3 Unfairly Treated Cricketers Who Have Been Sidelined by the Indian Selectors but Deserve More Chances

3 Unfairly Treated Cricketers Who Have Been Sidelined by the Indian Selectors but Deserve More Chances

By Nitesh Mathur, Broken Cricket Dreams, 5/26/2022

India bowed out of the 2021 T20 World Cup without putting up a proper fight. A lot has changed since then.

Rohit Sharma is now the all-format Indian captain, Rahul Dravid the new coach after Ravi Shastri’s departure, and a new-look India’s T20 tour of South Africa squad is announced.

Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik, Avesh Khan, Ravi Bishnoi, comeback kid Dinesh Karthik, Deepak Hooda, Kuldeep Yadav, and Hardik Pandya all made deserving entries or returns to the T20 side.

IPL performances have been duly rewarded, selectors have displayed some positive thinking, but is the selection aggressive enough?

Also Read: 54 Contenders for the Indian 2022 T20 World Cup Squad — Do Rohit & Virat Deserve a Spot?

3 Indian Cricketers Who Deserve More Chances in T20I

Despite rests for Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and injuries to Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, and Suryakumar Yadav, three players could not find a spot in the 18-man squad. It is hard for anyone to break into the Indian team these days, but team India is making a huge mistake by not giving them a chance at all.

Also Read: Indian Cricket’s Abundance of Talent: A Blessing or a Curse?

1. Prithvi Shaw

Age: 22

Eight years ago, Prithvi Shaw burst onto the scene by scoring 546 (330) in a school competition. Comparisons to Sachin Tendulkar were inevitable (and even Sehwag & Lara for that matter). He then won the U-19 WC as captain and has produced runs at the domestic circuit and IPL level.

Things looked bright, but he has only played 5 Tests (1 century, 2 50s), 6 ODIs, and a sole T20I (debut golden duck by the way).

History of fitness issues has not helped advance Shaw’s case, and he has often been depicted as ‘careless’ or ‘carefree’ in his batting approach. However, this is exactly the need of the hour for Indian cricket in T20Is.

Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Virat Kohli, Mayank Agarwal, and even Ishan Kishan play a similar brand of cricket as openers, but Shaw is a breath of fresh air. This season he has produced knocks of

38 (24) – 2 Sixes/4 Fours, 61 (34) – 2/9, 51 (29) – 7/2, 41 (20) – 7/1, 37 (27) – 1/5

And when he has not gone big, he has knocked singles and made sure the partnership with David Warner flourishes. Prithvi Shaw might not rack up the running charts and stay till the end, but what he provides is worth much more – an impetus to the team from Ball One of the match.

The real question is, will he even get an audition for the T20 WC squad?

IPL 2022: 10 matches, 283 runs, 152.97 SR, 37 fours, 10 sixes, 28.3 average

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2. Rahul Tripathi

Age: 31

Rahul Tripathi was always considered one of those key Indian uncapped players who ‘punches above his weight’ and ‘provides a bit of spark and energy in the field,’ but has always been seen a level below international quality (like a Swapnil Asnodkar, Manvinder Bisla, Nitish Rana, and now Rajat Patidar).

But has Rahul Tripathi been unfairly pigeonholed? He batted with flair this year at SRH (413 Runs, 3 50s, 158.24 SR) and was the catalyst behind KKR’s run to the final last year (397 runs, 2 50s, 140.28 SR). His highest score in each of the last 6 IPLs read

93, 80*, 50, 81, 74*, 76

This means that when he is in the mood, he goes big. But more than the stats, it is Tripathi’s infectious attitude while batting. He starts hitting from ball 1, can float anywhere in the batting lineup, and adapts to any situation. Fast bowlers, spinners, doesn’t matter. 120/2 or 0/1 – he comes in with the same aggression and mindset as a modern day #3 batter should.

Mitchell Marsh, Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan, Mohammad Hafeez, and Devon Conway are the template to bat at #3 these days. Gone are the days of Steve Smith and Virat Kohli steadying the pace.

Tripathi has done all in his power to showcase his ability, but will he ever get a chance?

It is now or maybe never for him.

IPL 2022: 14 matches, 413 runs, 158.23 SR, 40 fours, 20 sixes, 37.54 average

3. Sanju Samson

Age: 27

Sanju Samson has been the most ill-treated of them all. Samson has barely received any chances at the international level since his debut in 2015:

1 T20 Vs Zimbabwe (2015), 1 Vs SL (Jan 2020), 2 Vs NZ (Jan-Feb 2020), 3 Vs Aus (Dec 2020), 3 Vs SL (Jul 2021), 3 Vs SL (Feb 2022).

There is barely any continuity. In his last series in February, he did not bat in the first T20I and scored his personal best – a crucial 39 (25) with 2 fours & 3 sixes at #4. Yet, he has been dropped while the likes of Ishan Kishan & Venkatesh Iyer have been retained despite poor IPL form. What message are the selectors and coach sending?

In Qualifier 1 of IPL 2022, Samson gave an apt reply with the bat.

First ball he faced – SIX! What followed was carnage. His next scoring shots were 4,4,4,6,6. He scored 30 (13) before he even took a single. Now, that is T20 mentality!

That 47 (26) was a more impactful innings than Jos Buttler’s 89 (56).

Sanju Samson and the IPL Inconsistency Myth

He has been on the IPL scene since 2013 but has always carried the perception of ‘inconsistency’, ‘not enough domestic runs’, or ‘throws his wicket away.’

Let us dig a bit deeper. This may have been true from 2013-2016 (where his average hovered between 20.4-26.45 & SR between 112.35-125.15). In each of those years, he would make one or two sparkling fifties and then fall off.

However, from 2017-2022, he has scored 3 hundreds, 12 fifties, striking it between 136.72-150.36 and averaging between 30.07-40.33. Runs in these five years?

386, 441, 342, 375, 484, 421*

His numbers might not be KL Rahul-esque (659, 593, 670, 626, 616) whose SR hovers around 135. Rahul plays an opener/anchor role, while Samson is the middle order intent batter who can keep the game moving and hit spinners out of the attack.

