Cricket in 2008 was exciting, thrilling, and full of of surprises. Shocking defeats, filthy controversies, team crumbling retirements, we have seen it all. However the most fascinating thing was the fight for the top position in test cricket. Australia after along time seems to be losing grip over the No.1 position. India, South Africa and to an extent Sri Lanka are giving stiff competition. The ball was set rolling last year. 2009 promises much more. Which team has the edge and what gives them the edge are the questions at hand.
The Lankan cricket team always only promised. It never delivered consistently. It always had strong batting lineup and a decent bowling lineup. Somehow the team faltered at crucial points. Lanka at home is still a force to reckon with but redoubtable abroad. Lanka beat India 2-1 at home last year and then went on to beat Bangladesh. But the most encouraging factor for the Lankans was the emergence of a world class spinner in Mendis , quality opener in Warnapura and a fast improving all rounder in Dilshan. These three will be the ones who along with other seniors will play a big role in determining its future.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mendis, Warnapura, Dilshan
AREAS OF CONCERN: Mentally weak while playing away.
Lack of consistency.
Don’t go by the recent failures, Australia is a volcano waiting to erupt. For the last eight years Australia has been the best team. But then hiccups were bound to happen. The cream slipped off the cone , softening it as a result. Shane Warne , Mcgrath, Martyn, Langer, Gilchrist and Hogg created a big void in th team. Hayden’s poor form is only adding to its troubles. The pace bowling still looks very strong with Lee, Johnson, Siddle, Clark and Bracken forming a formidable attack. Katich fills in for Langer, Phil Jaques may take over from Hayden. Ponting still has a few years of good cricket left in him and long with Symonds, Hussey, haddin and Clarke make a strong middle order. What Australia now needs a quality spinner. Krejza is not dangerous. Hauritz has to be developed and encouraged. The problem with Australia is that, though they dominate most part of the match, one or two bad sessions lets the other team off the hook and their team down the drain. It happened against India and later against S.A. Other teams are now more confident against them. However, all is not lost. They have to recoup fast and tighten the grip.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Katich, Hussey, Siddle, Hauritz, Johnson
AREAS OF CONCERN Lack of a quality spinner.
A strong replacement for Hayden.
It all began last January. The Sydney test was filled with controversies, but it also was the mark of the emergence of a world beater. The same team team with a different attitude . it realized that it was not all about being the best only on paper. It had to deliver to be counted and it began to do just that. An attacking but composed opening pair, a strong middle order, an almost complete bowling lineup and a determined captain- the same characteristics that once made Australia the best in the world. The transition of the team was smoother than expected. Probably the series loss to Sri Lanka was just a hiccup. It was more due the poor form of the whole middle order. They however recovered well to beat Australia and England. Coming to the players, Ishant & Zaheer are right up there at the top. Harbhajan has to help Mishra and Chawla develop and mature. It also has the best bench strength in world cricket. The team is now depending lesser than it used to on Tendulkar and other seniors. But more than anything the team is a united and spirited bunch. This team will only improve.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Mishra, Zaheer & Ishant
AREAS OF CONCERN: Well groomed replacements for the aging seniors.
Looks the best of the four. It beat the current world no1 2-1 at their own backyard. It played impressive cricket all through the year losing just one match. The batting, bowling and fielding are one of the besting the world. Consistent openers, rock like middle order, a god spinner and terrorizing pace men is led by a courageous captain who is always by his players. Steyn surely is the best pacer at the moment and is getting more dangerous as time passes. It is a team that never backs down. Smith’s decision to bat with a broken hand will always be placed as one of the toughest and bravest decisions ever taken. It will only provide confidence to the team and convert them into a better side. It will face a stiff challenge from the Aussies when they come to S.A. They will have to prove their mettle and show the world that they have arrived……..
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Smith, Amla, Morkel, Steyn , Harris.
AREAS OF CONCERN:A backup for the captain,
Of the four, India and S.A seen the better equipped and more balanced side. Both these teams have solid openers, strong middle order, rocking pacers and young and courageous captains. However India’s bench strength and a much better spin attack. But whether they really have an edge over S.A will only be known when India play S.A.
This year we can expect the best of the cricket with Sri Lanka S.A. & India fighting for the No.1 spot while Australia will fight harder to hold on to their position.
All SAID, it is now left to the teams to DO.