We need more than one day at a time

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The Independent Online

We are in one-day mode again. It isn't easy. Changing cricketing codes in mid-season can be every bit as tricky as switching horses in mid-stream. It demands a different discipline, a different mindset.

We are in one-day mode again. It isn't easy. Changing cricketing codes in mid-season can be every bit as tricky as switching horses in mid-stream. It demands a different discipline, a different mindset.

Nobody should doubt the importance of the one-day game. In every other part ofthe world except England it, rather than Test matches, is what draws the big crowds. But timing is everything.

This series against Sri Lanka has probably come at the wrong time. It is at the end of a long winter and on the back of a tough, memorable Test rubber. The feeling of a certain anti-climax is hard to avoid.

It is not one-dayers' fault that this happens. There is an air of inevitability about it which huge crowds and the immediacy of the game cannot erode. In general, I would suggest the one-dayers would be better before the Test matches: a curtain-raiser, a scrumptious appetiser. Having said which, this winter's itinerary might profitably have been arranged differently. The one-dayers in Pakistan could have come at the end of that tour and the ones in Sri Lanka at the beginning. There would have thus been a block of matches, which would have enabled the team to settle into that mode.

I happen also to advocate a similar system in domestic cricket in England. All the one-day cricket could be played in a block in, say, July and August. That way players know what they are doing. The constant changing is bad for method and technique.

England at least are getting there. This summer the NatWest triangular tournament falls between two Test series - an improvement surely on splitting a Test series, as happened last summer. And next winter I understand there is a possibility that the onedayers in India will be played following a break after the Test series and the team will then go straight on to New Zealand for one-dayers there.

That surely is the way to go, but two more points about one-dayers. Although those of us who played the Test matches here have a natural inclination to want to go home - as some of our team-mates did - we are aware of our responsibilities to our specialist colleagues. And it is worth mentioning that despite all of the above, England still do not play enough one-day international matches. Since the last World Cup, the Sri Lankans have played 48, England have played 21.

The danger of our not being experienced enough, of lagging behind the other countries, is clear. I know that there can be too much of a good thing, that there is a danger of the syndrome of "another day, another one-dayer", but experience is everything.

It is impossible to play as little and as haphazardly as England do and be truly prepared for the biggest tournament of all, the World Cup. That is what all our one-day cricket between times should be geared towards.

The next one is in South Africa in two years' time. We probably need to play more tournaments in a block, go off to Sharjah or wherever for a series. I am sure it is a point which our coach, Duncan Fletcher, will not let go lightly.

I got a hat-trick in the warm-up one-day game last week. I have had only one before as a professional, for Somerset in a domestic one-day match four or five years ago. If this one was in a pretty humdrum contest, it was special for all the victims being bowled. And I'm convinced that I had four in four, my appeal for leg before with the batsman back and in front being rejected.

Sri Lanka, as they showed in the new stadium in Dambulla on Friday, are a formidable limited-overs side, better than they are at Test cricket. They do not often get beaten at home (they have won 27 out of the last 33) and to draw level in the day-night match will demand a more disciplined performance from all of us than we managed in the first match.

Dambulla is a stunning stadium built in a matter of weeks in the middle of jungle. Around it the terrain is inhabited by elephants, leopards, monkeys and snakes. It was the snakes which exercised the mind of Robert Croft. He could not hide his concern at their proximity. It has forever diminished his status as a tough, rugged Welsh boyo.

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