In essence, Sanju Samson has become more consistent, more lethal, and a true match winner.

IPL 2022: 15* matches, 421 runs, 150.35 SR, 40 fours, 24 sixes, 30.07 average

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Why India Need to Select At Least One of Them?

Prithvi Shaw, Rahul Tripathi, and Sanju Samson, literally the only three Indian batters with a modern day T20 batting mindset, were omitted from the South Africa squad list. Although India has about 24 T20Is to try out new players before the 2022 T20 World Cup later this year, their exclusion reveals India’s reluctance to play ultra-aggressive cricket.

Among Indian players, only Dinesh Karthik (187. 28), Rajat Patidar (156.25), Shivam Dube (156.21), Rishabh Pant (151.78) have comparable Strike Rates. Samson, Tripathi, and Shaw have taken the leap of faith with risk & reward. The real question is, will Indian selectors?

Samson’s own words summarizes the Shaw-Tripathi-Samson Paradox beautifully. At Breakfast with Champions, he stated that

“When you’re doing a role like this. In T20s, when you are there to hit sixes…you need to have guts inside yourself, you need to be brave enough to do that role…failures will happen…If I get to play, I play. If I don’t, I don’t.”

“I am not here to score lots and lots of runs…I am here to score a small amount of runs which are very effective for the team.”

India Need to Revive the Memories of 2007

India last won a T20 World Cup way back in 2007. It was the inaugural edition, nobody knew what this beast T20 cricket would come, and the IPL had yet to be announced.

Stalwarts Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly stepped aside to give youngsters a chance. Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Sreesanth, Joginder Sharma, RP Singh, and even the timeless Dinesh Karthik would make the squad. The Pathan brothers, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, and Virender Sehwag were the ‘seniors’ in the side lead under a certain captain MS Dhoni.

And guess what happened? India won—a young team with nothing to lose who just went out there, took risks, and expressed themselves.

Fast forward 15 years and 6 T20 World Cups later, India has yet to win another trophy. What’s worse? They have not even played close to their potential (Virat Kohli dragged into the finals and semi-finals of the 2014 & 2016 editions).

It might be time for a couple of seniors to step aside and give a free reign to players who can go there and play their natural, free-flowing, expressive cricket.

© Copyright @Nitesh Mathur and Broken Cricket Dreams, 2021. Originally published on 05/26/2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Broken Cricket Dreams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (i.e. linked to the exact post/article).

Photo Courtesy: IPLT20.com Indian Premier League Official Website (iplt20.com)

Top 11 Cricketers Who Retired Too Early – The Lost Generation of Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, AB De Villiers, Hashim Amla, and Michael Clarke

Top 11 Cricketers Who Retired Too Early – The Lost Generation of Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, AB De Villiers, Hashim Amla, and Michael Clarke

Greatness.

A simple word that carries immense burden. What defines greatness in sports? Statistical brilliance, nostalgia, longevity? In cricketing terms, 99.94, memories like Brett Lee vs Sachin Tendulkar, 100 Tests, or 15 years+ career?

Also Read: 22 Unlucky Cricketers, Most Underrated Cricketers

To Retire Or Not to Retire, That is the Question

Legacies are largely depended on the final days in the international arena. Retirement has always been a tricky issue in cricket.

Sourav Ganguly’s Ian Chappell saga tarnished his otherwise positive legacy. A poor 2007 Cricket World Cup ended dreams for Brian Lara & Inzamam ul-Haq. Simon Jones’ career ended before it could start due to injuries.

Some overstay and risk going out on a low. Others like German soccer captain Philipp Lahm retired internationally at the age of just 30 after winning the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

The Lost Generation

Today we dive deep into the careers of the lost generation of 2005—Alastair Cook, AB De Villiers, Michael Clarke, and Hashim Amla, all of them would retire prematurely.

With the triple retirement of Dale Steyn, Brendon Taylor, and Lasith Malinga, the legendary class of 2004-06 is coming to a close. Only Broad-Anderson & Ross Taylor remain from the greats of this era.

Sandwiched between the 90s golden generations of Sangakkara-Jayawardene-Muralitharan, Tendulkar-Laxman-Ganguly-Dravid, Kallis-Pollock-Boucher-Ntini, Inzamam-Yousuf, Ponting led Australia, & the Fab 4 (Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith), there was the class of 2004 & 2005.

Why did these cricketers retire so soon? How does the future look like? Read till the end for our in-deptj analysis & final thoughts.

11 Cricketers Who Retired Too Early

While legends of the past played 12-15 years, the cricketers in this list only had about 9-12 years of international cricket. The fact that they followed the golden generation lead to slightly later debuts and hence, even shorter careers.

One of the clear indications of the early retirement for the batters is the statistics. Most did not cross 10,000, their averages fell below 50, and the centuries hovered between 25-27 (although at one stage it seemed each of these players would break them all).

Anderson’s long career seems like he is on another level (which he is) but in all reality, at one stage, all of these players would have careers as long as Jimmy Anderson.

The players in this list were not dropped. They retired on their own terms or because of other circumstances. Hence, we exclude players like Ian Bell, Virender Sehwag, Umar Gul, Suresh Raina, and Gautam Gambhir who were available for selection but were unfortunately dropped from the team plans later in their career.

1. Michael Clarke (Australia)

Tests: 115 Matches, 8643 runs, 49.10 average, 329* best, 100s/50s – 28/27, 31 wickets

ODIs: 245 Matches, 7981 runs, 44.58 average, 130 best, 100s/50s – 8/58, 57 wickets

T20Is: 34 Matches, 488 runs, 21.21 average, 103.17 SR, 67 best, 50-1, 6 wickets

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: January 18, 2003 (ODI)
  • Last Match: August 19-22, 2015 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 21
  • Age Retired: 33
  • Why Did He Retire?

Retiring on a high is every cricketer’s dream. Captaining Australia to a victory at home in front of the MCG crowd must have been a surreal experience. A few months later, the Ashes would be his final appearance. One of the bests #4 batters of all-time with a godly conversion rate in Tests. The 2012-13 season would always be remembered as Clarke’s year, the only batter to score 4 double centuries in a year.

