England need undivided one-day vision

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The England selectors have had a tough week. First, David Graveney, Geoff Miller and Peter Moores were forced to watch England's supposed new one-day dawn last about as long as a winter day in Lapland, and now they have the unenviable task of picking a 30-man provisional squad for September's ICC Twenty20 Championship - not World Cup, as some are describing it - in South Africa.

The 2-1 one-day series defeat to the West Indies was disappointing but the real test for the selectors is finding 30 players, whether in 20 or 50-over cricket, who are capable of performing for England. Over the past few years England have struggled to find one side possessing the ability and temperament to compete on this stage, let alone three.

The make-up of these squads, which have to be named months before every ICC event, is normally pretty irrelevant because the selectors can choose from outside it when they name their final 14 nearer the time. Yet today's squad will be interesting because it should give an indication of the direction in which the selectors intend to travel with Twenty20 cricket.

In the six Twenty20 internationals England have played, the selectors have chosen not to pick Twenty20 specialists, with the squads containing the same players as represent England in 50-over cricket.

The approach has been criticised by many, including the Sussex captain, Chris Adams, my fellow columnist at The Independent, who believes England should pick county players like Darren Maddy, Luke Wright, James Benning and Mark Pettini, whose games are ideally suited to Twenty20 cricket.

If England are looking to win the tournament without fear of any fallout, it is an option. The benefits of picking such players became clear in England's second Twenty20 match against the West Indies at The Oval, when Owais Shah and Dimitri Mascarenhas calmly guided their side to a five-wicket victory.

Performances like these generate a strong argument for England selecting Twenty20 specialists, but it is a concept that I am against. England's one-day cricket needs strong, clear planning and I believe that picking two different sides will only further confuse the selectors as they attempt to make England's one-day cricket competitive.

English cricket continues to have a major problem in convincing officials, players and spectators that 50-over cricket is a serious form of the game. The scheduling of matches in domestic cricket does not allow it, and unless the counties agree to reduce the volume of county cricket played, England will continue to meander along in one-day cricket.

If Twenty20 is thrown into the equation, where does English cricket go? Is Twenty20 as important as 50-over cricket? And, if so, should it be given the same means as Test cricket? Where does it end? The cricket authorities in England have had enough trouble dividing their resources in two, never mind three.

And what about selection? If James Benning were to lash a quick 70 in a Twenty20 international, does he suddenly become a potential 50-over player, even though England's performance at the World Cup highlightedthat Twenty20 cricket has not improved the quality of the one-day cricket the team plays?

The captaincy is an issue, too. Should the leadership of the one-day side be given to a man who has plenty of experience playing this form of the game? Paul Collingwood, after all, has played just six games of Twenty20, whereas Maddy, the Warwickshire captain, has played 42. It is a worthy point, but it would completely undermine the confidence and authority of Collingwood as he attempts to build a strong and efficient one-day side.

I am not in favour of split captains, but the Michael Vaughan/Collingwood situation can work because they are close friends. But if a third leader was positioned? Collingwood would be forever looking over his shoulder, fearing that a couple of good performances from the Twenty20 side might cost him his job.

Those who agree with separate teams will state it is the selectors' job, and that it should be easy to differentiate and keep separate the two forms. But try telling that to a national cricket correspondent who has become disillusioned with the performances of the one-day side and wants to stir things up, or a sports presenter who does not have a true understanding of the game.

Comments