Why ODIs can be a Test barometer
Australia celebrates, but is the One Day side really important to Australians? (AP Photo/Mal Fairclough)
The buzz around the one-day series against England that was as meaningful as an “I love you” on The Bachelor was inevitably about the performances of Mitchell Johnson and George Bailey.
They were the stars of the series, and aside from Test skipper Michael Clarke and former vice-captain Shane Watson, the only two who put their hand up for Test selection.
The two bowled spells and scored runs that were noticeable, not just because the numbers were good, but because the method was very ‘Test-like.’
There had to be a counter-shove from punters and pundits, and there was. The line it took was that ODIs can’t be used as reliable evidence for Test selection.
Everyone takes it as read that Twenty20 cricket is the instant coffee of cricket – it’s a very nice drink, but it ain’t coffee.
People have dismissed Twenty20 as a barometer for the aptitude of a cricketer to perform at Test level.
But if a T20 is a roided up, freakily shredded version of cricket (with compromised potency), where does that leave one-day international cricket and the armchair selector’s ability to judge the cricketers that play it?
In terms of the type of cricket that’s played, ODIs and Twenty20s are not in any way related. They’re simply not in the same postcode.
Twenty20 is by its very nature a game that disallows players the opportunity to build an innings of substance, instead demanding that you hit out or get out from ball one.
Should the first few batsmen fall on their blade, the result is inevitable: a spectacular failure.
The ability to fight, rebuild and strike back is as present in T20 cricket as coverage of the annual City-Country clash in Madagascar, or Adelaide for that matter.
ODIs are a different kettle of fish. Good innings, spells and cricket shots are rewarded, as are good cricketers.
Bowlers have the opportunity to work themselves into a spell with the luxury of ten overs. Batsman are allowed time and deliveries to build an innings, meaning good Test players often have very good records at one-day level.
Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and Rahul Dravid have all been written off as 50-over performers but have remarkable records belying their sluggish scoring rate in the five-day game.
The idea that one-dayers are somehow ‘hit and giggle’ akin to T20s is hyperbole, and dangerous hyperbole as it demeans what is a real contest of cricketing skill.
50 overs provide the platform for a genuine cricketing contest, and the best cricketers will flourish in this environment.
The argument from those that argue against ODIs as indicators of cricketing aptitude pretty much revolves round the length principle; the more days a game goes for the likelier it is ‘Test players’ will revel.
The Sheffield Shield is therefore the only way Australia has, aside from ‘A’ tours, to tell whether someone has the ability to succeed at Test level.
This is an absurdity.
Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja have shown tremendous form at Shield level for quite some time but have never quite measured up when the international jump is made.
They have time on their side, and in my view would profit from extended stints in the ODI game to gain exposure to different conditions and higher quality bowling.
It has been a staple of Australian cricket that Test players ‘graduate’ through the one-day team to earn a spot in the five-day game.
Adam Gilchrist did it. Mike Hussey did it. Damien Martyn earned two recalls that one can remember through his performances in the pyjamas.
It was a theory that worked; get people exposure to the best players from other nations and in different conditions and profit when you eventually introduce them into Test cricket.
Because of Australia’s slim pickings, the graduate program of the Australian Test side had its budget slashed, and we’ve seen the rise of elevating people from Shield to the Australian creams.
No prolonged spell at international level has meant those players move into the game without enough experience against the best, so our once mighty Test team suffers.
The reintroduction of the one-day graduate program seems a very reasonable idea, and it’s time to see how our most consistent players in that format, with George Bailey the first in line at the moment, go in the Test side.
It’s not about the number of days, it’s about the cricket played.
ODIs are a real cricketing contest, not a slug off. Proper cricketers perform well in the format.
One shouldn’t be shy or embarrassed about using that format of the game, along with Shield, as a barometer for who will do well at international level.
Follow Paddy on Twitter @PatrickEffeney
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