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2. Ryan Harris (Australia)

Tests: 27 Matches, 113 wickets, 23.52 average, 50.70 SR, best of 7/117 & 9/106, 4w/5w – 4/5

ODIs: 21 Matches, 44 wickets, 18.90 average, 5/19 best, 5w – 3

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: January 17, 2009 (ODI)
  • Last Match: January 5-9, 2015 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 29
  • Age Retired: 35
  • Why Did He Retire?

Harris’ career was a classic cases of fast bowling injuries. Whenever he was fit, he bowled his heart out and made an indelible impact. Could not make the XI in Australia’s golden generation and had to leave early due to chronic knee injury. Retired 3 days before the Ashes because he could not recover even after surgery. Will always be remembered for the ball of this century to dismiss Alastair Cook.

“I played 27 more Tests than I ever thought I would and I have relished every single moment of them.”

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3. Sir Alastair Cook (England)

Tests: 161 Matches, 12472 runs, 45.35 average, 294 best, 100s/50s – 33/57

ODIs: 92 Matches, 3204 runs, 36.40 average, 137 best, 100s/50s – 5/19

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: February 28 – March 4, 2006 (Test)
  • Last Match: September 6-10, 2018 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 21
  • Age Retired: 33
  • Current Age: 36
    • Still playing for Essex and hitting centuries
  • Why Did He Retire?

At one point in time, he was touted to overtake Sachin Tendulkar as the highest run-scorer and century maker having scored 5000 runs at 26. Will always be remembered for the 2010-11 Ashes series down under. However, loss of form and inconsistency creeped in. Tougher playing conditions, 159 Tests in a row, and the KP saga probably got to him. Century in his first and last Tests against India showed that he still had it in him. Still the best opener in England?

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4. Sir Andrew Strauss (England)

Tests: 100 Matches, 7037 runs, 40.91 average, 177 best, 100s/50s – 21/27

ODIs: 127 Matches, 4205 runs, 35.63 average, 158 best, 100s/50s – 6/27

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: November 17, 2003 (ODI)
  • Last Match: August 15-19, 2018 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 27
  • Age Retired: 35
  • Why Did He Retire?

Due to his late debut, it was inevitable that Strauss would not have an extremely long career, but England fans learned how great Andrew Strauss was after his retirement, for both his captaincy & batting. Since the Cook-Strauss partnership ended, England could not find a stable partner for Cook (and Cook’s effectiveness also decreased). KP himself said in an interview that the text-messaging scandal on the eve of Strauss’s 100th Test was one of his biggest mistakes, which tarnished Strauss’ last match. Later became ECB’s Director of cricket and subsequently received knighthood for his service to English cricket.

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5. Kevin Pietersen (England)

Tests: 104 Matches, 8181 runs, 47.28 average, 227 best, 100s/50s – 23/35

ODIs: 136 Matches, 4440 runs, 40.73 average, 130 best, 100s/50s – 9/25

T20Is: 37 Matches, 1176 runs, 37.93 average, 141.59 SR, 79 best, 50s – 7

T20s: 200 Matches, 5695 runs, 33.89 average, 136.89 SR, 115* best, 100s/50s – 3/35

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: November 27, 2004 (ODI)
  • Last Match: January 02-04, 2014 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 24
  • Age Retired: 33
  • Why Did He Retire?

See Strauss above. Jokes aside, KP’s career had always been hampered by controversies. Although he had to leave South Africa and debuted relatively late, he quickly established himself as one of the greatest in his generation. Key contributor to the 2005 Ashes, 2012 India series, and 2010 T20 World Cup victories, he was a key component of driving English cricket forward. Although he was England’s highest scorer in the Mitchell Johnson 2015 series, he was a casualty of the 5-0 defeat. Poor relationship with Strauss & coach Andy Flower did not help as the management decided that KP’s career is over.

KP might have been controversial off the field, but there is no doubt he changed cricket for the better. Fast forward 15 years, everybody has an inner KP with the switch hits & aggressive mindset. Paved the way for English cricketers to join the IPL & other T20 leagues, thereby moving England one step closer to their eventual 2019 World Cup winning campaign.

Also Read: South African Cricketers Who Play For Other Countries: Labuschagne, Neil Wagner,…Can you Guess the Rest?

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6. Graeme Swann (England)

Tests: 60 Matches, 255 wickets, 29.96 average, 60.10 SR, best of 6/65 & 10/132, 4w/5w/10w – 14/17/3

ODIs: 79 Matches, 104 wickets, 27.76 average, 5/28 best, 4w/5w – 3/1

T20Is: 39 Matches, 51 wickets, 16.84 average, 3/13 best

T20s: 80 Matches, 98 wickets, 18.88 average, 3/13 best

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: January 22, 2000 (ODI), December 10-14, 2008 (Test)
  • Last Match: December 12-16, 2013 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 29 (Test), 20 (ODI)
  • Age Retired: 34
  • Why Did He Retire?

Statistically, Swann does not make the best bowlers of all-time list, but what he did in his 5-year Test career was continued the art of off-spin. After T20 cricket & ODI Powerplay rule changes, leg spinners flourished in the 2010s. Except for Daniel Vettori, finger spin was a dying art. Swann took off-spin forward and became a cog of the famed 2010-11 English lineup. Late Test debut, an elbow injury, and Johnson 2013 ensured that he retired mid-series (after the 3rd Test).

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7. Saeed Ajmal (Pakistan)

Tests: 35 Matches, 178 wickets, 28.10 average, 65.10 SR, best of 7/75 & 11/111, 4w/5w/10w – 9/10/4

ODIs: 113 Matches, 184 wickets, 22.72 average, 5/24 best, 4w/5w – 6/2

T20Is: 64 Matches, 85 wickets, 17.83 average, 4/19 best

T20s: 195 Matches, 271 wickets, 17.36 average, 4/14 best

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: July 1, 2008 (ODI)
  • Last Match: April 23, 2015 (T20I)
  • Age Debuted: 31
  • Age Retired: 37
  • Why Did He Retire?

