~~England paying price for taking ODIs lightly~~

Published: Sunday, April 9, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Blaming the English attitude, which has always treated One-day cricket as a ''poor relation'' of Test cricket, former captain Michael Atherton believes Andrew Flintoff's team will get away without having to explain their below par show against India because of this mindset.

''I can remember as a young cricketer being told repeatedly that it was Test cricket which made or broke a player's reputation,'' Atherton wrote in his column for the Daily Telegraph.

''The coaching, the talk, the tactics are all centred on trying to produce Test match batsmen. And so, by and large, England produced stiff-wristed, technically sound, low-intensity players.'' Writing about England's pathetic ODI display, Atherton said the performance is not likely to evoke any major reaction back home.

''How will England's tour of India be judged in the weeks to come? Given the ravages of injuries and illness and the wholehearted effort which brought a heroic draw in Mumbai (Test), will it be judged a modest success?'' ''Or, as this One-day series has become the most one-sided since the Christians were thrown to the lions, will it be seen as a miserable failure?'' he questioned.

''My suspicion, in England at least, is that the more charitable view will prevail.'' Atherton said this was because the English have never taken One-day cricket seriously and all that matters for them is the Test success.

''English attitudes to the respective forms of the game offer a clue as to why England continue to fare so badly at One-day cricket,'' Atherton said.

Atherton pointed out that the system in the country gave too much importance to Test cricket leading players to believe that they could afford to lose the ODIs as long as they registered Test victories.

''It is not that England's players try less hard to win One-day matches, but, through no fault of their own, through a process of osmosis the attitude that it doesn't matter as much if you lose has seeped in,'' he explained.

Elaborating further, the former captain said when Flintoff stayed awake to receive a sports award the night before an ODI no one questioned his professionalism but would have been severely criticised in case the match in question was a Test game.

''I can't imagine he would have stayed up so late the night before a Test match,'' Atherton wrote.

Atherton said India, on the other hand, were completely different in their approach and gave way too much importance to ODIs because of the money involved and that perhaps explais their One-day success story.

However, the extreme outlook has proved detrimental for them in Test cricket.

''Crowds throng to the One-day games; they lionise an unproven Test match performer like Mahendra Singh Dhoni. For them, Test matches are the hors d'oeuvre to the main event,'' he said.

While asserting that the longer version of the game remained the true test of players' endurance and capabilities, Atherton said England would do themselves a world of good if they accepted the modern-day dominance of One-day cricket.

''If the England team don't want to experience another hellish week like the one that lies ahead of them now, with only pride at stake, they had better get used to the idea,'' Atherton said.

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