Tuesday, September 10, 2019

If you can play, you can play. Cricket is cricket irrespective of Format.

The real need is to lighten the international schedule and to cut out the unnecessary matches. Why five ODIs against Australia next summer for example? (I know the answer, and deplore it). Then we need to abandon the preposterous “The Hundred” and only play formats that the rest of the world plays. But above all we need to recognise that although cricket has three formats the game is essentially the same game in all three. If you can play successfully in one you can do the same in the others. 

The fundamentals of cricket transcend formats. For the bowler the need to decide for each ball where to try and pitch it, with what pace or turn and with what outcome in mind. Wicket or dot ball? Bouncer or full pitch. Yorker or corridor of uncertainty. Knowledge of the batsman is important. As is field placing as is the  state of the game. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a 20 or a 50 Over game or a Test Match the weapons in a bowler’s armoury are identical.

And so it is with batting. The batsman has to decide what to do for each ball within the actual merits of the ball. Attack or defend. Tickle a single or block or smash a boundary. Leave the ball or hit it. Play forward or back. Come down the wicket or stay in the crease. Play to the onside or offside. Loft it or play along the ground. The same choices apply every time whether it’s limited overs or a five Day Test. The decision the batsman makes will vary with the state of the game or the format. But the options are the same.

Once we acknowledge that irrespective of the format the cricketing skills required are the same we can start to get organisation, coaching and selection right. At the top level there are no Test or Limited Overs specialists. Only good cricketers and less good cricketers. Jimmy Anderson was a fine  ODI bowler, Andrew Strauss a very good ODI batsman. Look at the records of the top Test Match players in modern times. They are all top Limited Overs players as well. The skills required of one format are the same in all three.

So a coach needs to be able to help develop cricketing skills and help the players  decide how to apply them. Jason Roy has all the skills - he defended resolutely at times during the World Cup. He’s emphatically not a “White Ball specialist” - he’s a multi-talented batsman. Fine tune his decision making a tad and he will  be  a good Test cricketer. Stop telling him he can’t play Test cricket and show him what minor adjustments he needs to make to become one.

So in short one England squad for all formats, one coach, one captain. But Declutter the schedule and cut out the meaningless matches.