Another one who debuted late, but made an immediate impact. From the cricketers who retired too early, Saeed Ajmal’s ending was probably the saddest. During Pakistan’s toughest days, Saeed Ajmal & Umar Gul took Pakistan to great heights, especially in T20 cricket. However it was his action that was his downfall. Unlike Mohammad Hafeez & Sunil Narine, Ajmal’s remodeled action was not effective enough without the doosra. Will definitely go down as a Pakistani great.

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8. Morne Morkel (South Africa)

Tests: 86 Matches, 309 wickets, 27.66 average, 53.30 SR, best of 6/23 & 9/110, 4w/5w – 18/8

ODIs: 117 Matches, 188 wickets, 25.32 average, 5/21 best, 4w/5w – 7/2

T20Is: 44 Matches, 47 wickets, 25.34 average, 4/17 best

T20s: 190 Matches, 207 wickets, 25.29 average, 4/17 best

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: December 25-29, 2006 (Test)
  • Last Match: March 29-April 2, 2018 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 22
  • Age Retired: 33
  • Current Age: 36
    • Plays with Brisbane Heat in the BBL; Was at Surrey from 2018-2020
  • Why Did He Retire?

When Morne Morkel left international cricket after that Australia series for the Kolpak deal in England (with Surrey), it signaled the beginning of the end of the great 2008-2015 South Africa generation. From 2015-2019, each one slowly retired, and it was painful to watch South Africa collapse to new lows. What was not painful, however, was Morne Mornel’s bowling. High arm action, pace & bounce, & most importantly, consistent line & length. Dale Steyn would not have been as successful had he not had Morne on the other end as the ideal foil. Morkel, in his own right, will go down as a South African great. With 309 wickets at age 33, who knows, he could have gone past Steyn himself. Now a resident of Australia and plays in the BBL as a local cricketer.

9. Hashim Amla (South Africa)

Tests: 124 Matches, 9282 runs, 46.64 average, 311* best, 100s/50s – 28/41

ODIs: 181 Matches, 8113 runs, 49.46 average, 159 best, 100s/50s – 27/39

T20Is: 44 Matches, 1277 runs, 33.60 average, 132.05 SR, 97* best, 50s – 8

T20s: 164 Matches, 4563 runs, 30.83 average, 126.04 SR, 104*, best, 100s/50s – 2/30

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: November 27-December 1, 2004 (Test)
  • Last Match: June 27, 2019 (ODI)
  • Age Debuted: 21
  • Age Retired: 35
  • Current Age: 38
    • Plays for Surrey in County Cricket
  • Why Did He Retire?

Fastest to 10, 15, 16,17, 18, 20, 27 centuries & 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 7000 ODI runs, he was the only contemporary of Virat Kohli who could challenge him. South Africa’s fall from grace was confirmed in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, and it was especially painful to watch Amla being hit in the head by Jofra Archer and retiring hurt. He would retire at the end of the tournament. Sublime cricketer, wonderful human being, he still architects blockathons on the County Circuit. You just help but wonder if South Africa should have persisted a year or so more for his form to come back.

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10. AB De Villiers (South Africa)

Tests: 114 Matches, 8765 runs, 50.66 average, 278* best, 100s/50s – 22/46

ODIs: 228 Matches, 9577 runs, 49.46 average, 176 best, 100s/50s – 25/53

T20Is: 78 Matches, 1672 runs, 26.12 average, 135.16 SR, 79* best, 50s – 10

T20s: 333 Matches, 9318 runs, 37.57 average, 150.46 SR, 133*, best, 100s/50s – 4/69

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: December 16-20, 2004 (Test)
  • Last Match: March 29-April 2, 2018 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 20
  • Age Retired: 34
  • Current Age: 37
    • Plays for RCB in the IPL
  • Why Did He Retire?

Will he? Won’t he? Speculation about AB De Villiers’ retirement has been as spicy as Hollywood gossip. It all began with the ghost of 2015 semi-finals loss, which he captained. He would then get the Test captaincy job, a dream for a long time. However, workload management & administrative struggles became a hassle. Picking & choosing on a series-by-series basis followed by an indefinite break was a sign of what was to come. He came back in brilliant home with Test series against India and Australia.

However a video retirement a year before the ODI World Cup took everyone by surprise. Since then, he has been in multiple conversations about coming for the 2019 ODI World Cup or 2021 T20 World Cup, but those conversations have not gone too far. He can still be seen smashing it out of the park in the IPL. He is still fit, takes mind boggling catches, and plays match changing innings even after no game practice for a year. Although ABD & Amla played 14 years, they could have been Tendulkar-esque with a career of 17-21 years in another era.

The best batter of the generation and the face of “Cricketers Who Retired Too Early.”

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11. Graeme Smith

Tests: 117 Matches, 9265 runs, 48.25 average, 277 best, 100s/50s – 27/38

ODIs: 197 Matches, 6989 runs, 37.98 average, 141 best, 100s/50s – 10/47

T20Is: 33 Matches, 982 runs, 31.67 average, 127.53 SR, 89* best, 50s – 5

T20s: 86 Matches, 2389 runs, 29.86 average, 123.08 SR, 105, best, 100s/50s – 1/11

Cricketers Who Retired Trivia

  • Debut: March 7-11, 2002 (Test)
  • Last Match: February 27-March 4, 2014 (Test)
  • Age Debuted: 21
  • Age Retired: 33
  • Why Did He Retire?

Given captaincy at a young age, Smith began the rebuilding of a squad that would take South AFrica to #1 Test rankings. One of the best openers of this era, his courage & leadership came to the fore. Batting with a broken hand to save a Test will in fans’ memories forever. Now the director of cricket for South Africa.

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Chris Gayle (West Indies)

Tests: 103 Matches, 7214 runs, 42.18 average, 333 best, 100s/50s – 15/37

ODIs: 301 Matches, 10480 runs, 37.83 average, 215 best, 100s/50s – 25/54

T20Is: 74 Matches, 1854 runs, 29.42 average, 139.18 SR, 117 best, 100s/50s – 2/14

T20s: 446 Matches, 14261 runs, 36.94 average, 145.87 SR, 175*, best, 100s/50s – 22/87

  • Debut: September 10, 1999 (ODI)
  • Last Match: August 2, 2021 (T20I)*
  • Age Debuted: 20
  • Current Age: 42
    • Plays for RCB in the IPL, SKNP in CPL, and the West Indies

*subject to change. He is selected in West Indies’ 2021 T20 World Cup squad

Surprised? Well, you should be.

