The Light Roller: Stop these post-Test ODIs and give the pros a break - but it's winter nets time for the amateurs

Diary of a cricket obsessive

Bring this sad rabble back to Blighty

They really might just as well pack up and come home.

The Light Roller has railed against the notion of the post-Test ODI series before (perhaps more than once) but this one has been ridiculous.

For the players who have been in Australia since November, there was little chance that the one-dayers would provide redemption. As for those who have arrived into camp since the Tests ended, what hope of pulling things around? The fans have tuned out, the captain looks shot and with a T20 world cup round the corner, the 50-over format seems an odd thing to be practising.

After the defeats in Brisbane - arguably the worst of the lot this winter – and Sydney there is almost literally nothing to play for.

ODIs still have the capacity to enthral but they must regain their rightful place as warm-up to the main event. And not only when it happens to suit the schedulers.

 

Cook doesn't have experience of backs-to-the-wall battling but he has to keep going

Captain Cook has evidently discovered more than he bargained for over the last two months - about the Australians, his own team and perhaps about himself and his appetite for leadership.

His remarks on Sunday about considering his position as ODI skipper were very honest but arguably betrayed the characteristics that make him ill-suited to backs-to-the-wall captaincy. First of all, captains must be decisive - stay or go, but don't be woolly about it. Second, be stoical and steadfast in public to show your team you can handle external scrutiny. Third, don't take your position for granted. Captains who think the decision to carry on is for them alone, are never in for an easy ride.

Cook is a superb player who appears utterly weighed down. But the particular production line of tough England captains that started perhaps with Cook's mentor, Graham Gooch, seems to have run its course. Until production of a new model begins in earnest, Cook needs to hang on in there.

 

Let's hear it for old man Misbah

As elder statesmen of the game ride into the sunset, Jacques Kallis being the latest, the glorious Misbah-ul-Haq continues to eclipse his younger compadres.  With the big Four-O coming up in May, Misbah has overseen a remarkable resurgence in Pakistani cricket since the match-fixing scandal of 2010.

That's not to say there has been consistency. But yesterday’s victory against Sri Lanka (a team which is admittedly a relative stranger to test cricket at the moment) was a bit of a classic.  Set 302 to win in the fourth innings off 59 overs, Pakistan won at a canter. Misbah himself calmly thwacked 68 of 72 to get his team over the line.

Misbah has been a man on a mission since he took over leadership of his team and must have enjoyed the success of beating the odds to win 12 tests out of 27 (with 7 losses). Sri Lanka have their own oldies, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakarra, both undisputed greats of the game. They have been unfortunate victims of Sri Lanka's proclivity for allowing politics to interfere with cricket. But Old Father Time waits for no cricketer and it will soon be the end of the road for both men. And then Sri Lanka will be just another team in transition.

 

Dig out your jock-strap, it’s time to get netting

It's winter nets time: the moment when you wonder why you left unwashed socks and shirt in your cricket bag in September; when medium-pacers waste their time bowling bouncers that menace on hard mats but that will be smashed for four come the green pitches of April; when you remember why you had resolved to change clubs at the end of last season as your arrogant (and mediocre) captain welcomes you back with a guffaw.

Invariably, what happens at winter nets stays at winter nets. Form gained in January usually dissipates by the time the season starts. Lads who didn't turn up still walk straight back into the first team. There is almost nothing to be gained by the whole process.

And yet, and yet. Who can resist cricket in the warm, with no pesky fielders to avoid, without excessive running? The convivial chat at the back of the net as last summer’s delights and debacles are re-run, interrupted only occasionally by a straight-drive when a rare pitched-up delivery is pounced on.  The aching bones of the following day are completely worth it.

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