Can You Break the Shackles of Your Limited Cricket Talents?
Does natural talent define your playing format?
Ed Smith argues that it does. In this article he say ODI batting is harder because it requires more natural talent. Test skills can be learned, ODI skills need something that can't be taught and a touch of genius.
"it is far harder to make yourself a top-flight batsman in ODIs. This is especially true at the top of the order, where most matches are won and lost... the ability consistently to hit a new white ball bowled at 90mph over the ropes? I wouldn't recommend that anyone attempt to base a career around that skill set unless he had first won the genetic lottery for natural talent."
It is true that not everyone can do such an awesome feat. What bothers me is the last 5 words.
What goes into talent? You might say technique, amount of practice, type of practice, confidence, grit, conditions and opposition bowling skill.
Some are in you control, others are not.
I would also argue that upbringing is crucial. How much money you have, the culture in which you grow up, the coaches you have (and the value they place on different formats), and the determination of your parents to help with you passion; even when your passion wanes in face of failure.
All these things are not "natural" but all plug into that final number we call the batting average.
Really, it's hard to define where natural talent ends and hard work begins. How much of batting skill is pure born hand to eye magic that requires zero practice or experience? When you think about how hard players have to work to make it to professional level - and how much expertise they have to pick up along the way - let alone International level, you realise that there is much less nature than you instinctively imagine.
In my mind, if there are natural differences between players - and I think there are - these differences stem from a combination of many physical and psychological traits. These traits go far beyond imagining Dhoni just picked up a bat one day and started hitting bowlers everywhere.
Perhaps natural ability is hand to eye coordination so good you can blast the first ball of a match for six. Perhaps it's a way of quickly acquiring these types of skills. Perhaps it's your determination to keep at a practice until you master your game. Perhaps it's sheer 10,000 hours style volume of playing. Perhaps it's all those things. The point is, even if it is all those elements and more, the final batting average still has further influences.
There is no doubt that the limited over format requires different skills to Tests, but are they harder? Are they reserved only for the genius? Hard hitting looks more impressive and seems more difficult for mere mortals to achieve, so we put it down to ODI batsman simply being more talented.
A brilliant ODI innings is so breathtaking we forget that a brilliant Test innings requires just as much talent, they are just different talents that appear easier to obtain. You might see Joss Buttler hit a length ball for six and gasp "I could never do that". Then you might watch Jonathan Trott painfully accrue a hundred in Australia and think "Sure, that was good, but I can see myself doing that. He basically just left the ball and waited for bad ones on his pads". These things may be true, but is the latter skill really any easier? Does the former really require more natural skill?
I would argue not.
Your road is only ever partially defined by your nature. You can do a huge amount with the right work. That should be empowering to you.
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He seems to be misappropriating the use of the word talent.
I don't see how the ability to survive a spell of new ball bowling on a green seaming wicket on the first morning of a test match requires any less "talent" than being able to swing for the fences in the powerplay of a T20 game, or anything in between.
Both require mental strength, courage of conviction, a well-honed technique, and a huge amount of skill.
There are many ways to be talented. Test cricket just requires a different kind of talent. If it was easy then anyone could do it.
Perhaps he means a specific talent, like a talent for clean ball striking, in which case he might have a point. But he didn't say that.
I agree and as I said in the article, perhaps the ODI skill set seems to require more talent because it seems less obtainable. We all think we can develop a sound technique and concentration to play in difficult conditions given enough practice. Less of think we can smash sixes.
What is talent anyway? "A natural skill" according to the dictionary. But given that all players constantly learn as they play and practice, then is there really any way of knowing which skills are natural and which are learnt? Is there even a meaningful difference?
Given that certain physical skills can be more easily mastered and obtained at an early age, perhaps what we mean by a "talented player" is simply one who was exposed to the correct physical stimuli at a young age in order to obtain these skills.
That is important as a question. I would add that some people are better than others at developing skills and perhaps that is where "talent" lies when combined with an inner determination to practice harder, longer and better than everyone else.