Saturday, February 03, 2007

England’s natural game.

There has been much talk over the last few months, and possibly years, as to one-day cricket being second-favourite in England’s Top Ten Forms of the game. Test cricket, it is argued, it the highest and most challenging examination of a player’s ability, and thus should be our chief concern. They say that this has been a long-held snobbishness in English cricket that looks down on the vulgar, cheap-thrills slog-a-thon that is limited-overs cricket. We English perfer more high-mind things, like test cricket.

This is nonsense.

I remember reading Michael Atherton’s book as a lad. (This was my introduction to “thinking cricket”. I received it for a Christmas present in about 1995/6. I studied it like a bible. It’s where I learnt my field settings for a leggie. I always had the same Atherton-approved field, until I realised that if I put Nathan The Giant Child at short cover, his bulk would more or less stop everything.) In this book, he (Atherton, not Nathan) argues that England, who were losing the test matches but not the one-dayers at the time, were more naturally suited to limited-overs cricket.

Now, not having the book any more and not being able to remember much from it, I cannot tell you why he thought this was the case. But, I vaguely recall mentions to the English inventing it, be better at it and Neil Fairbrother. Indeed, his arguments are born out by the evidence. Consider the following summers, when Athers was about:

1995: West Indies in England
- ODIs: England 2, Windies 1
- Tests: England 2, Windies 2

1996: India in England
- ODIs: England 2, India 0
- Tests: England 2, India 0

1997: Australia in England
-ODIs: England 3, Australia 0
-Tests: England 2, Australia 3

Now, the picture for the one day internationals obviously isn’t the stark, depressing image that exists now. We beat India (who love the shorter format) and we even thrashed the Ozzies in 1997. Arguably, over these seasons, we were even better at playing in the one-day stuff than tests.

What does this mean? This: it is false that England are “naturally” pre-disposed against one-day cricket. The track record for success in this form is there – we were once better at limited-overs than test cricket.

I rather suspect that this is a rumour that the ECB has put about to explain the English failure in ODIs. However, I do not think that these two elements of the game are as distinct as people like to believe. If you look closely at the above result, you will see that (relative) success in one form of the game seems to feed into success in the other. And the reason that England are currently rubbish at one-day cricket is probably due to being rubbish at test cricket.

No comments: