As a cricket fanatic, I am excited like never before on the advent of a New Year, because world cricket has never promised more than what it has today.
With Australia looking like any other international team, it has let open the floodgates to the World No. 1 ranking to the rest of the teams—specifically South Africa and India.
The fact that encourages other teams is not that Australia is not in their usual best; rather that they are losing their match winners one by one.
First McGrath and Warne, then Gilly, now Hayden and Roy is almost a shadow of his usual self. It's just a matter of time that we would see his replacement. And mind you, Australia's bench strength doesn't give a rosy picture.
Gone are the days when there was a Mr. Hussey ready to replace Mr. Bevan. The only complete quality player I can think of who is waiting for his chance is Shaun Marsh. Warner is new and raw, so he still has to prove his worthiness for his "Baggy Green."
The five tournaments which would be a package of total entertainment in 2009 according to me are:
1. Aus Tour of SA starting Feb — If SA drubs Australia again, then England would start believing they have a good chance in the Ashes. If not, then it's more interesting; three quality teams fighting for the top spot.
2. Ashes starting July — Should be a close one if not as close as it was three and half years back.
3. India Tour of NZ starting March — I would say pitches with green tops would be interesting unlike the last time around because at present India have one of the best pace attacks and a healthy batting order. So, it would be a good reality check for India if they are presented green tops.
It would be a crucial series for Ruhul Dravid, the series might result him going back to the top where he once belonged or would force him to take that toughest decision of a cricketer's career.
4. The IPL — Twenty20 is no doubt the future of cricket entertainment not because it is all about only slogging but since it gives every team a good probability of winning and most of the times till the last bowl is bowled.
The interesting thing to be seen is how the cricketers are bid this time around. After the inaugural tournament the owners should have realized that more money spent is not directly proportional to more money (read money instead of matches!) won!
5. ICC World 20-20 in England Starting June — With the IPL, the KFC 20-20, the Ford Ranger Cup, the Stanford 20-20, etc... around for some time now, it would be interesting to see all exciting Twenty20 talents at the same place. Also, we can expect to look forward to new inventions like the switch-hit from KP and the scoop shot which Ashraful has made it his own.
The three cricketers, according to me, to look out for in 2009 are Graeme Smith, Ajanta Mendis and Ishant Sharma. Smith would be looking forward to take that extra leap from a great player and a captain to a legend while the other two from exciting talents to great bowlers.
The other things to watch out for would be the decisions taken by ICC. Ranging from keeping the most exciting form of cricket "The Tests", alive to the issue of slow overrate.
From the use of technology in making decisions to the change in laws of the game. These judgmental decisions would define the way forward not only how the game is played but more importantly how it is viewed!
Having said all this, whichever team emerges as champions of 2009, one is pretty sure that the journey would bring forward new heroes and exciting raw talents!