The sun is about to set on the year 2019. And, what a year it was for the cricketing folklore. It was another year of gobsmacking performances, heart-pumping humdingers, sensational one-man heists [Read Ben Stokes], damp squibs, and a plethora of heartwrenching moments [Read: India and New Zealand’s loss in the WC semi-final and final respectively].
The year-end gives a chance to not only us individuals but also the cricket teams, as a whole, to retrospect on the 12-months gone by, to learn from their mistakes as well as from their heists. It also gives them a chance to right the wrongs of the past by charting out New Year’s resolutions.
Here are the resolutions of top 10 International teams for the year 2020:
Australia – Win that elusive T20 World Cup Trophy
If you look down the Australian cabinet of trophies that the side has won during their proud cricketing history, you’ll find every single silverware one can think of. You’ll find multiple 50-over World Cups [Well! Five of them], plethora of multi-national tournament trophies, the coveted Ashes urn and what not!
But, one Trophy that you wouldn’t find in the cabinet is the T20 World Cup. The Aussies have never been a force to be reckoned with in T20Is; some would even say that they haven’t really taken the format seriously. They have come close to winning the title in 2007 and 2010 before being knocked out by India and England respectively.
But that could all change next year with the T20 World Cup set to be staged on home soil. Coach Justin Langer and the team management have vowed to take the shortest format of the game- for once- seriously, and their resolution heading into the new year would be to end the drought of the past 13 years.
South Africa- No more Kolpaks, please!
Before this decade, the most dreaded word in South African cricket used to be ‘Choker’. But in the past few years, that has been replaced with a ‘K’ letter – Yep! Kolpak!! Thanks to the quota system and lack of instability in South African cricket forced the likes of Simon Harmer, Duane Oliver, Rilee Rossouw, Kyle Abbott among many went on to sign an exclusive contract with the English counties, calling time on their international career.
World Cricket needs a strong South Africa. And, that ain’t possible if they keep losing their precocious talents to Kolpak. Dwaine Pretorius could also have been the latest name on that Kolpak list, had it not been for the last-minute interference by the newly-appointed Director of Cricket- Graeme Smith, something he and the entire cricketing set-up will have to do consistently in the upcoming year to ensure no more talent is lost to Kolpak.
Nevertheless, the team has gotten off to a great start in the new era with the skipper Faf du Plessis looking optimistic of changing things around with the likes of Mark Boucher, Smith and Jacques Kallis in the set-up now.
New Zealand – Finally win trophies, not only hearts
Unlike Australia, if you open the trophy cabinet of their Trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand, all you will find is the number of hearts they have won in the past few years. 2019 World Cup heart: Check. 2015 World Cup heart: Check. 2016 T20 World Cup heart: Check, Check, Check.
The Kiwis were applauded for their sportsman spirit in the aftermath of their 2019 World Cup final heartbreak. They were lauded by not only the fans for winning their ‘hearts’ but also by the MCC, who awarded them the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ trophy. But, winning hearts only gets you sympathy and the Kiwis know they are much better than that. How about replacing the hearts with an actual Trophy?
They have the captain in Kane Williamson, an exceptional team to do that and with the 2020 T20 World Cup to be played in familiar conditions, the Black Caps would love to win the hearts and trophy together.
England – Get some consistency in their Test team
“England have won the world cup by the barest of margins….by the barest of all margins….absolute ecstasy for England, agony, agony for New Zealand.” These words of Ian Smith in the immediate aftermath of England’s World Cup aptly summarised as to what all English cricket had gone through in white-ball cricket in the past.
Post the debacle in the 2015 World Cup, English cricket made a resolution of reviving their fledgeling fortunes in white-ball cricket. But, unfortunately, their surge in limited-overs cricket has come at a cost of their dwindling fortunes in Test cricket. English cricket is really funny.
Pre-2015 they were playing shorter formats in a Test match mould, and now since their surge in white-ball cricket, they are accused of showing little patience and extravagant stroke play in the garb of playing positive cricket. Their Test match form has taken a lot of beating in the past 2-3 years, and perhaps it is time for them to take another resolution: Play each format according to its demands and hopefully revive their fortunes in the purest format of the game.
Pakistan – Hopefully no more yawning and ‘Pizza Burger’ shenanigans
The two pictures that defined Pakistan cricket and its state of affairs in 2019 were those of Sarfaraz Ahmed yawning during a high-voltage Indo-Pak World Cup encounter and a Pakistani fan reacting to another botched effort from one of its fielders during a game against Australia.
Those two photos went on to become cult memes on social media as Sarfaraz was lambasted for showing ‘lack of any interest’ in such a high-profile fixture. The fans even went to the extent of shaming the entire team for their lack of fitness courtesy ‘Pizza Burger’ shenanigans.
