Those writing about cricket bandy the word ‘experience’ around until it ceases to have any meaning, but it’s easy to overlook the significant role it plays in terms of how a player performs.
Experience isn’t just a statistic. It isn’t how many games someone’s played. It’s different conditions, different environments and different situations. Player A might average 50 in county cricket, but it’s not just as simple as bunging him in the national side.
If he’s 22 and hasn’t played a Test before, he’s likely to do worse than Player B who’s 34, has 70 caps, but only averages 40 in first-class cricket.
A Mitchell Johnson quote about the Ashes explains this pretty well.
“I didn’t take in the fact that their home crowd was right behind them all the way and I wasn’t used to that feeling and obviously taking on the role as leader of the attack all got to me a little bit. I’m glad I recovered from it. It has definitely helped and is something you need to go through. It was a learning experience for me.”
For a long time, Australia’s Test side had more Test experience than England’s. As talented as the Aussies were, there was also a greater likelihood that those players would perform at their best.
What conclusions can we draw?
International experience is a valuable commodity and is not to be frittered away on players you hope will come good. Selectors should identify the players they are most certain about and stand by them.
It would be a damn sight easier for them if English domestic cricket actually clarified such issues to some degree.