Angus Fraser: Tell me why I don't like one-days
But, Andrew Flintoff might answer, I do like tests. England's limited-over side may have been shot down in flames, but they know all that counts is the Ashes
Saturday 08 April 2006
A five-wicket haul at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 6 January 2007 to clinch the Ashes, or a five-for at the Kensington Oval, Barbados on 28 April 2007 to bring the World Cup to England for the first time. What would you rather have? For the England fast bowler Matthew Hoggard it is a simple decision. "The Ashes," he said, without hesitation. "I enjoy playing Test cricket and get a great deal of satisfaction from doing well at it, but any team, on their day, can win the World Cup.
"It takes only two people to perform in one-day cricket for you to win a game, whereas in Test cricket it takes a lot more. The test of team against team over five days is a bigger challenge and it therefore means more."
Hoggard's views may surprise those who believe that a World Cup winner's medal is the ultimate prize, but it would be relatively safe to think that his team-mates are of the same mind. For me it was not a contest. Test cricket, and the success I gained in the Test arena, meant far more than anything I achieved wearing coloured clothing and bowling with a white ball. I would not swap any of my five-wicket hauls in Test cricket for a World Cup winner's medal.
The attitude of Hoggard gives an indication why the England Test side continues to put in inspired performances, while the one-day team flounders around in mediocrity. The players try equally hard but when a sport has two different codes it is inevitable that one is given priority, and no matter how sexy the marketing people try to make one-day cricket, those who play the game know what really counts.
It is why Shane Warne retired from, and Brian Lara plays very little, one-day cricket. Both players want to stay in cricket for as long as they can but in order to do so a compromise is reached. Michael Vaughan, the England captain, may have to make a similar decision if his chronic knee problem fails to improve significantly over the coming weeks.
The views of Asian cricketers may differ slightly because it has been the World Cup victories of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 1983, 1992 and 1996 that fashioned the sub-continent's love for the game. Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq will still take greater pride in their Test records, even though the fans in India and Pakistan place more emphasis on the team's results in limited-overs cricket.
When Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup in 1983 India went cricket crazy, and the game has grown to such an extent that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has signed deals which guarantee more than $1bn (£573m) over the next three or four years. It is a figure that equates to more than 60 per cent of revenue generated in world cricket.
The fact that one-day cricket holds a second-class ticket in England does not help Duncan Fletcher as he attempts to prepare his side for the World Cup. The fixture list in domestic cricket mirrors that of the international game, in that one-day matches are tagged on the end of first-class games.
Throughout the summer players turn up on a Sunday morning jaded and with niggles after four exhausting days of work. What they need is a rest yet they are expected to throw themselves around as though it was their only game of the week. International tours are equally wearying and most are left counting down the days until they get home.
The schedule gives county coaches very little time to develop one-day techniques and many of the matches are played on poor pitches. Four-day matches prevent groundsmen from preparing their one-day pitches as they would like; unsatisfactory pitches produce low-scoring games. These conditions fail to prepare players for the demands of chasing down or setting huge scores when they step up a level, which, as England often find out abroad, is a feat they must achieve.
There are three domestic one-day competitions in England but the aim of most counties is to win the County Championship. This is the right course of action, because history has shown that it is easier to make a one-day player out of a Test cricketer than a Test cricketer out of a one-day player, so the emphasis ought to be to produce Test players.
Gloucestershire proved what could be achieved if you changed your priorities when, under the guidance of John Bracewell and Mark Alleyne, they chose to concentrate on one-day cricket. The strategy worked and between 1999 and 2004 they won seven limited-over trophies. In this period, however, they failed to produce a single Test cricketer.
It therefore seems easy to understand why England have failed to produce high quality one-day cricketers, until one realises that the players and boards of most other Test-playing countries have a similar view. There has to be more to the problem.
Injuries to key players have affected the confidence of the current England squad, who are expected to be without Geraint Jones for tomorrow's fifth one-dayer against India in Guwahati. England's strongest side contains players who are capable of excelling in one-day cricket, but the lack of success has given them a confused and vulnerable feel. This has been apparent in Andrew Flintoff's captaincy.
Dravid has been decisive and positive. He has placed fielders in attacking positions, which has given England's batsmen the impression India are trying to get them out. England's tactics have been defensive.
In the Test side, however, there is no shortage of conviction. England know they are a good team and believe they can get out of any situation.
It is slightly ironic that Fletcher has failed to crack the one-dayers, the only form of the game the Zimbabwean played at international level. Perhaps, like certain members of his side, his approach and skill is more suited to Test cricket.
The one-day game is actually less forgiving than Test cricket for those who are starting their careers. Players need to react and think on their feet, but we are living in an era where coaches try to dictate the way in which they play, so much so that the men in the middle do not know what to do if Plan A fails.
One-day cricket is particularly hard for batsmen, who are responsible for winning the majority of games. In Test cricket an inexperienced batsman does not have to score runs as soon as he arrives at the crease. All he has to do is continue batting until he becomes accustomed to the conditions. In one-day cricket he cannot afford to waste 15 overs. If a young batsman is not scoring freely he starts to panic and this usually results in his demise.
Fletcher has been very keen to increase the number of one-day games England play each year. These matches were to be at the expense of Test cricket and, thankfully, it is a request the England and Wales Cricket Board has ignored.
Inexperience is often used as an excuse by Fletcher when the team suffers a defeat. His claim does have credibility. The England coach believes it takes a player around 30 games before he becomes accustomed to one-day cricket, and only five members of the squad in India have reached this milestone.
The World Cup is fast approaching and England are running out of time and games, but if they were to retain the Ashes in January, would we lambast them for a poor showing in the West Indies? Probably not.
England's one-day blunders
In 17 series since 1992, England have won only four times away.
* NEW ZEALAND 1992 11 January - 15 February
* INDIA 1993 18 January - 5 March
* SRI LANKA 1993 10 March - 20 March
* WEST INDIES 1994 16 February - 6 March
* SOUTH AFRICA 1996 9 January - 21 January
* ZIMBABWE 1996-97 15 December - 3 January
* NEW ZEALAND 1997 20 February - 4 March
* WEST INDIES 1998 29 March - 8 April
* SRI LANKA 2001 23 March - 27 March
* ZIMBABWE 2001 3 October - 13 October
* INDIA 2002 19 January - 3 February
* NEW ZEALAND 2002 13 February - 26 February
* BANGLADESH 2003 7 November - 12 November
* SRI LANKA 2003 18 November - 23 November
* ZIMBABWE 2004 28 November - 5 December
* SOUTH AFRICA 2005 30 January - 13 February
* PAKISTAN 2005 10 December - 21 December
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