Chris Gayle is the antithesis to the 2005 generated. Debuted in 1999, and he is still playing at the age of 42. 100 Test matches, a triple century, an ODI double century, 10000 ODI runs, 14000+ T20 runs (with 22 100s!), he is a legend. So how did he survive so long even though he can barely run?

The answer is enough breaks. While the 2005 generation succumbed to continuous burnout, Gayle was in-and-out of the international side, played T20 leagues around the world, and gave up first class/Test cricket in 2014 to prolong his career. A couple of World Cup wins also helps keeping the fire going.

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The Ones Who Survived

Here is an exhaustive list of players that served between 12-15+ years in international cricket. Notice that as we get further along, the list gets smaller.

Late 90s Generation: Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid (India), Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka), Ricky Ponting (Australia), Jacques Kallis (South Africa), Daniel Vettori (New Zealand), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (West Indies), Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi (Pakistan)

2000-02 Generation: Chris Gayle, Shoaib Malik (Still Playing), Brendon McCullum (NZ), Shane Watson (Australia), Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh (India), Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka), Hamilton Masakdza (Zimbabwe), Younis Khan, Misbah Ul-Haq, Shoaib Akthar (Pakistan)

2004-07 Generation: Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Brendon Taylor (Zimbabwe), Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad (England), Dale Steyn (South Africa)

The Surviving Outliers

The main point to notice here is that those who played continuous cricket from 2005-2015 retired too soon.

However, there are plenty of cricketers who did not get a chance early on or were in-and-out of their national sides, but are still available for selection today. These players include Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, and the 2004 U-19 Cricket World Cup class of Shikhar Dhawan, Fawad Alam, Mahmudullah Riyadh, Dinesh Karthik, Ambati Rayudu, Tim Paine, Moises Henriques, William Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien, Wahab Riaz, who are still playing competitively and are available for international selection.

Since they did not get a chance earlier or play for lower-ranked teams, they are making the most of it now when opportunities finally came their way.

Hunger for success have caused these batch of cricketers to elongate their careers. To prove themselves as long as they are fit. Or to be a part of that elusive World Cup winning team.

Why Did The 2005 Generation Fall So Quickly?

Transition Periods

If we analyze these 10 cricketers who retired too early a bit more closer, we notice they mostly feature from England, South Africa, or Australia.

All of these teams went through a traumatic transition period. The 2013-15 period was especially stressful for England. While Mitchell Johnson dismantled the entire 2013 Test generation, forcing retirements of Trott, Pietersen, & Swann, the sacking of Cook in ODIs before 2015 World Cup would usher a new era in English cricket.

For South Africa, Grant Elliot’s semi-final six broke the gem of that South African team. AB De Villiers, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, & Vernon Philander were never the same again.

Finally, although Australia did not have it that rough, they have not really gotten back to the Warne-McGrath days. The Clarke era was the short transition between the longer lasting, Ponting & Steve Smith eras.

Frequency of World Cups

Before the 2007 T20 World Cup, world championships only happened once every 4 years. A decade earlier, we only had the 2003/2007 ODI World Cup, 2007 T20 World Cup, and 2002/2006 Champions Trophy.

Teams were built on the premises of four-year cycles. With England & Australia, the Test Teams were formed with the next Ashes cycle in mind. Then followed 2009 (CT), 2010 (T20 WC), 2011 (CWC), 2012 (T20 WC), 2013 (CT), 2014 (T20 WC), 2015 (CWC), 2016 (T20 WC), 2017 (CT), 2019 (CWC), 2021 (World Test Championship).

Frequent trophies meant teams did not have to carry players for 4 years. An in-form player could be drafted while seasoned cricketers could be dropped with the upcoming ICC trophy in mind. Hence teams started to experiment more and started taking bold calls.

Case and point 2013 Champions Trophy—India dropped Sehwag, promoted Rohit Sharma, and went with an in-form Dhawan (seems like a history repeat itself moment with Dhawan in the 2021 T20 WC team).

Death of the All Format Player

Everything boils down to overkill of cricket and player burnout.

These cricketers who retired too early were raised on the backs of Test & ODI cricket. Almost everyone from the 90s era played both formats if they were good enough. With the entrance of T20 cricket, cricket began to be played all year long instead of season to season.

If you add captaincy to the 3 formats, that takes pressure & mental exhaustion to another level.

Openers Struggle

This still does not explain why Cook & Amla retired. They had given up captaincy towards the end, did not play all formats, and did not have new players vying for their spots either.

The obvious answer to this is form. Both Cook & Amla suffered drastic loss of forms, but so did openers worldwide.

Cook himself concluded that batting in England became tougher towards the end of his career. We can see from the Burns-Sibley partnership that it has not gotten better any since. It was not necesesarily that they were worse players, just that the conditions had become more difficult.

Kohli Shows The Way Forward

Three format players like KP and ABD prospered for a while, but it caught up with their health & form.

A decade later, it is clear that separate teams are now being picked for the 3 vastly different formats. Mental health conversations are in place. Fitness, physiotherapy, and analytics have jumped to another level altogether. Rest & rotation have been employed by certain teams to prolong the careers of cricketers.

This means that the current generation of the Fab 5 & Buttler-Stokes-Cummins-Rabada-Starc-Hazlewood-Bumrah have a better chance for longer careers and go back to the 15-year norms of the 90s. Who knows the COVID break might even have re-energized some to extend their careers.

However balance is key. Virat Kohli has already lead the way and given up IPL/T20I captaincy to manage workload and focus on other formats. If this generation of players have to survive, they might have to give up at least one format, release captaincy pressure, take mental health and paternity breaks, and keep up their fitness.

Greatness Achieved Nevertheless

Although Amla, Smith, Sehwag, Clarke, de Villiers stopped agonizingly close without reaching the coveted 10000 run-mark, it does not take away from the genius of these men.

