Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Thoughts for the Day

Two questions are currently doing the rounds on the blogs and websites of the cricket world. For what they're worth, here are my thoughts:

1. Why are England so bad at one-day cricket?

You can compare individual players to other individual players all you like (as King Cricket does), but that doesn't get to the root of the problem. After all, England have always been rubbish at one-day cricket, but no one would argue that England haven't had enough talented players over the years to make at least some impression on the world stage. The fact remains that England are the only leading side never to have won a global one-day tournament.

The root of the problem is that we really don't care. And by we, I mean everyone. Even the ECB, deep down, don't care, despite the massive money-spinning potential of seven-match series. They don't care, because the public don't care. The average English cricket fan wants Test success above all else, every time. Who will be talking about the one-day series just finished in a year's time? Who will even remember it?

And because our commitment to one-day cricket is half-hearted at best, we don't play enough games. This may sound strange when one-day cricket is shoe-horned into every available gap in the calendar, but these are games that normally don't involve England, and when they do, they are ill-conceived and poorly scheduled.

We cannot have the best of both worlds. We shouldn't rail against the England one-day side for not being very good, when our own attitude works against a culture of improvement and success. Despite a decent head start, England have played less ODIs than any other Test-playing nation, apart from Bangladesh (first ODI 1986) and South Africa (first ODI 1991). That says it all.

2. Why doesn't anyone care two hoots about the Champions Trophy?

This is much simpler - it's all about meaning. Just what is the point in the Champions Trophy? It's only reason for existence is to make money for the ICC, playing on the fact that (as Mike Holmans points out over on Cricinfo) there are many people out there, myself included, who will watch any cricket, no matter how pointless.

The World Cup already tells us the best one-day side in the world*, so what more can the Champions Trophy do? Its original purpose was to spread the game to emerging nations, and to use money raised to aid development. Fine - the 'ICC Knockout' (imagine that! a name that means something) achieved this in Bangladesh and Kenya. But this context has been lost.

The Champions Trophy is now faceless and unloved. Its very existence devalues other matches. Of course, I will follow every match with huge excitement and still think that England have a chance of winning.

*No one cared two hoots about the last World Cup either, but that was for entirely different reasons. We started out caring, but 47 days and 51 matches later ...

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