Why ODIs can be a Test barometer

Patrick Effeney Editor

By Patrick Effeney, Patrick Effeney is a Roar Editor

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    Clint McKay looks to have played his last ODI. (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

    Patrick is The Roar's Editor. Twitter: @PatrickEffeney

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • September 19th 2013 @ 8:42am
      Red Kev said | September 19th 2013 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Good, thoughtful article. It is true that we used to use the ODIs as a sort of academy for the test side and with the new rule changes it has become a viable option again. It has an added perk too of ODIs being on when the T20s are while the shield is on hiatus, so it is better match practice anyway.

    • September 19th 2013 @ 10:09am
      beyondthestump said | September 19th 2013 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Yep, good article Patrick. I have been wondering myself why people dismiss ODI’s as an indicator to test ability. It has worked very well for us in the past so why not now? And as you say, it gives them prolonged exposure at a higher level without the added stress and difficulties Test cricket provides. I suggest the reason people no longer see the ODI format as a Test barometer is due to the influence of T20’s, ie you see a lot more T20 style play in ODI’s these days and if a player dares to take time to settle in in a ODI they are immediately lampooned by the commentators and public for batting too slow yet we all know that there is still time to then accelerate!

      • September 19th 2013 @ 10:27am
        Red Kev said | September 19th 2013 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Don’t discount the influence of all the rule changes too – power plays, ever shorter boundaries, only one ball – all these contributed to more and more T20 style batting, the two ball change at least claws some of that back.

        • Editor

          September 19th 2013 @ 11:14am
          Patrick Effeney said | September 19th 2013 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          Agreed Kev, equalises the contest between bat and ball for longer, plus gives better value for shots when you hit it well. Those white balls, when they get soft, are shocking to bowl with. You get very little out of them past the 25-over mark.

          • Roar Pro

            September 19th 2013 @ 11:40am
            Matt Lengren said | September 19th 2013 @ 11:40am | ! Report

            But the players you’ve mentioned excel in ODIs do so because they’re test cricketers…

    • September 19th 2013 @ 11:13am
      zatoo77 said | September 19th 2013 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      I guess we must also identify the fails of the system.
      Beven and Bracken had great odi careers and failed in test cricket.

      However I think at the current stage Bailey should get a chance due to his one day performances

      • Editor

        September 19th 2013 @ 11:15am
        Patrick Effeney said | September 19th 2013 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        I think Clint McKay might fall into that bracket too zatoo? Spoken of as a limited overs cricketer more or less exclusively now, and I can see why.

      • September 19th 2013 @ 12:46pm
        Pope Paul VII said | September 19th 2013 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

        Failure’s a harsh term. Bevan had several good days out at test level. Bracken was always going to up against as he was a relative trundler, albeit very skilful. Certainly when he was in his prime no vacancies popped up. Lots more competition back then.

        Dunno about Bailey. He is a great competitor but is vulnerable to sharp pace. More vulnerable than Hughes and Khawaja.

        And McKay’s hatrick was high quality against top bats. Most orthodox. Too much competition for him at test level but he is a very smart bowler and would do reasonably well I think.

        • September 19th 2013 @ 3:30pm
          Praveen said | September 19th 2013 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

          Shield has to be the benchmark for picking the test side and I agree with pope on his comments

    • September 19th 2013 @ 11:27am
      kuzzi said | September 19th 2013 @ 11:27am | ! Report

      I’d love to see this team in the first test at the gabba


      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

      • Editor

        September 19th 2013 @ 11:46am
        Patrick Effeney said | September 19th 2013 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        That seems like a good team to me too kuzzi, depending on the fitness and match practice of Pattinson.

      • September 19th 2013 @ 12:38pm
        matt h said | September 19th 2013 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        Um, Ryan Harris our best bowler?

        • Editor

          September 19th 2013 @ 3:06pm
          Patrick Effeney said | September 19th 2013 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

          Oversight on my part. Of course he has to be there!

    • September 19th 2013 @ 12:19pm
      James said | September 19th 2013 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

      absolutely odis can be a barometer. if mitchell johnson or george bailey had never played a test match or a shield game it would be possible to say that odis are a test barometer. but we have seen them play tests and shield games and they are terrible. not terrible in the same way that clarke is not but terrible when we compare what coulda and shoulda happened and what they actually deliver in the real world. johnson can be great but 7/10 he is really bad, 2/10 he is only bad and only 1/10 he is incredibley awesome fantastical. bailey has terrible shield numbers too. johnson and bailey have always had good odi numbers and terrible test numbers. its what they do, leave them where they are. johnson doesnt have the mental skills to deal with bowling more than 10 overs and bailey, who i dont really know enough about, just seems to not be great at tests in any way like he is in odis.

      i love arnie and stallone, they know they are not actors but are awesome action stars. johnson and bailey are great odis but not test players. odis can be a barometer but when you have lots of other barometers that all say no, then we kinda should ignore the odi barometer.

      • September 19th 2013 @ 12:57pm
        Pope Paul VII said | September 19th 2013 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

        Johnson has pretty good test stats.

        • September 19th 2013 @ 1:34pm
          James said | September 19th 2013 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

          yeah courtesy of being awesome and then shite most of the time.

      • September 19th 2013 @ 3:32pm
        Praveen said | September 19th 2013 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

        Fair points James, bailey averaged 18 in shield last year, that’s what you are referring to

      • September 19th 2013 @ 6:35pm
        JimmyB said | September 19th 2013 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

        I don’t think Bailey has even played a test match, so I’m not sure how he’s crap at test cricket.

    • September 19th 2013 @ 12:27pm
      Nick Inatey said | September 19th 2013 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

      Patrick, I cannot disagree more with your arguments.

      Mike Hussey did not ‘graduate’ from ODI’s to Test cricket. A FC average of over 50, plus 11000 FC runs got him into the test team. His ODI performances just sealed the deal. Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist…both good at FC level.

      All test cricketers make it into the test team not because of ODI form, but because of FC form. Having useful ODI form is helpful, but not what the selectors will pick you on.

      In what world has Hashim Amla ever being accused on batting sluggishly? The answer is no world. Amla is just the classic, Bradman style cricketer. Takes few risks, times the ball well, looks for singles, and chooses not to slog for the sixes. He is remarkably similar in composure to Michael Hussey, except Amla has a more pure technique.

      • Editor

        September 19th 2013 @ 3:17pm
        Patrick Effeney said | September 19th 2013 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

        Amla made his Test debut in 2004 and his one-day debut in 2008. There’s a reason for this. There was always a debate about whether South Africa could accommodate both Kallis or Amla in the team, which has proved to be an absurdity. No one doubts it now, but they did, at one point.

        As for the Huss, he cemented his spot in the Test team… with his one day performances. You said it yourself: he sealed the deal with those runs. Doesn’t that resonate with what I was saying? And of course both Gilly and Martyn were good at FC level, but one-dayers provided the opportunity to prove themselves on the international stage.

        Michael’s brother David on the other hand, even with his amount of FC runs, never got a shot in the Test team. Was it because he didn’t score enough at FC level? Or did he not impress when given international exposure? Maybe it’s a chicken and an egg, but both formats influence, and should influence, selectors.

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