Numbers are not everything. Although their tenure was short, their impact was not. They changed cricket for the better, and that is all that matters.

There are some players who will always give a sense that they left too early. Fans are left asking, ‘What If they had stayed on for a couple of years?’, ‘Maybe one more World Cup?’

We should just be grateful enough we witnessed some of the greatest cricketers of all time.

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© Copyright @Nitesh Mathur and Broken Cricket Dreams, 2021. Originally published on 09/23/2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Broken Cricket Dreams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (i.e. linked to the exact post/article).

End of Cricket As We Know It? Pakistan, Postponement, Mental Health Crisis, and Overkill of Cricket

End of Cricket As We Know It? Pakistan, Postponement, Mental Health Crisis, and Overkill of Cricket

Cricket’s time has come. What we all feared for has finally happened.

The fifth Test between India and England was cancelled/postponed hours before the toss due to COVID-19. New Zealand similarly pulled out of Pakistan on the basis of security threats. England have followed suit and cancelled their Men’s/Women’s tour of Pakistan in October as well. There has been more cancellation than actual cricket recently.

The international cricket structure is dismantling before our eyes—overkill of cricket, the IPL takeover, an acute mental health crisis, and Pakistan’s abandonment on the world stage.

Also Read: Structured Chaos Paves Way for World Cricket’s Changing Landscape

Scheduling Woes And The Overkill of Cricket

Since the return from COVID-induced break, scheduling has slowly escalated. Overkill of cricket has reached its boiling point.

Last summer, West Indies, Ireland, and Pakistan toured England in cricket’s return. IPL 2020 in UAE followed soon after. The entire world had eyes on one series or tournament at a time with enough gap in between.

However, post-vaccination, international scheduling has been torturous.

England began its tour to Sri Lanka earlier this year and stayed for the India series. Soon after, IPL 2021’s first iteration took place. Then India went to England for months. England launched the Hundred in the middle of the summer.

When the Hundred ended, the CPL began. Four days after the CPL, the IPL began. The IPL final will be held on October 15th. The much awaited T20 World Cup begins just two days later, on the 17th of October.

But wait, there’s more.

IPL All Year Round?

India begin their home season on November 17th three days after the World T20 Final. And in Jaipur. Given the depth of both India and New Zealand, it is likely they will field a second-string team. Why is there a need for a T20I series less than a week after the T20 World Cup has ended?

Beats me.

IPL 2020 in UAE was a joy to watch. After months, the best players of the world played cricket had gathered together without any interruptions. The balanced pitches in Abu Dhabi & Dubai were conducive to fast bowling while Sharjah provided us the stereotypical high scores.

However, September 2020, March 2021, September 2021, and March 2022…This seems to be developing into an unhealthy pattern. Add to two IPLs a year. a ten-team IPL with a big auction next year. 74 IPL matches will push India’s home series against South Africa into June. Another T20 World Cup is to follow next October.

With Trinbago Knight Riders, Saint Lucia Kings, and Barbados Royals all having IPL stake owners, the IPL takeover of the world is complete.

Mental Health Crisis At An All-Time High

A byproduct of back-to-back cricket, bubble-to-bubble travel, and IPL-to-IPL jam packed into the international calendar is recurring injuries, early retirements, and mental health breaks.

Ben Stokes has been the most prominent casualty to the mental health crisis. Personal tragedy, finger injury, recalled back to captain a COVID hit squad, IPL, The Hundred, Test matches. Stokes is 30, a prime of a sportsperson career. However due to the intense nature of the cricket calendar, he has withdrawn from the India Test series, IPL, World T20, and possibly the Ashes.

England have done their very best to preserve the physical and mental health of players irrespective of the controversial rest/rotation policy. Even with such management and resources, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, & Mark Wood have been out for extended periods of time, while Banton-Bairstow-Buttler have pulled out of the IPL & other T20 leagues.

The Ashes begins on December 8th, shortly after the T20 World Cup. England’s team selection will give us an idea of how severe the mental crisis is.

Security Threats – Is There Western Bias Against Pakistan?

Finally a non-COVID related threat. New Zealand pulled out of the Pakistan series minutes before the first match on tour citing credible security threat against the New Zealand team without sharing information with Pakistan.

Pakistan was forced to make UAE their home for a decade after the horrifying 2009 shootings amidst the Sri Lanka series. India-Pakistan relations had already taken a hit a year earlier due to the Mumbai attacks. A year later, the spot-fixing crisis feat Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, and Salman Butt further took down Pakistan cricket.

Regardless of the outside noise, Pakistan managed to win a T20 Cricket World Cup, Champions Trophy, and #1 Test rankings in the next decade. The Misbah-Younis era slowly got Pakistan’s reputation back as a respected cricketing nation. The PCB established a decent stable Pakistan Super League despite lack of finances and IPL experience.

With ambassadors like Daren Sammy volunteering to play in Pakistan, ICC sending a World XI team in 2017, PSL hosting playoffs at home, and series against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa, cricket was finally coming back.

Afghanistan Crisis In Spotlight

However New Zealand’s abandonment has set Pakistan cricket back yet another decade. It has started a domino effect with England pulling out and maybe, Australia next in line. Ramiz Raza, the new PCB chairman, has come out strongly against the “Western bloc.”

Australia have infamously been hesitant to play non-India subcontinental opposition. They have not invited Bangladesh for a Test series for years and are now on verge of cancelling the Afghanistan Test match based on lack of a women’s team (which is a decent point, but there was no opposition when Afghanistan was awarded Test status 4 years ago).

Afghanistan’s internal crisis has cast a shadow on their involvement in the T20 World Cup, and the geopolitical situation has made things worse for Pakistan as well.

Where There Is Money, There Is a Way

There was another security threat again today. This time with respect to the New Zealand women’s team in England. The team went in lockdown, security was boosted, communication happened, investigation took place, threat was deemed as not credible, and the match is to go ahead as scheduled.

Fans have been citing the devastating 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks in response to Pakistan-New Zealand abandoned series. The Bangladesh team were minutes away from the mosque when the incident took place. The 3rd Test was subsequently cancelled.

