket, rather than recycling the very different skill set needed for test cricket. England flattered to decieve this World Cup, and while cosmetic changes could be made from small short term successes, a much deeper set of decisions need to be taken if England are ever to win a World Cup.

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