Royal London One-Day Cup July 24, 2014

'Unhappy' Samit Patel seeks 50-over solace

After a five-year hiatus, 50-over cricket returns to the English county programme under the guise of the Royal London One-Day Cup this weekend amid no little scepticism and many questions.

It is a format for which public enthusiasm at domestic level is debatable, at the very least, reintroduced in some respects at the worst time of the year and with a block schedule deemed no longer appropriate for the other short form of the game that disrupts a County Championship season approaching its climax in a way that no other sport would consider even for a moment.

And that is without even mentioning the side-effect of having no four-day cricket at a time when England is desperate to see spin bowlers coming to the fore on dry summer pitches.

Its trumpeted importance to the future fortunes of England's 50-over team, meanwhile, is undermined at the start by the absence of the whole of the Test squad and, for at least half of it, of the 13 England Lions players named for a triangular 50-over series against Sri Lanka A and New Zealand A.

In short, it is an addition to the fixture list that seems to have very little going for it, which means that to have a player in Samit Patel's position welcoming its arrival with genuine sincerity must seem almost like the answer to an ECB prayer.

Patel, the Nottinghamshire allrounder, turned up to launch the competition at Trent Bridge to discover that almost by accident he had become its perfect ambassador.

Without an England appearance in any format in 18 months, overlooked for every one-day squad last winter and this spring, passed over even for the England Lions squad in which his co-hosts at the launch, Harry Gurney and Alex Hales, are both included, Patel knows the Royal London One-Day Cup is literally his one opportunity, with the 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand only seven months away, to put himself back in contention.

As a spokesman for its relevance, therefore, he had no need of a script to say all the right things. Forty-over cricket is the past; fifty overs is where it's at.

"I'm a fan of it," Patel said. "Solely because England play it. The new competition is chance for anyone who wants to play for England to press their case.

"We begin with three games in four days starting at Horsham on Sunday and I think it is important for me personally to get off to a good start as it is for the team. Starting well is massive for me."

Actually, such is Patel's disappointment at the way his England career has stalled he needs little prompting anyway to express his frustration.

A batsman who combines elegance and clean-hitting power and a left-arm spinner of skill and adaptability, he has not played for England since the one-day series in India in January 2013.

He admits he is not only frustrated but "unhappy" at his failure to win a recall and craves any opportunity he can find to advertise his international credentials.

"The selectors told me to go back to county cricket and get some runs, which I have, and still I'm not selected," he said. "I'm okay - kind of okay - with the reasons they have given me, but I am frustrated and unhappy, to be honest."

You can see his point. He made more than 1800 runs in all cricket for Nottinghamshire last year, 566 of which came in the Yorkshire Bank 40 competition which they won, when Patel's 3 for 21 in the final at Lord's was crucial to their victory over Glamorgan.

This year he already has more than 1,000 runs in first-class cricket as well as 300 runs and 14 wickets in helping Nottinghamshire qualify for the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast. He knows he has been held back in the past by his struggle to maintain his weight, but says that part of his history is not the concern.

"I had a fitness test in May and came through that okay so there is no issue there," he said. "It is just down to performances in the middle."

No one is better placed to judge his candidacy now, of course, that Mick Newell, director of cricket at Nottinghamshire and England selector. He is clear unequivocally that Patel has an opportunity to push himself forward and points out, too, the competition's importance to several other players with England ambitions, while offering a typically candid assessment of the good points and the shortcomings of its introduction at this time.

"The 50-over game is the one they play at international level and we have been in a position when we are looking to identify prospective England players who have never played 50-over cricket," he said.

"It is a different game from 40 overs, different tactically with that period in the middle of the innings and one that needs players to concentrate for three and a half hours.

"A good 40-over player might be a good 50-over player too but you want to give players, whether it be Alex Hales and Harry Gurney here, or the likes of Jason Roy and James Vince the chance to develop some solid 50-over form and with a World Cup coming up in seven months' time it is important to have the chance to assess players in the 50-over format."

Newell thinks, too, that the quality of cricket will be good enough, despite the absence of established England players because of the ongoing Test series. "I think the overseas players will keep the standard high and the players picked for the Lions will be able to play in five of their county's eight games.

"There have been suggestions that some counties might see it as an opportunity to rest players and if they want to do that it is up to them. It will be a competition where you will see some of the younger players given some first-team experience, as was the case with the 40-over game.

"But with four teams in each group going through to the quarter-finals there will be plenty of counties who will think they can win it and will be keen to field strong sides.

"There may be tweaks in the format down the line. Taking spinners out of the picture at this time of year is probably not ideal and for that reason I'd favour playing it in two blocks of four matches, one in late May and one now. But that's just my opinion."

An opinion worth heeding, though. Few people in English cricket speak more sense, more readily.

Another opinion, supported strongly in these pages earlier in the year, by the former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe, is that international one-day cricket should be played over 40 overs in any case. Marketing men across the counties would endorse that argument, shuddering as they undoubtedly are at the thought of how to sell 10.30am starts to punters who would much rather come after lunch.

For the moment, though, 50 overs is back, for better or worse. Samit, at least, can't wait.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2014, 9:10 GMT

    It is hard being a cricket fan. As the article says a block format did not work for 20/20 so they removed it and replaced it with a block format for a different type of cricket. they then turn 20/20 into a weekly affair meaning no truly quality players will sign thus devaluing the competition. o make matters worse they schedule the group stages so that you only play two teams once! Really, on what planet did someone think that was a good idea! Every year the ECB tinkers with the formats and rules and make things harder and harder for fans to understand. I recently went to a Friday night 20/20 with my brother, a non cricketer who usually watches football. I live a fair distance from the venue (my only local venue) so had to book half day off work and we will just got there is time. The first thing he said was "why don't they play at 3 on a Saturday when the football was on?". If we are going down the weekly route why not the football fans might come?

  • Torsha on July 25, 2014, 0:03 GMT

    What a waste of a talent!

  • Allan on July 24, 2014, 23:42 GMT

    He's just not international quality, same as Bopara. Get over it. He gets slammed all over by good players and doesn't show nounce or ability to weedle out class batsmen. He's everything England shouldn't be picking - bits 'n' pieces mediocrity. As for Bopara back in the Lions squad, give me a break. What message is that hat sending to young county hopefuls?

  • Dummy4 on July 24, 2014, 21:02 GMT

    Samit Patel would have played many more games for England if he had lost weight, no ones fault but his own....

  • Mark on July 24, 2014, 20:35 GMT

    I think what Mick was saying regarding spinners, wasn't quite clear enough. Of course spinners will play a significant part in this comp, but by having half the games in May would push more CC cricket into August thus have them bowling a lot more at a better time of year for 4 day cricket. A typical example of the bizarre schedule this summer is Notts last played CC cricket at home on June 25th - the last day of our win against Somerset, have then since completed 12 of 16 games and won't be at home until we play York's in September! Is there any wonder we generally go into most games with Patel - a batsmen who bowls, as our only spinner. Anyway looking forward to the competition bit worry about gate receipts.

  • Jonathan on July 24, 2014, 20:33 GMT

    I'd say there's potential for him to come in over the mediocre Bopara, right down to the slow-bowling slot, if he proves himself. Not that I think for a moment that the England management will see it like that.

  • No featured comments at the moment.