In the era of fake news, how about this: the next couple of months will be the real world championship of cricket.
First up it’s India versus South Africa and that will be closely followed by the Australians’ tilt with the Proteas. Following Australia’s drubbing of England in the Ashes series these are the top three teams on the ICC rankings, with India currently heading the list. At the conclusion of these two series we’ll have a pretty good idea who is the best team in world cricket.
Both series will be chock-full of stars, with Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers heading the batting list. If it’s well-balanced bowling attacks you fancy then Australia and South Africa’s are top-class, with India not far behind.
Ever since the retirement of Kapil Dev, India has been seeking a pace-bowling allrounder who will allow the selectors the luxury of including two spinners no matter where the contest is played. The evolution of Hardik Pandya has now made that dream a reality but the charismatic allrounder will face his first big test in the five-day game playing in foreign conditions. If Pandya can fulfil his potential it will greatly enhance India’s chances of winning overseas and hence remaining at the top of the rankings.
There will be no shortage of drama as the comebacks of de Villiers and Dale Steyn have been eagerly awaited. Playing at their best these two talented -albeit injury-prone – stars could lift South Africa back to the heady days when they were the team best able to win all round the cricket world.
Then there’s the thrill of watching young pace bowlers harass opposition batsmen. There are none better at the moment than Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins; both young and with subtle skills as well as lightning pace. The opposition batsmen better be watching the ball closely or else they’re going to be found wanting.
And if it’s spin you crave, you’ve come to the right place. The Indian pair of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been a dominant combination, but riding solo, Nathan Lyon and Keshav Maharaj have also complemented their respective pace attacks brilliantly. Both series hold promise of providing a spin-bowling clinic.
“In the 21st century the best and most exciting series was the enthralling 2005 Ashes contest in the UK. These two series have the potential to challenge that ranking”
There are also the entertainers, with the dashing David Warner heading the list of batsmen willing to challenge the bowlers. Kohli with his sublime timing and placement is easy on the eye, and de Villiers with his ability to play both conventional and unconventional shots is both good to watch and a dangerous opponent.
And then there are the clinicians. Completely at ease with his eccentric style, Smith currently looks invincible. Both Cheteshwar Pujara and Hashim Amla have a thirst for runs that is unquenchable and epitomise the importance of having a top-class player in the No. 3 slot.
The three captains – blessed as they are with talent-laden teams – are an interesting study in leadership. Faf du Plessis is the least talented of them as a player, but he has a good feel for captaincy, and rare in a South African captain, an understanding of spin bowling.
Kohli quickly established his credentials in his first game as skipper when he chased an unlikely victory at Adelaide Oval and almost pulled off a miracle. He’s aggressive-minded but needs to ensure any emotional overflow doesn’t lead to a fatal misjudgement.
Smith is the most conservative of the three, captaining by the book but he has improved since he started to put more trust in Lyon’s ability. It also helps his captaincy that he’s amassing runs like a billionaire acquires assets, and this ensures that his talented attack has a decent total with which to work.
In the 21st century the best and most exciting series was the enthralling 2005 Ashes contest in the UK. These two series have the potential to challenge that “ranking” and in the process give us a clearer picture of which team is the best in the world.
A fake world championship in other words.