A fan guide on what to expect this year in the World of cricket
2018 was a momentous year for the cricketing faithful, with the sport seeing several highs and one unprecedented low. Despite the Asia Cup being the only major multi-nation tournament of the year, several riveting ODI and especially Test matches made for a very good cricketing calendar. However, this coming year promises to be even more rewarding for the cricket patrons with the 12th Indian Premier League, World Cup and many other high-profile tournaments and matches. Here is a deep down of what to expect from the World of cricket this year.
Crickets global carnival
The ICC Cricket World Cup is back this year after a four-year hiatus and the birthplace of the gentleman's game (England) will be the venue this time around. Commencing on the 30th of May with the final scheduled for the 14th of July, cricket lovers have the good fortune of continued high-octane cricket action this year after the Indian Premier League.
Afghanistan will be the newest entrants to the World Cup and are expected to spring up a few surprises after a good show at the Asia Cup of 2018. Hosts England and India are the favourites to win the tournament, but last edition's finalists Australia and New Zealand also look like strong contenders for the coveted trophy.
Played across 11 venues with a match almost every day, the 2019 World Cup definitely promises to be the cricketing highlight for the coming year.
CSK's title defence
With 2019 being a World Cup year as well and the Indian general elections set to take place in May, the IPL has been preponed this year and is slated to begin on the 19th of March. There is also talk of the second half of the tournament being shifted outside India which will be a great experience for budding Indian youngsters to test themselves in foreign soils.
While almost all the old heroes of the tournament remain with their franchises, this year's IPL will some exciting newcomers from West Indies and South Africa who are renowned as experts of the shorter format. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings are the defending champions, but face stiff competition from every other team who have added some talented fresh faces to their core squad in the auction.
The prodigal returns
It isn't set in stone but the way the current Australian team has been playing post that fateful Newlands Test, an International return for tarnished Steve Smith and David Warner looks almost inevitable. One would kill to be a fly on the wall on the day the duo make their return in Baggy greens to observe the public hostility or lack of it.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Smith and Warner shall be available for the 2019 Ashes on enemy territory and would expect the full wrath of the Barmy Army chants.
The battle for the coveted urn
When cricket's two most historic foes fight reignite their rivalry, you can expect some nail-biting, edge of the seat excitement. What makes this Ashes most poignant is that it most likely would be the last one for England’s pace duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Those two have been loyal servants for the nation over the past decade and Joe Root’s men would be hoping to give them a good send-off. Not to forget, England play the Ashes having lost the previous edition four to nothing. In the Aussie camp, Smith and Warner's return to English soil and crowd animosity would be the biggest selling point.
Kiwi rejoice and Lankan lament?
Both these nations have always been a fringe team in the shadows of other cricketing superpowers but 2019 could write a different story. New Zealand and Sri Lanka seem to be on different tangents on the cricketing graph as we begin this new year. The Kiwis are fast becoming feared opposition in all formats of the game, hitting their golden generation of batsman with captain Kane Williamson leading by example. Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor and BJ Watling form a middle-order to die for, with a stellar bowling attack led by veterans Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Unlike the Black Caps, the Lankan cricket team seems to be in total disarray with the management changing captains as frequently as clothes. Lasith Malinga looks like a spent force and none of the other bowlers have the big match experience or temperament to fill in the void of the past. The batting department is not very different, with Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal being the only ones to boast some consistency. The Sri Lankan fans can expect another dismal year in cricket with the current management and team strength.
Feature picture courtesy: AFP