A warning to selectors

THE current World Cup will have been a great disappointment to those theorists who have been proclaiming that one-day cricket is a game for youngsters and specialist players.

BOB SIMPSON

Jonty Rhodes of South Africa maintained such a high standard that he was considered one of the premier fielders till the time he called it quits . — Pic. ALLSPORT-

THE current World Cup will have been a great disappointment to those theorists who have been proclaiming that one-day cricket is a game for youngsters and specialist players.

On both counts the 2003 World Cup has shown them to be wide of the mark as senior players have played a dominating role.

In some ways it has also shown that the bits and pieces players have done it hard. I may be of the old school, but I have never been able to accept that two different types of teams need to be selected for Test and one-day internationals. It has always been my belief that to play Test cricket you ought to have all the skills to counter the fluctuating circumstances that this unique form of cricket provides.

If you do then you will certainly also have the skills needed to play one-day cricket well.

Obviously there will be occasions when cricketers may not be suitable for Tests but may become outstanding one-day players.

Michael Bevan is an outstanding example. On the generally more lively Test pitches and fewer restrictions on short pitch bowling Bevan has struggled to counter consistent short pitched balls concentrated on his body.

There is no where to hide when this style of attack operates against batsmen who are not happy with it and Bevan has struggled in Test cricket.

On flatter tracks and batting at number six Bevan is more protected in ODIs and has justifiably been considered the best finisher in the game.

He is patient, with a great feel for the occasion and when needed can be dynamic and capable of tearing any bowler to pieces.

It is mooted by theorists that younger legs will bring more speed and pressure on batsmen.

Sounds good in principle, but things don't always work out that way.

Jonty Rhodes was still considered one of the premier fieldsmen up to the time he called it quits. This was before South Africa failed to make the Super Six rounds recently.

Michael Bevan is perhaps the fastest fieldsman in the game, but he is not one of the finest fieldsmen around.

He is inconsistent with balls in the air and on the ground and while quick to the ball he is slow to release it and does not have the strongest throwing arm.

The ideal team blend usually is a mixture of youth and experience.

The feeling is that the youngsters will lift the older players enthusiasm while the senior players experience will help the younger players when the going gets tough.

The Australian team at present are not a young side, but no other team can match them in the field, between wickets, and the ability to lift themselves when the going gets tough. You can almost see the adrenalin rush as they counter attack or apply the screws when they sense the advantage is flowing their way.

No tired bodies or lazy minds in the current team, for their fierce pride is their greatest motivation and this is what comes through when at the end of the day they are still going as hard as on the first delivery.

Youth is a very vital component in a team. Selectors must be always looking to the future to ensure there is talent to replace any fading hero.

At the same time youngsters must earn their place and not be given a break because of their age.

This has not been more obvious than with India's great performances of late.

When India struggled early it was the experienced players — Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid and the daddy of them all Srinath — who put their hands up to be counted.

It comes as no surprise to find Australia have McGrath and Bichel in the top six bowlers and Hayden in the top six batsmen.

Andy Bichel will be thought of as a newcomer to ODIs. But in fact is a very experienced cricketer, who is now grabbing the chance he is now getting through the injury to Gillespie.

One of the secrets of Australia's extended run at the top is that player such as Damyn Martyn, Justin Langer, Mat Hayden and Andy Bichel have all grabbed their second chance when nearing 30 and made successes of them.

The six top scoring batsmen — Tendulkar, Gibbs, Ganguly, Jayasuriya, Atapattu and Hayden and the top six wicket takers, Drakes, Vaas, McGrath, Muralitharan and Bichel are hardly spring chicken.

In fact only Gibbs and Atapattu are on the right side of thirty.

Wasim Akram has been Pakistan's best bowler and Aravinda de Silva has always seemed to be the most likely of the Sri Lankans to score runs when they are needed.

They are both closer to forty, but still with the skill, know how and temperament know how to succeed even when muscles and legs get wearier.

This may be the last time they will be seen on the world stage and the game will be poorer by their absence.

Brian Lara, no spring chicken either these days delighted on many occasions. What a wonder and relief it was to see him back in the middle. He is badly needed both by the West Indies and world cricket.

The 2003 World Cup has been a warning to selectors throughout the world. Never ever underestimate the value of talent when you link it with experience, knowledge and the desire to still perform at the highest level.