In the summer of 2005, with Test cricket struggling to stay relevant in many parts of the world, England beat Australia in an epic Ashes series. It was their first success over the old enemy in a generation, and for a few weeks, cricket competed with football for headlines on the sports pages.
In The Happy Prince, Oscar Wilde wrote: “Any place you love is the world to you.” In the summer of 2009 [winter in the southern hemisphere], Manish Pandey’s world was South Africa’s highveld. But more than the 67-ball hundred against Deccan Chargers at Supersport Park in Centurion, it’s the boy in flip-flops that I remember, traipsing through the Sandton City Mall with a smile that had the full wattage of worry-free youth.
The building blocks of a successful T20 side are quite simple. You need to be extremely athletic and agile in the field, bowl a heavy ball with change-ups, use spin variations, and wield the long handle as well as you run the quick singles and twos.
Sadly for Ireland, despite registering wins against England in Bangalore (2011 World Cup) and West Indies in Nelson (World Cup 2015) and dominant performances in the tournaments involving associates, the call-up to the top table came a few years too late.
It was half a decade ago that N Srinivasan, Giles Clarke and Wally Edwards came up with the concept of the Big Three, a self-serving cartel intended to make the game’s richest cricket boards considerably wealthier. The divvying up of cricket’s revenue-pie on those lines didn’t come to pass, but its after-effects have been felt in other ways, not least in the structuring of the Future Tours Program (FTP).
Other countries like West Indies and Pakistan set higher yo-yo test benchmarks for their players. That even the 16.1 score wasn’t met by the likes of Mohammed Shami, Sanju Samson and Ambati Rayudu says far more about those individuals than it does about the team management. The limited-overs forms, for all the recent dominance of spin bowling, have become primarily about power and athleticism, two areas where India have usually lagged behind.
June 17 was meant to be the World Cup’s first Super Sunday, featuring both Brazil and Germany, with nine World Cup wins between them. But Switzerland, ranked 6th in the latest FIFA rankings, and Mexico, winners of the Olympic tournament in 2012, were in no mood to follow the expected script.
Spain’s 3-3 draw with Portugal was one of the most thrilling World Cup games ever, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick – sealed with a magnificent free-kick – giving Portugal a deserved share of the points. We look at five of the things we learned from the thrill-a-minute encounter.
It isn’t just the path they’ve taken to Test status that makes Afghan cricket an anomaly. Most emerging nations could boast of one or two quality batsmen when they came on the scene. It was the bowling that invariably let them down. Ironically, given the reputation as no country for pace bowlers, it was India that bucked that trend when they played their first Test in England in 1932
Hardik Pandya and R Ashwin were batting in front of sparsely filled stands at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, but a lot of the attention was on what was taking place in a secluded corner of the stadium complex. On the National Cricket Academy premises, in the nets where teams usually prepare for games, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and others were taking the yo-yo test, which is now one of the guidelines for selection in any India squad.
The Afghan mindset, epitomised by the rotund figure of Mohammad Shahzad, has been a revelation in the limited-overs arena, where their refusal to be intimidated by any opposition has played such a big part in them becoming the pick of the emerging nations. So much of the pre-match talk was of how they expected to take that attitude into the Test arena and thrive in similar vein.
India have a couple of selection conundrums to sort out before they step on to the park. The pitch, which has been prepared under cloudy skies and with plenty of rain in the air, has a fair smattering of grass, but also comes with a reputation for assisting the slow bowlers.
If there had been more players like Pietersen, Test cricket’s fortunes wouldn’t have declined. As much as he loved winning, he understood that sport at its zenith is also about transmitting joy, about making people dream. “And last but most definitely not least, when you are at the crease; when you have played yourselves in; when you decide to take the attack to the bowlers, commit yourselves fully,” he told the listening Afghan players. “Not just to attack. But to entertain.”
When Dinesh Karthik made his first statement as an international cricketer, in September 2004, Thefacebook.com was a social-networking platform known only to some college students in the United States of America. Twitter lay in the future. He turned 33 earlier this month and, on Thursday, will win just his 24th Test cap.