However, since it was in New Zealand, future tours were not affected. Pakistan themselves toured in 2020-2021.

Where Does Cricket Go From Here?

These two situations display that there is an implicit bias against Pakistan as opposed to the Big 4—India, Australia, England, New Zealand.

India can get away with a poorly managed COVID-19 situation in the first iteration of IPL 2021 by totally disrupting the international calendar because of their financial monopoly. The IPL/Hundred can cause a Test match cancellation.

England & Australia are free to abandon tours of South Africa due to bio-bubble breaches while touring the other Big 3 countries in worse circumstances. New Zealand escape without security backlash from the rest of the world due to their positive image and non-controversial nature.

If cricket is to sustain itself, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe need due support from the rest.

ICC has put in better plans to raise awareness of cricket worldwide, provide structure for women’s & Associate cricket, and contextualize Test & ODI cricket. However, it first needs to ensure that cricketing culture in once prospering countries does not die away.

If cricket cannot guarantee balance in the post-COVID world—balance of powers, player wellness, security threats, & scheduling, then this is the end of cricket as we know it.

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© Copyright @Nitesh Mathur and Broken Cricket Dreams, 2021. Originally published on 09/20/2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Broken Cricket Dreams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (i.e. linked to the exact post/article).

Think About It: India Are So Bad That They Are Actually Good

Think About It: India Are So Bad That They Are Actually Good

As acclaimed twentieth century writer Khalil Gibran once remarked, “Exaggeration is truth that has lost its temper.”

India’s improbable victory in the 4th Test sent social media into frenzy. There were claims of it being the ‘greatest Test team’ going around or the ‘best Indian Test team.’ Although there is subtle merit to these claims, I argue that this is just an over exaggeration of the ground reality.

How Good Are Team India?

There is no doubt that the Indian cricket team has flourished in the 21st century. With a thriving cricketing culture, robust recruitment setup throughout the country, monetary power in the hands of the BCCI with the advent of the IPL, and a prospering India A system, India has the greatest depth and resources available.

The rise of Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, and Ishan Khan across formats in less than six months attests to this claim.

Overseas Victories

India came back from 0-1 to seal the Border-Gavaskar series 2-1. Stories galore and the legend of this series will carry in the minds of fans forever. Similarly, a defeat in the third Test against England did not faze India. In the 4th Test, a 99-run deficit was overcome via valiant century by Rohit Sharma and memorable contributions in both innings by Shardul Thakur.

To give you an idea how far India have come along—This is India’s 4th victory in Australia & England since December (and 8th in Australia, England, South Africa since 2018). In the decade before, India’s only moments of glory in England & Australia were Headingly 2002, Adelaide 2003, England series 2007, and Perth 2008 (coincidentally Rahul Dravid contributing with 148, 233 & 72*, captain, and 93). So this 2-1 series victory (almost) should hold well with the Indian fans, especially after the suffering endured in the 2010s.

This Indian team is good. Really good. They have the spirit to come back from any circumstance, and they just never give up. The attitude instilled by Ravi Shastri-Virat Kohli is evident in the body language of each and every player.

However, is this team the best? I do not think so.

Collapse A Day Does Not Keep The Doctor Away

Team India is brilliant at comebacks, but why is there a need of comebacks in the first place?

The 2000s Australia team set the benchmark for Test greatness. Did you ever hear them coming from dire circumstances? Well, not much because they were so dominant, a comeback was not even necessary.

The same is true for the current World Test Championship winner, the New Zealand cricket team. When they win, they win emphatically.

If India are to instill their greatness in cricketing folklore, they must replicate their home dominance away as well.

Current Batting Side Does Not Fire In Unison

KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, and Ajinkya Rahane are all good batters individually, but they have rarely fired in unison.

When the top order bats at its best, the middle order collapses. When Pujara-Pant come together, the rest of the batters have already gone to the pavilion. Kohli is not back at his best yet and Rahane seems to have fallen off the charts altogether.

Even in the horrendous tours of 2011 and 2014, I do not remember performances like 36/9 or 78/10, let alone two. The batting collapses occur too frequently to be regarded as a modern great. What made the Sehwag-Dravid-Sachin-Laxman-Ganguly era great was their consistent overseas batting performances without having the caliber of fast bowlers at their disposals in the nets to practice with.

Now India finally has the bowling attack to take 20 wickets consistently, but a batting line up that is not even close.

Greatest Indian Bowling Attack

The reason India is succeeding away from home can be attributed to two factors: (1) comparatively lower standard of opposition, and (2) fast bowling unit.

Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur provide regular breakthroughs while Jadeja and Ashwin can play both as wicket-taking options and chief controller depending on the conditions.

Since the South Africa tour of 2018, Indian bowlers have taken all 20 wickets by pace on numerous occasions. Injury replacements are readily available as well.

So is India Good, Bad, or Just Okay?

The bowling attack? The best in their nation’s history. Their batting? Eh. Not so hot.

India might have one of the best line ups on paper but are definitely not the best Test team going around. Or at least just not performing to their full potential yet. The flaws in India’s team performance combined with miraculous comebacks and recency bias actually amplify the degree of their quality. India are so bad sometimes that it brings out the best in the team. Still a long way to go achieve dominance.

In other words, India are so bad that they are actually good. Think about it.

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© Copyright @Nitesh Mathur and Broken Cricket Dreams, 2021. Originally published on 09/15/2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Broken Cricket Dreams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content (i.e. linked to the exact post/article).

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County Cricket-Hundred Debate From an Outsider’s Perspective: Can They Co-Exist?

County Cricket-Hundred Debate From an Outsider’s Perspective: Can They Co-Exist?

Abraham Lincoln famously remarked, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

England cricket is having that moment right now with the County Cricket vs The Hundred debate. From the outside, everything seems fine—2019 World Cup victory, Anderson-Broad still going strong, finally a somewhat stable opening Test partnership in Burns-Sibley, and an enviable depth.

Deep down, though, there are gaping cracks. Tradition, history, club cricket, professional contracts, indirect impact on Tests are stacked against city-based franchises, new format, media rights, and emphasis on limited overs cricket.

