International one-day cricket in England appears to have grown up at last. It has taken 43 years to reach this point. In that time fleeting glimpses of maturity have never come close to allaying its status as a poor relation.
But this seminal summer has seen it welcomed into the fold, finally one of us and ready to stand on its own two feet. After the victory which levelled the series against Australia at 2-2 – with the decider in Manchester on Sunday – England’s assistant coach, Paul Farbrace, reflected on how Andrew Strauss came in and inspired the shift in approach.
It goes beyond the perception that the status of limited-overs cricket has changed. The season of 2015 will be seen as the time when it became acceptable to forge a career in limited-overs alone.
“Andrew Strauss has made it clear that one-day cricket is as important as Test cricket,” said Farbrace. “He said that right from the start. I think that’s one of the reasons he wanted two captains. He likes the idea of having a clear line between Test and one-day cricket and having a bigger squad of players.
“What will happen is that some people will come into one-day cricket and do really well and might get themselves into the Test side. But we’re not using one-day cricket as a vehicle for Test cricket.
“One-day cricket is being treated in isolation to Test cricket. If you have the skills to play one-day cricket, you can have a great career for England without ever playing a Test match. There’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps a few years ago, it was perhaps seen as a bit of a stepping stone to play Test cricket. I think that is where Strauss has been really clever, he has been very up front and honest about it.”
These were unprecedented words and their effect may be more far-reaching than Farbrace knows. In almost every country other than this one, Test cricket is struggling. While its survival is paramount, a clearer way has to be found for it to live happily alongside limited overs cricket – while being mutually exclusive.
This will be a delicate balancing act but it is music to the ears of the modern cricketer. The generation of new players who have revitalised England this summer – recall how it was, after yet another ignominious World Cup – is the first to have been brought up on Twenty20 cricket and which treats the limited-overs game generally as a natural ally.
Eoin Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, may be one beneficiary. Morgan’s talents mean he should perhaps have played more than 16 Tests but that is no longer the point. Farbrace said: “He would have said previously: ‘Yes, I want to play Test cricket for England.’ But it might just be that we are saying for the first time in England that it’s ok to be seen as a specialist one-day player and you haven’t got to always be pushing to play Test cricket.
“If so, Straussy should take the credit for this. Test cricket might not be suited to you. There will be others in the same boat. Now I am not saying that Morgs wouldn’t play Test cricket for England again but at the moment the way he is playing one-day cricket and the freshness that he then brings into series is working really well.”
England have played well above expectations to come back from 2-0 down against Australia. By and large they have played bright but tough cricket. If they can win today, the process will be hastened – one-day cricket may be truly part of the family.
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