Yeah, maybe worth taking a look at him in other formats

Alex Hales

Alex Hales (via YouTube)

Boundaries are smaller, the white ball does sod all, fielding restrictions are imposed. There are all sorts of reasons why one-day cricket is different from Tests, but all are of secondary importance to the simple fact that it is.

England’s quadruple nelson was built around a record hundred for Alex Hales which then set things up for a successful game of Stick Cricket for Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan. It’s interesting to note that these three batsmen are respectively: struggling, out-of-favour and outright rejected when it comes to the Test team.

It’s hard to avoid asking questions. How can they be so dominant in one-day cricket and yet struggle to keep their heads above water in Tests? Could Alex Hales not go out and play the same way and make 171 off 122 balls in the longer format? Why can’t Jos Buttler just play his natural game?

It bothers us that the formats are occasionally portrayed as being so different as to almost be separate sports. But at the same time, there are differences. We know this simply from the evidence above. Whether it’s the scrutiny, the ball, the constant self-questioning as to what ‘the right thing to do’ might be, a good one-day player does not necessarily make a good Test player.

So should we completely disregard one-day performances when attempting to gauge Test worth (and vice versa)? No, of course not. There is huge overlap too. All three of the one-day batsmen mentioned earlier have a tremendous eye, which is an asset in all forms – an entry requirement even. If they assess risk and reliably choose appropriate shots, they are well on their way to becoming successful Test cricketers. All three have had at least some Test success anyway.

So having argued ourself in circles, what exactly is our point here? We suppose it’s just a plea for people not to reach any kind of concrete conclusions about anyone ever. If a player can’t help but pepper the boundary in 50-over cricket, don’t cry ‘get him in the Test team!’ – but don’t dismiss his achievements as irrelevant either.

The campaign to persuade excited fans to say “yeah, maybe worth taking a look at him in other formats,” starts here.

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16 Appeals

  1. The question is: is the difference between the formats a real question of technique or something that exists in the batsman’s mind?

    I don’t mean to be dismissive with that question, but nevertheless it might allow for more opportunities for cross-pollination. Test batting is built around one fundamental idea – you have all the time in the world and your innings can only come to an end if you make a mistake. ODI batting is not this. Notwithstanding Geoff Boycott’s 8 from 37 balls in the first ever ODI, an ODI batsman is both constrained and freed by the limit of balls to be bowled. Constrained because he needs to score at above a certain rate. Freed because the knowledge that he must score at above a certain rate makes protecting his wicket a secondary issue.

    In modern ODIs, the opening few batsmen have one job – score runs. In tests, every shot is a balance of risk. The mechanics of batting don’t change between the formats, but the brains of batting are utterly dissimilar.

    • King Cricket

      August 31, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Every ball a batsman has to weigh risk against reward, but the ever-approaching deadline of a one-day innings makes these decisions simpler.

      At the start of a team’s 50 overs, your initial thought process is basically ‘if in doubt, hit the thing’. By the end (if you have wickets in hand) it’s just ‘hit the thing’.

      Once you’ve decided to hit the thing, you then need to think about how. Again, the thinking becomes clearer the closer you get to that deadline, culminating in ‘with all your might’.

      • Gentlemen, I have a solution. Pick Hales for a test, send him in to open the innings and tell him that he only has till lunch to bat.

    • A skilled nightwatchman with freed-up next-day mentality.

  2. Maybe we should be taking a Bayesian (The Rev. Thomas Bayes, not George Bayes) approach.

    Start with an idea of how good a player is at various things, and then revise it based on evidence – but obviously an ODI performance would be weighted more heavily in an assessment of ‘ODI goodness’ than in an assessment of ‘Test goodness’.

    Eg – what is the probability of observing an innings of 171 from 122 balls if Hales is a Top Test Player? What is the probability of observing it if he is a White Ball Whalloper only?

    “If the evidence does not match up with a hypothesis, one should reject the hypothesis. But if a hypothesis is extremely unlikely a priori, one should also reject it, even if the evidence does appear to match up.”

  3. Someone should tell Hales he’s got 50 overs from the start of a Test innings.

    Maybe dress him in blue.

    • King Cricket

      August 31, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      [Edges swinging ball to first slip]

    • Was just as well Hales got out when he did and let Morgan and Buttler get in. He was just slowing England down plodding along at that rate.

  4. I’m going to read this as a call for Alastair Cook to be restored to the ODI side.

  5. And anyone who takes records from Robin Smith should be dropped and never allowed to play again in any format.

    • Surely ‘Kevin Pietersen’

      *Awaits men in white coats (umpires?) from the ECB turning up at my office to take me away for ‘enhanced security screening’*

      • I fully expect everyone here to have already seen this, ages ago, but just in case:
        http://www.kevinpietersen.com/about/about-kevin

        The page is somewhat out of date, as he’s not yet changed that bit about being an international cricketer – although it is still true in the mercenary global T20 sense – and boasts of a test average over 50.

        “Kevin is extremely articulate with stories detailing his triumph over adversity, his meticulous training and in-depth preparation, culminating in awe-inspiring perspectives.”

        The trouble those perspectives have got him into…

  6. Technique is a major factor. I don’t see any of them prospering consistently in Test-ing conditions in England, South Africa, India. All are great for hit and giggle, not so much for leave and grind. Sure, mental restraint is a factor but only maybe 30%? Heck, even Sanath was good only 30% of the time in Tests, and he’s probably the benchmark at what these 3 do.

  7. I guess the measure of an ODI batsman as suitable for Tests is HOW he makes those ODI runs. And that will always remain subjective, numbers be damned. The flip side of this point is Sehwag who never made many ODI runs. We always hoped someone would tell him it’s a Test at the start of his ODI innings. Ah, cricket!

  8. If Buttler never plays test cricket again it will be a crying shame. But if he doesn’t, then in one respect it won’t matter.

    His first ever test innings was a thing of beauty. He came in with England well on top, an Indian bowling attack that seemed to have forgotten what sport it was playing and a flat deck but it hardly mattered.

    England has suffered through a 2013 where their only approach to victory was something dour (even in the ODIs of the champions league (trophy, maybe? I keep forgetting which is which). Then the “Ashes-that-was-somehow-worse-than-2006” happened and suddenly things looked even more dour. Bell was still an artist, Ali was great to watch and Ben Stokes tried to make things fun even as he started to forget how to actually play cricket but otherwise it looked like spectators or players enjoying proceedings was a happy accident rather than a specific aim. Without Swann, KP and Prior, it looked like dour was going to be the rule rather than the exception.

    Then Buttler came in, crunched 85 off 83 balls and made everything look fun again. It’s an innings that deserves one of those interminable retrospectives that Sky is only ever 5 minutes from repeating, especially as I think I’ve seen the Ricky Ponting masterclass so often I start repeating bits of it to myself while batting (at 11).

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