Today, I am not going to present an argument from an English perspective—David Hopps, Andrew Miller, and George Dobell (twice) provide well-articulated balanced views. On the other hand, I express my observations as an outsider.

Is Controversy Helping County Cricket or Hundred?

Full disclosure—I am not from England. I have no particular affinity with a specific county and do not follow much of the County Championship, Royal London One-Day Cup, or the T20 Blast (unless of course Alastair Cook is nearing another ton or Shaheen Shah Afridi takes 4 in a row). Nor did I watch a single game of the Kia Super League.

Yet the endless debates and discussion on social media against The Hundred piqued my curiosity. I have since watched almost all games of The Hundred and have enjoyed them too. While County Cricket fans are trying to fight for their side, they might have actually helped publicize the Hundred.

Also Read: The Comedy of Overs: Shakespearean Parody Starring English Cricket, The Hundred, And County Cricket

The Good, Bad, And Ugly

So has The Hundred lived up to the hype?

First impressions—the possibility that a bowler can bowl 10 consecutive balls has added an extra dimension. Rashid Khan went as far as to say it’s now possible to take three hat-tricks! Imagine the flexibility with swing bowlers and death specialists. When a Joe Root-esque part-timer keeps it tight, let him or her continue.

I also like the speed of the game. The over-rate field placement penalty and the swiftness of DRS decisions has reduced the time down to less than 3 hours.

Most importantly, the cricket has been good, and it looks like a fun family time. Affordable tickets, priceless expressions of kids, last over thrillers, Lizelle Lee-Jemimah Rodrigues specials, find of Chris Benjamin, Alex Hales-Ben Stokes drama, and Bairstow being Bairstow. All good.

There is always room for improvement, however. Graphics are all over the place, crowds are not sell-outs, and even umpire Nigel Llong had to ask the DJ to dial it down a notch.   

Disparity in Score Decreases

The simultaneous matches with the Women’s Hundred is turning out to be a gamechanger. The level of women’s cricket was criticized in Women’s T20 Challenge when the Velocity were bundled for 47 although conditions were not ideal.

In the Hundred, when the women’s team only scored 113-93, the men’s teams did even worse 87/10 a few hours later in a spin dominated pitch. The average scores are 124 and 137 so far for the women’s & men’s editions respectively, and quality of cricket equally enthralling.

Can County Cricket, T20 Blast, and The Hundred Coexist—Yay or Nay?

One argument has been why not just re-market the T20 Blast instead of creating a new format?

If we all agree that County Cricket, T20 Blast, and the Hundred are to coexist, the question then becomes of scheduling.

  • County Championship: 18 Teams, 3 Groups, 90 matches, April-July
  • T20 Vitality Blast: 18 Teams, 2 groups, 133 matches, June-September
  • The Hundred: 8 teams & 34 matches for Women’s/Men’s each, July-August

Add the home Test summer, the English rain, and this is a packed schedule. The issue with the T20 Blast is that it is played over 18 teams, broken over several months, with numerous games on the same day. The momentum is stagnant, regular international talent not retained, and coverage low.  

About Time England Dominate The League World

England are the current ODI World Champions and one of the favorites for the T20 World Cup. If there was ever a time to invest in a franchise league of international standard, it is now before the likes of Eoin Morgan head towards retirement.

When the IPL was launched in 2008, India still had legends like Dravid-Tendulkar-Ganguly-Laxman to build stable fanbases & drive spectators to the ground but it was the 2007 T20 World Cup victory that ensured T20 would succeed in India. Yes, it might be weird that Jonny Bairstow from Yorkshire is playing for the Welsh Fire. There maybe no natural County support for an artificial franchise league, but Dhoni & Raina are not from Chennai either (far from it!) and probably possess the largest IPL fanbase.

England was reluctant to invest in franchise cricket and suffered till the 2015 Cricket World Cup debacle as a result. The rest of the world allowed India to become a monopoly in the T20 market. One can argue that losing Buttlers-Stokes-Morgans-Archers to the IPL 2 months in the year is indirectly hurting the County Cricket. Had English cricket invested in a T20 league earlier and provided it a window so it does not clash with domestic tournaments, they would have been at a better place. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

There is still time. Who knows, a high-quality concentrated domestic tournament can extend England’s golden era and throw up new stars.

Better players, more competition, more spectators/TV viewership, more money, higher salaries—Players, counties, leagues, everybody happy?

Also Read: The Need For Champions League & a T20 League Calendar

Why Not Follow the India Model?

With 38 teams & multiple groups, Ranji Trophy, Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and the IPL coexist. A separate window for the IPL ensures availability of homegrown talent as well as majority of foreign players. Ranji Trophy provides professional support, SMAT is scheduled strategically a month before the auction to showcase new talent, and the IPL, in return, provides developed players, academies, & scouting systems back to the domestic teams.

From the looks of it, ECB has almost made up its mind about the Hundred at least for a couple of seasons. So why not try to find a solution that benefits all parties involved instead of opposing it?

I will leave you with Michael Atherton’s warning on commentary today. Fans are drawn towards a new format because it is exciting and different. Administrators get greedy and keep expanding like the IPL and Big Bash. A few years later, the format becomes diluted and ‘loses its pizzazz.’

Just a short 1-month Hundred can probably survive and not hurt other formats. However, if this format is to spread to expand to more teams, other countries, or become an international format, then there will be detrimental consequences. Until then we can have some fun and adapt innovations from this experiment into the existing formats. Keep the Hundred simple, but do not forget the county game either.

Lincoln was right. Now England must choose—an internal divisive cricket Civil War or a mutual partnership?

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Structured Chaos Paves Way for World Cricket’s Changing Landscape

Structured Chaos Paves Way for World Cricket’s Changing Landscape

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.

Also Read: Indian Cricket Team 75+ Player Depth List, Top 50+ England Cricket Team Players Depth List

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.

Also Read: Netherlands Vs Scotland & Ireland 2021, Ireland Vs Afghanistan 2021 Series Review

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: bcd@brokencricketdreams.com

Image Courtesy: Fractal Image – Robert Sontheimer, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons