2008 has been a turbulent year for World Cricket. The IPL, the Stanford Series, the Mumbai bombings and plenty of talk about the direction in which the game is heading with the new influx of money and the inexorable rise of India as the game’s powerhouse (off the field presently, although watch this space for on it).
However recent events have been far more positive and have brought a smile back to the faces of cricketing purists. After rumblings about its place in the new cricketing world order, test cricket responded with a bang in December with a series of memorable test matches. India and England served up a cracker in Chennai and South Africa have performed an era-ending smash and grab raid in Australia. Test cricket is back and remains able to provide excitement and ebb and flow like no other form of the game.
Individuals have enjoyed fluctuating fortunes. While Graeme Smith, Zaheer Khan and Dale Steyn suggested they can make a step up to greatness, the stars of Brett Lee, Matthew Hayden and Rahul Dravid began to wane. We said goodbye to all-time greats in Adam Gilchrist, Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly but the arrival of Stuart Broad, JP Duminy and Ajantha Mendis suggested a new generation of heroes is arriving. Michael Vaughen retreated into the shadows while Sachin Tendulkar continued his accumulation of pretty much every batting record going.
There is therefore cause for optimism that 2009 will deliver excitement with possibly a little less of the rather ugly political rankling which has characterised 2008. The debate about English players playing in the IPL will go on and I very much doubt we have heard the last from Sir Allen Stanford. But we have a Twenty20 World Cup in June for fans of the spectacular, the return leg of the exhilarating South Africa-Australia match up in March, and the highlight of the Ashes Series which should get anyone with an interest in the game excited. England play the West Indies home and away and India also travel to the West Indies in the middle of the year for a one-day series. There is also second season of the IPL.
All is far from rosy in cricket’s garden at the moment as different nations struggle to come to terms with the huge changes the game has undergone. The calendar remains crowded, the priorities of each country do not necessarily coincide and money is very unevenly distributed between countries, formats and levels of the game. But with the fall of Australia and the rise of India and South Africa on the field, there will be teams determined to cement their place at the top of the tree, teams seeking redemption and others aiming to crash the party. 2005 saw an Ashes Series in which the teams battled for world supremacy, this time both seek to arrest their slump. It could make for just as enticing a prospect. And who knows, Pakistan might even get to play a test match.
It all makes for an enticing cocktail and I for one can’t wait. At The Cricket Blog, we will aim to provide news, feature articles, polls, debates, footage and fun throughout the year, and to be a medium through which any cricket fan can express their view and get some debate going.
by Stuart Peel