"It's a heck of a challenge. The modern cricketer is challenged more than any other generation before with the different formats and the adaptability required to go across the formats. I think it will be very hard for most cricketers to play all three formats. It is a real challenge for young cricketers to try to develop their game to be chopping and changing so much and playing so much T20 cricket early on. What it requires to be a good hitter is very different to what it requires to be a good batter." The above are the words of former Australian captain Greg Chappell who, as Cricket Australia’s talent manager, is tasked with ensuring the future of the game ‘is in good hands’.
I came across this article a few hours after I finally decided to comment on an issue that has been on my mind for a long time and which became foremost in my thoughts during the second game of the Caribbean Premier League on July 31. Back then I asked some colleagues why was 17-year-old Nicolas Pooran turning out for the Red Steel instead of representing Trinidad and Tobago in the Under-19 tournament taking place simultaneously in St. Kitts. One response was that the CPL would be good exposure for the youngster. Pooran proceeded to unleash a barrage of breathtaking strokes on his way to a 24-ball 54 that belied his years. Thanks to television I, and viewers around the globe, caught a glimpse of the left-hander’s undoubted talent, a talent which needs to be channeled very carefully.
The regional selectors obviously think highly of Pooran, enough to reserve a place for him on the West Indies Under-19 against their Bangladeshi counterparts even though he missed the St. Kitts tournament. They should be mindful though that he is still learning his craft and adjusting his game across all three formats is not going to be easy. More experienced players have struggled to adapt, resulting in quite a few being pigeon-holed as specialists. Pooran’s countryman Kieron Pollard, who is yet to play a Test, is one such who is making a decent living as a globetrotting T20 professional. Another countryman was not so fortunate. Adrian Barath had quite a promising start to his Test career but lost his place when it became painfully obvious he had no idea whether he was playing in whites or colours. The glitz and glamour, and lucre, of the shortest version of the game would no doubt prove attractive to youngsters but for this writer Test cricket is still the ‘real thing’ and emerging regional players should be nurtured with this in mind.
Pooran’s scores since that innings at Providence read 0, 20 not out, 3, 1, 10, 14 (in the CPL), 8, 6, 11, 15 (Champions’ League), 0, 23, 4 and 10 (WI Under-19). Not very flattering statistics! And what the statistics do not show is his cavalier approach to batting in the 50-over Under-19 matches, which can be interpreted as the youngster being unable to adapt to the change of format. His ultimate goal may very well be to make his living on the T20 circuit but it would be a shame to not see such a talent brought to its full potential.
There are and will be many more like Pooran and there will be issues handling them. Another Australian great Rodney Marsh has suggested T20 be reserved for players over 30; this writer believes they should be kept away until they are over 19 at least.