Back to the Future?
While most of our posts are focussed on our favourite whipping boys and heroes- Dhoni and Team India- it will make good sense to have a clean look at the cricketing world surrounding our little BCCI-induced bubble. After all, rankings and performances are only subject to the theory of relativity.
Only a few months ago, India was on top of the world- Number One in Tests, 2 in ODIs and clearly the all-round best team in the world. Australia were rebuilding, England was the number one contender, South Africa were inactive, Pakistan were Pakistan, Sri Lanka were sliding and New Zealand were struggling.
It is the penultimate month of the year. Things have changed.
-Australia have almost completed their mortal process of rebuilding, and not surprisingly, Michael Clarke has transformed the team’s fortunes under his captaincy. Being touted as the ‘next captain’ for years, if he was Indian, the pressure would have taken a toll and he’d have exited the job much sooner than entering it. But he has not only lifted his young team, but also transformed his own batting performances into a complete package. He, along with Michael Hussey, are experiencing a new wind of sorts, and with Ponting’s consistent non-100 scores at the top of the order, this Australian line-up looks scarily poised to dominate world cricket ONCE AGAIN in the near future.
Having said that, the next Ashes series scheduled in England will be the ultimate showdown between two evenly balanced teams- and Australia will do well to catch up with their English counterparts within the next year or so, atleast as far as the longer version is concerned. The Baggy Greens need to find themselves a permanent pecking order, and it will only be a matter of time before their test team emulates the success of their Number One ODI team (yes, they never fell from the top).
They are on their way, having just won a 3 match ODI series in South Africa 2-1 against a rusty De Villier-less South African team. The test series will be crucial to both teams, with Australia hosting India right after that, in a month or so.
Believe it or not, we missed the Invincibles, and we want them back in a new Avatar.
Jokers in the Pack
-South Africa experienced their first bout of cricket after the World Cup, after a surprisingly barren period of inaction. AB De Villiers, their new ODI captain, was unavailable for the big series against the Aussies, thanks to some overeager IPL scheduling. It was always going to be tough without their new leader, but Kallis’s form with both bat and ball, is a huge positive. The ‘Ox’ shows no signs of ageing, slowing or wear and tear- and has only become more lethal with the ball lately. The test series might finally catapult him into the rare field of legends, for he has always seemed to be hovering on the sidelines- inspite of having the best statistics of Ponting, Tendulkar and Lara.
-New Zealand are biding their time. They are minnow-specialists, but are still struggling to walk over a spunky, inspired Zimbabwean outfit. After winning the ODI series 2-1 (and not 3-0), the first test is proving to be a competitive game of two sides unwilling to lose, but unable to win. Inspite of a yet another stellar underdog world cup performance, the All Blacks are still unable to break into the top-4 league, and still find themselves languishing with the likes of West Indies, Bangladesh and (sometimes) Pakistan at the bottom of the table.
-There is not a dull moment in the Pakistan camp, as usual. Their 3 rising superstars have been convicted finally, and are awaiting a shattering jail sentence that may spell doom to their careers, and effectively- to the future of Pakistani cricket. But wait, that doesn’t sound right. Unlike India, Pakistan are famous for churning out great clones at the speed of knots, and are already looking quite comfortable without the trio. After a superb World Cup performance that scared the living daylights out of most teams, Pakistan are now looking to achieve that one thing that has eluded them forever: Consistency.
As of now, they are on their way, performing exceedingly well in the longer version. They are 1-0 up in a Test Series against Sri Lanka, being played in their heartland- the Middle East. Sharjah sees a return to Tests after years, with the third test beginning today. It will be interesting to see if the Asian heavyweights cancel out eachother, but with Pakistan- that’s never the case. Either they shock with mediocrity, or stun with brilliance.
-After putting up a limp World Cup performance, Darren Sammy’s new team put up a spirited fight against World Champions India back at home only a month later. They lost the Test series 1-0 and the ODI series 3-2. With Gayle still out of action for inconceivable reasons, While their ODI form has been suspect, surprisingly, their Test form is improving- with a 1-1 draw at home with Pakistan serving as a timely reminder of the new and improved bowling attack. Right now, they have just completed a successful series in Bangladesh, beating them 2-1 in ODIs and 1-0 in the Tests. A big achievement, considering their state only a year ago. They look to play India in a 3 match Test Series and a 5 game ODI series in a few days.
-Bangladesh, simply put, have been hopeless. Their Test Status should be threatened by the new emergence of Zimbabwe, after they were beaten by them in the ONLY test just a few months ago.
-England are the best Test team in the world. Challengers are few. Their ODI team is as helpless, though, with their subcontinental form rivalling Sri Lanka’s away form.
-Sri Lanka are sliding under their new captain Dilshan, and have surrendered meekly at Home (believe it or not) to newly-powered Australia in a recently completed series. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, with Pakistan walking all over them right now- and Sangakkara remaining their only bright spot in a pile of rubble.
The Dark Nights
With West Indies entering India, Australia in South Africa, Sri Lanka in Pakistan technically, New Zealand in Zimbabwe and England all over the world- the season promises to be exciting, putting in context the true World Order for once.