After a series spanning five tests and approximately two months, England reclaimed ashes.
Let’s talk about the winning team first – their middle order is ‘average’ if you don’t want to critical . Greame Swann’s contribution with the bat will count no less than contribution with the ball. Stuart Broad – best all rounder was non starter for the 5th test. Andrew Strauss was the only consistent batsman and Jimmy Anderson was the only consistent bowler.
Point here is not to berate the achievements of the winning team but to put in perspective the fact that despite all these, Australia lost. you’ll have to think for few seconds , if asked to name their best bowler. Right, it was BW Hilfenhaus. Hauritz outperformed everbody’s expectation but was still not good enough to be selected for two of the five tests. South Africa never became a world beater without a world class spinner , Australia can’t hope to remain one without one good enough one at least. Magician left the stage and it doesn’t look like art anymore, forget magic. Ponting stands tall among lesser mortals and Michael Clarke stands up very often, but that makes them a team with some very good players and not a very good team.
Ashes 2009 will be remembered for Andrew Flintoff’s last Ashes, Stuart Broad’s arrival as an all rounder(if he adds some more Ashes folklore to his promising start), and one of the most telling debut century of all time by Trott but it will also be remembered as the point where ifs and buts about Australia’s supremacy were finally put to rest, it is over. Don’t get me wrong they can still unearth Mike Hussey or Stuart Clark but you feel the contribution of all time greats when they go missing. Sometimes they come to remind you of themselves in IPL but still they can not be replaced. Let’s feel blessed for having seen Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist playing together and being supported by Waughs, Ponting, Hyden , Martin and Langer.
Going forward, South Africa will always remain a very good team but they need to win semifinals and be more consistent around the globe, Pakistan will remain enigmatically brilliant, Indian young guns will probably find it tough to fill the shoes of extraordinary predecessors. Sri Lanka should continue to show glimpses of art in craft. But, we may have to wait for sometime before having an all out dominant team or before a captain complains of lack of competition, as Steve Waugh did once.
On a related note – let’s welcome the coming back of Asif , he has a hell lot of potential, let’s hope to see some of that and also welcome Andy Flower in the new awatar, right you can’t keep good men down for long.
The Lahore ambush attack on Sri Lankan cricket team en route to Gaddafi Stadium, being the first for cricketing world was shell shocking and has quite a few implications-
1. Not very unusually we will start with a hindsight ! – Security for the cricketers was lacking. Given the significance any tour to Pakistan has due to teams objecting to tour Pakistan because of security reasons, any tour becomes high profile from the security point of view. It is hard to believe that the security provided was ‘ presidential level’ and that was what it was supposed to be.
2. It puts serious question marks over other teams touring Pakistan in near future. Bangladesh and New Zealand have already called off their tour to Pakistan. Bilateral tournament in neutral venues seem to be the best option as of now. How long is ‘near future’ depends a lot on political and administrative stability in Pakistan but it could be anything between 2 to 4 years.
3. Expect some hiccups for world cup 2011, especially the matches which are to be hosted in Pakistan, you can always argue either way but chances are pretty bleak that Pakistan will host them. These will have to be shifted to other countries in the sub continent. India being the foremost choice. With respect to India I believe given monetary clout of BCCI and past security history (note the order!) they will be able to convince other boards about extra security. More so because , IPL for this year doesn’t seem to have run into lot of roadblocks (other than the ones due to general election in India) and in all likelihood will take place with minor changes.
4. As for other tournaments in India, and given the England came after Mumbai attack – it seems that will continue same way, unless God forbid something unpleasant happens.
5. Primary point is this though - this state of Pakistan Govt and cricket administration is bad for Pakistan cricket and world cricket. You can argue that Pakistan is very often an unpredictable and inconsistent team but can’t deny the fact that they produce extra ordinary talents. Cricket would have been poorer without Javed Miadad’s street smartness, Imran Khan’s cricketing acumen ,Waqar Younis’s rawness, Wasim Akram’s genius, Saqlin Mustaq’s doosra and Sohaib Akhtar’s flair. World deserves more of them. We can only hope that the situation in Pakistan improves.