Lots of world cricket recently. Cricket here, cricket there, cricket everywhere.
In the last month, New Zealand defeated India to lift the inaugural World Test Championship. South Africa swept the Test series 2-0 and won the T20I series 3-2 against the world champions, West Indies, who themselves blew Australia out of the park in the T20I series.
Ireland emerged victorious in an almost-perfect ODI match against South Africa. Finally, a last-minute England’s second-string squad whitewashed a full-strength Pakistan team 3-0, and a second-string India threatens to be too strong for Sri Lanka on paper.
Embrace the Uncertainty
If you tried predicting all the series above, most likely you would have missed a few. Cricket’s landscape is changing. A vast transformation is taking place.
No single team is unbeatable, and no team can be taken lightly. Case and point— Sri Lanka. Transition phase, lackluster, downfall, where are the glory days gone?—call them anything, but they are the only Asian side to win a Test series in South Africa and that too in 2019.
In the current ODI Super League, Ireland have blown hot and cold. They have defeated current ODI World Cup holders, England and South Africa. Those were no fluke victories either—chasing 329 and putting 291 on the board is no little feat. However, the Irish drew 1-1 against UAE, lost 0-3 against Afghanistan, and surrendered important Super League points to Netherlands in a 1-2 series loss.
New Winners, New Stories
Let us dissect this further. This uncertainty is not a recent phenomenon either. Due to the influx of ICC tournaments (almost one every year now), there is a higher probability of multiple teams claiming a world trophy.
Gone are the days of West Indies 1980s (1975/1979 WC winners, 1983 finalist) and Australia 2000s (1996 finalists, 1999/2003/2007 WC winners, 2006/2009 Champions Trophy winners).
South Africa (till 2015) and India been right up there over the last decade without putting their stamp of domination. West Indies have dominated T20Is, England have changed ODI cricket, and New Zealand have been a constant force.
Yet since the 2013 Champions Trophy, a different winner has conquered each ICC Trophy.
- 2013 Champions Trophy: India
- 2014 T20 World Cup: Sri Lanka
- 2015 ODI World Cup: Australia
- 2016 T20 World Cup: West Indies
- 2017 Champions Trophy: Pakistan
- 2019 ODI World Cup: England
- 2021 World Test Championship: New Zealand
In the next decade, 5 WTC Finals, 6 T20I World Cups, 3 ODI World Cups, and 2 Champions Trophies will provide ample opportunity for new winners.
Sure, with the bench strength that England, India, or New Zealand possess, they will be contenders but not certain winners.
ICC Has Gotten Something Right
Honest confession time. I have been critical of the ICC in the past, but must give it to them. They have a made a few decent decisions recently—pushing for cricket in the Olympics, extending future World Cups to include more Associate nations (14-team ODI WC, 20-team T20I WC), and most importantly, by providing much needed structure.
The first great thing ICC did was granting T20I status to all 104 nations in 2018. It was the right step in “globalizing the game” by ensuring standardization in terms of grounds, umpiring, and code of conduct. T20I World Cups scheduled every two years will ensure vigorous qualification structure.
To provide context in Test cricket, the World Test Championship was installed. It has numerous flaws, but the fact that spectators were critical of the points table, a record number watched the finals, and predictions for the next cycles have already begun show that the ICC have succeeded at some level in contextualizing Test cricket. The fact that Virat Kohli, Tim Paine, Joe Root, and Kane Williamson have been active advocates for the WTC has made it an even better spectacle to view.
The best of these ICC innovations has to be the 13-team ODI Super League that feeds into the new ODI World Cup qualification system. Every ODI series is a 3-match affair, and every team plays 24 matches. This is already a win for the likes of Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and the Netherlands, getting opportunities to compete against the top teams consistently. By the looks of it, Sri Lanka and even South Africa are in real danger of not making direct qualification for the next World Cup, spicing things up.
These systems are only in their infancy, and by the time the structure is robust, cricket will be at a better place.
Looking Forward to the 2020s
The 2000s was a wonderful era for cricket—a collision of generations. Sri Lanka-Pakistan-India had strong teams, England, New Zealand, & West Indies were competitive enough, while South Africa & Australia were the teams to beat. ODI cricket was at its peak, Test cricket was still prospering, and the Sehwags & Gayles provided us a glimpse into T20 future.
The 2010s saw each team going through massive transition eras. Home advantage in Test cricket killed any semblance of competition. The overkill of T20 cricket questioned cricket’s existence at the core.
Cricket has seen a turning point, especially since 2019. All formats have seen riveting action.
Carlos Brathwaite’s Remember the Name gave T20Is its unique iconic image. T20 cricket is now at its pinnacle with T20 specialists popping in every country and most nations now possessing a stable T20 league. With two consecutive T20 World Cups coming up, each T20I series is closely followed.
Brendon McCullum’s New Zealand and Eoin Morgan’s England changed the way ODI cricket was played. The 2019 World Cup final, Ben Stokes/Steve Smith’s Ashes, and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy have created a new generation of cricket fans. A sporting Test cricket pitch can go a long way. Bonners-Myers 4th innings chase, Fawad Alam’s almost match-saving knock, and the World Test Championship final all gave chills.
Changes will continue, one team will no longer dominate, and that is only a good thing. World cricket has survived its chaotic phase and has come out for the better.
Copyright @Nitesh Mathur, Broken Cricket Dreams 07/14/2021. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org