Sri Lanka’s record in India suggests that the tourists will face a tough task. The bulk of responsibility for scoring runs is likely to fall on the usual suspects, who have in the past made huge scores on benign pitches but struggled in difficult conditions. As for the bowlers, only Murali has a strong track record in India, so the others will need to step up if the side are to succeed. Herath should edge out Mendis for the second spin slot, although the latter’s magical showing against the same opposition last year may inspire his inclusion at some stage.
For the hosts, Zaheer Khan’s return (along with Sreesanth) should revitalise the pace attack, whilst a chief concern could be adjusting back to Test cricket after more than six months of limited-overs matches. The lack of Test matches has been picked up on by the man of the hour, and many of the players in the side may take some time to realign their approaches.
The main issue for Ireland seems to be the absence of a domestic competition at a sufficiently high standard, although the likelihood of regular defeats and of not being taken seriously by the cricketing world in general also loom large. Whether or not elevation to Test status would prevent the exodus of Ireland’s best players to play for England is also a moot point.
A two-tier Test championship, or some sort of limited qualification in the way that associate nations gain eligibility to play full ODIs at the moment, could be the way forward, but it’s likely that internal politics will be the deciding factor.
South Africa have always been the nearly men of 50-over cricket, but they did win the Champions Trophy back in 1998, since when they have developed a reputation as big tournament bottlers. This is South Africa’s best chance in years to win some ICC silverware, as well as to cast off the ‘chokers‘ tag.
Sri Lanka could be dark horses, with Dilshan‘s firepower matched by the steadying hands of veterans Jayasuriya, Jayawardene and captain Sangakkara. The return of Murali and the recent form of the pace attack will worry opposing batsmen, but the side will need to take a step up to taste glory.
England, having been humiliated in the ODI series against Australia, and without their two best limited overs players in Flintoff and Pietersen, will do well to win a match. The batsmen seem to fail whenever the bowlers succeed and vice versa, so expectations, it’s fair to say, will be easy to live up (or down) to.
The MCC’s World Cricket Committee is set to meet ICC representatives in November to discuss the idea, which could include the use of coloured balls and maybe even a change of clothing for the players.
With the longest form of the game seemingly under constant threat, ideas like this could be the way forward, but those involved will have to be careful that they don’t end up losing the ‘traditional’ elements of the Test format that make it such a unique spectacle. Ultimately, it will be the attitude that the ICC (and, realistically, the BCCI) takes to this development which will be crucial.
It’s also nice to see the MCC at the forefront of new developments, giving the lie to the organisation’s reputation for conservativism.
Interestingly, the issue of Pakistan travelling to play in India is still unresolved, with Butt saying that his team will only travel if Pakistan’s government allows it, otherwise “the World Cup could be affected or cancelled“, which shows at least that no-one at the PCB is guilty of underestimating Pakistan’s importance to the competition. I don’t remember Nasser Hussain and company worrying about the possibility of the 2003 competition being cancelled because England wouldn’t travel to Zimbabwe (although admittedly that competition hardly suffered for their loss in the way a subcontinental World Cup would without Pakistan).
Here’s hoping all the politics get sorted out well in advance of the cricket.