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A wish list for 2009 - Chetan Narula
by Chetan Narula
Dec 31, 2008
2008 has been a good year for cricket as a whole. Maybe the Aussies won't agree, for things haven't gone too well for them in the latter half, but they have the whole of next year to set their house in order. And even they can't complain much, for Pakistan have the most to grumble about; much of the last twelve months they would indeed like to see erased from their cricketing history, if there was indeed anything to erase in the first place. Elsewhere two new powers arose in world cricket, giving the schedule of 2009 a look resembling the last lap of a race as India and South Africa scurry towards the finish line that is the number one spot.

All in all, a mouth watering twelve months lie ahead, if you happen to love the game of cricket and these are a few wishes you would surely want fulfilled.

Let's begin by setting world cricket in order first of all. Javed Miandad needs to call up his relative Dawood Ibrahim and get some peace going on in the sub-continent, if his country is ever to witness a Test on their home soil again. Sri Lanka have given them hope by agreeing to tour in place of the Indian team, but there are still a few hiccups on the way. Here's hoping we get to see a five day game, telecast live from Pakistan in 2009!

If it is not the Lankans, then it ought to be the Australians. For they are the next team scheduled to visit Pakistan, after having pulled out last year. If Sri Lanka does play an entire series without hiccups, and with England returning to India, pressure will increase on the Aussies to honour their commitments. They may have to miss a part of the IPL but then Test cricket has touched such highs of late, it won't matter at all. Plus they have the tag of 'chicken-hearts' to wash off their heads, such has been their refusal rate to tour this part of the world. The Pakistanis will feel they have won the lottery playing two series at home in six months, after the barren run last year.

While we are distributing free goodies for wishes, let us also hope that Zimbabwe cricket comes out of the mire that it has been trapped in. There is no more disheartening example of politics mixing with sport in the world today than what is happening to this small nation, boasting of a small bunch of cricketers. Talented cricketers mind you; a player named Tatenda Taibu bats, bowls and keeps wickets while finding time to lead his side. Plus they beat Australia at the inaugural T20 World Cup, so it is indeed sad that they haven't been given visas to travel to Britain for the second edition of the tournament in June 2009.

So long we are talking about the T20 World Cup, one would not want to see a big wig team lifting trophy this time round. Keeping all the nationalist sentiments aside, victory the last time round for India brought a flood of T20 with it, and that is quite enough for the moment. In fact that same tournament, the IPL proved that the game has become even more gloriously uncertain. Considering that the minnows of Test and ODI cricket are in fact quite good at this format, wouldn't it be a shot in the arm for them to actually win something this big? One is talking about Bangladesh and Ireland. The former ranked three in T20 ratings and the latter having done quite well in the limited opportunities they have got.

Or even, New Zealand or West Indies winning the cup would do a lot of good for the game in those nations. The Kiwis are like Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy, the one team to suffer the most in the wake of the ICL exodus. The West Indies have felt so left out in the melee that they got a rich clown to sponsor a circus in the middle of nowhere to get a little interest going in their game. Look how the Stanford series misfired!

Some would argue that England have never won a world cup, which is grossly ironical considering they invented cricket, so they should be rooted to lift the T20 cup and that too at home. But no, one wouldn't be inclined to wish that. For ask any Englishman and he will tell you winning the Ashes is more important. So here we are, hopeful that England win back 'the urn' this summer. Seeing the state that the Australian cricket is in right now, it shouldn't be a major problem, but then again, it is England we are talking about and they have it in them to mess up the simplest of things. And so, they merit a place on the wish list!

The next year may be dominated by T20 cricket all over again and one will only have reason complain if the Champions League T20 suffers yet another time. For if there is something that has come good out of the whole hullabaloo that is the IPL, it is this new international tournament! That is primarily because not only will this invite a whole lot of interest to and from domestic cricket all around the world, this is a definitive mode to take the game into un-chartered territory. Imagine a team from USA playing in the Champions League some day and what's more, it may even fast track cricket's entry to the Olympics. So, Mr. Modi, make the T20 Champions League happen!

As far it concerns its namesake, there doesn't seem to be much hope. For simply there is no time on the international calendar to play the knock out ODI tournament. Even if the concerned authorities were to find a window, there are other umpteen hurdles like security concerns that need to be handled. Canceling this edition may be the simplest solution but then ESPN and PCB would be up in arms against the ICC. All in all, the Champions Trophy is the biggest question on the governing body's 'mess' list and one can't even begin to fathom to solve this puzzle, hopefully some one can!

Lest we forget, India and South Africa will be in a tug-of-war for the number one spot in world cricket and may the best team win. It is too bad that there isn't a series scheduled between the two teams in the next twelve months, for we would have gotten straight answers. But when has the game of cricket afforded us that luxury. As it stands, the Proteas have really done well in Test cricket and India is yet to do well abroad, their only claim to fame being two series wins at home. So that will be a real test for the Indians, pun unintended. As concerns the ODIs, India should be number one if they keep up their form when they play Australia in a seven match series at home in October.

One has tried to be fair to Australia, trying to find a bright spark for them next year, but then again, haven't they had their cake and eaten it too for the last fifteen years. It is time for a change and most of the times that is for the ultimate good. Cricket Australia has been busy shaking hands with the BCCI over the past year or so, getting themselves a piece of the pie and probably neglecting what was happening on the field. So one wishes that their hard work pays off and they get good TRPs and revenue when the first 'night Test' gets underway in Adelaide this summer. There are still any roadblocks indeed, but for so long that we are hoping for the best, assent to those clearing out and let those orange or pink balls come out!

More Views by Chetan Narula
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