Tuesday, February 23

Cricket formats and future; Afghan and English cricket

Test matches were always exciting, but not as often as they have lately become. The flip side is that there's not much of that Ambrose v. Steve Waugh contest, or the 153 that Lara made to single-handedly take Windies across the line; the quality is low, as evinced by the recent Ashes, though the scoreline might suggest otherwise. A loss of character however might be permanent; what's interesting is that with the advent of Twenty20, which seems here to stay, would the Tests reduce or bow out, or will it be the one-dayers that are cramped for space? Sooner or later, USA will enter the fray, and even if they play a poor team, the huge market that it is will whet the Twenty20 into another sphere; and then what remains of the future of the other formats? And even if they remain, who will play them?

What a Twenty20 does bring into reckoning is a place in the sun for all: sometimes short-lived, and sometimes not; but a jitter could be down the throat any time. Afghanistan has proudly entered the World Twenty20, and they've been winning not just limited formats, but as I write this even chased down 494 against Canada in a four-day match, which is a monumental effort from a team that has simply inspiration and ambition to choose from, nothing else. Now drawn in a tough group, it will still be an education: and who knows if on a bad day for the opposing team, another dream story in the Afghan script. Pakistan being a no-man's land, it is India and Bangladesh who must ensure Afghanis to get proper exposure of cricket in the years to come; rather than inviting English counties, it would be much more exciting as well as futuristic to invite the Afghan national team in Indian domestic tournaments.

England as always has been taking one step forward and two steps backward. A player like Eoin Morgan is not even considered for Tests; in one-dayers he is sent so late that he can hardly establish an innings. Of course, most of the English top order is so fragile that sometimes he does get the prospect of a long stay, only to realise that the English lower middle order and tail are also not ready to oblige. Trott is fast becoming another Dravid, with his momentum-breaking abilities contributing more to losses than his runs to wins. And the saga of bits-and-pieces inexplicables like Luke Wright and Denly go on and on; a Cook would be better than Denly any day, in any format, how can they not get that? Or find someone new and young. And please, in spite of all those match-saving innings, don't get back Bell in! Get in Morgan! At 5 in Tests, at 4 in one-dayers (with Pietersen at 3), at 3 in Twenty20s. Get Foster in Tests, Prior in one-dayers, and just anybody who dons gloves but can hit in Twenty20s.



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