These two instances showed two things. Firstly, the lack of consistency in Pakistan cricket, and secondly the whirlwind emotions of its loyal fans, who, no-matter, how their side is doing, they come out in huge numbers to support the Green Shirts. And, Pakistan cricket’s resolution going into the year 2020 should be to reward its ever-so-loyal fans with consistency on the field so that it doesn’t force them again to resort to those emotional [and hilarious] “Pizza-Burger” jibes.
Sri Lanka – Hopefully no more new captains
Sri Lankan cricket has been going through tumultuous times ever since the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan, and Tillakaratne Dilshan retired in the first half of the decade. Since then, the lack of performances and instability in their administration has led to them having a new captain almost every other week.
The year 2019 also started that way with regular captain Dinesh Chandimal dumped in favour of opening batsman Dimuth Karunratne in both Test and ODI cricket. But, since then, Karunaratne has been able to imprint his style of leadership on the team. Under Karunaratne, the island nation went on to become the first Asian side to beat South Africa in a Test series in the rainbow nation.
Besides that, they also managed to beat England in the World Cup and draw a Test series at home against New Zealand. Karunaratne looks like an inspiring leader and, going into the New Year, Sri Lankan’s cricket resolution should be to persist with the opener and let him grow as a leader, instead of ringing changes to the leadership.
West Indies – Build on the good work done so far under Kieron Pollard’s leadership
The West Indian Cricket Team recently toured India for a three-match ODI and T20I series, and while they lost both rubbers- 1-2- they showed enough fight and promise, something that was notoriously invisible in recent years, and all this happened under the inspiring leadership of Kieron Pollard.
Pollard was very impressive in how he marshalled his young troops, and in the manner in which he talked in his post-match and pre-math conferences. Pollard looks like a driven man, who wants to help the West Indies surge in International cricket, and with him, he has a talented group of individuals like Nicolas Pooran, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Sheldon Cottrell to work with.
And their resolution heading into the year 2020, would be to continue with the good work that they did in India and build a formidable West Indian team for the future. Don’t forget, they have the habit of winning the T20 World Cups out of nowhere and the Caribbeans have the capability of repeating it in Australia.
Bangladesh – Improve on their dismal Test performances
The entire decade of 2010 saw Bangladesh cricket’s rise in white-ball cricket. The cricket-mad nation qualified for the knockout stage of the 2015 World Cup and the 2017 Champions Trophy. Besides that, the Tigers also notched up their maiden bilateral ODI series win against India [1-2] and Pakistan [0-3].
But the same cannot be said about their fortunes in the purest format of the game. Barring the one-off victories against England and Australia in 2016 and 2017, the lack of ability of their batsmen to bat for long hours and quality wicket-taking bowlers in their set-up has led to their undoing, something that should be their foremost priority in the upcoming year.
With the World Test Championship coming into place, there should be more willingness to play Test cricket among the players as well and that might work in favour of Bangladesh.
Afghanistan – No more musical chairs in captaincy
Afghanistan started and finished the year 2019 with Ashgar Afghan at the helm of the leadership group. But, in between those 12 months, the baton of captaincy shifted hands thrice. It was almost a loop- Ashgar Afghan-Gulbadin Naib- Rashid Khan– Ashgar Afghan- a loop that saw the veteran back at the helm in the end after short captaincy stints of both Gulbadin Naib and Rashid Khan in and after the aftermath of the 2019 World Cup.
The instability of leadership at the helm can never be a good sign for any side, and for a developing cricketing nation like Afghanistan, it can be even more catastrophic, like we saw in the 2019 World Cup, where the Afghans were unable to win a single game.
Heading into the new year, the first and foremost resolution that Afghanistan Cricket is to give Afghan- the newly-appointed captain- a fair-enough rope. It will also be interesting to see how they grow in the Test cricket after being impressive in a short period so far.
India – Break the knockout jinx
2014 T20 World Cup final, 2016 T20 World Cup semi-final, 2015 & 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup semi-finals, 2017 Champions Trophy final. Do all of these events have a common thread? Well! If you ask an Indian fan, even a mention of all these events is enough to bring tears in their eyes.
For the past six years, they have seen their Men in Blue romp through the league stages with absolute disdain, only to see them falter at the final hurdle. On some occasions, it has been the absolute brilliance of the opposition, while on others, it’s the inability to handle the pressure moments that had led to their sides’ undoing.
The year 2020 gives another chance to Virat Kohli and his men to finally break the knockout jinx with the ICC T20 World Cup set to be staged in October-November in Australia. Virat Kohli recently said, “We will continue to chase that ICC Trophy”. Time to walk the talk in 2020.
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