Cricket: Hollioake's men can shape the future

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The Independent Online
If England win the Champions Cup on Friday, then it is likely that the principle of separate one-day and Test squads will be adopted. Derek Pringle reports from Sharjah on a bold experiment that looks like succeeding.

England's seamless progress to the final of the Akai-Singer Champions Cup here, has been a triumph of strategy over convenience. By tailoring their side to the demands and parameters of this one-day competition, Adam Hollioake's team have perhaps set a precedent that even the financially cautious England and Wales Cricket Board will find difficult to ignore. Win or lose on Friday, the days of single party tours must surely be numbered.

But while the ECB pre-varicate upon the matter, the view from the England dressing-room - particularly with the World Cup at stake in just under 18 months time - is that there is simply no other way.

"The Board should see it as an investment," reckoned Hollioake, when asked if the ECB might blanche at the the cost of such a venture. The current England one-day captain in residence adding: "If they are not going to keep this squad together for the one-day series in the West Indies, they may as well call the whole thing off right now. There is no point in going off half-cock. At the end of the day if you are not prepared to pay, you can't expect results."

It is a philosophy that is echoed, though somewhat less forcefully, by the England coach, David Lloyd. "I hope we can take the nucleus of this squad here out to the one-day series in the West Indies, and perhaps add four or five players from the Test team as well."

No doubt Lloyd was thinking about the likes of Michael Atherton and Darren Gough, who were both excused Sharjah, as well as one or two others such as Mark Ramprakash and Andy Caddick.

Lloyd, who stressed that it was "his thinking and not a decision," also hopes to assemble a one-day squad of 22 players for next summer when England play a triangular series against South Africa and Sri Lanka.

"It's no, mean feat to get to the final on the back of a few nets in Manchester," said Lloyd, implying that his and the England selectors' demands in preparing this squad had not been excessive.

Mind you, the logistics, at least for getting a squad ready for the West Indies, are not straightforward. Indeed, England's attempts to prepare one-day specialists for the previous World Cup, by taking them to South Africa towards the end of the Test series there, caused confusion.

Despite the right intentions, England followed a 6-1 loss in the one- day series to South Africa, with a swift exit from the World Cup, where they failed to beat a single Test-playing nation. With "previous" like that, the ECB is unlikely leap in again, without considering the consequences. Yet if England win the final against West Indies, few will be able to deny the overwhelming success of this well-conceived experiment.

With one-day cricket looking the most likely way to spread and popularise the game round the world, England need to be at the forefront, and that means having largely separate squads for Test and one-day cricket.

Trying to stay ahead of the game is forcing England cricket to become more labour intensive, which in turn means extra expense. If England are to challenge for the World Cup in 18 months' time or the Ashes next winter, the ECB will have to start balancing finances with priorities. A good showing by England on Friday, may be just the spur.