Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Twenty21 Lineup

Presenting the Slipstream Cricket Line-up from the year 2021 AD.

1. The Ever-changing Schedule 
Games are scheduled. But till the toss is held, you have no idea if the game would actually go ahead. That’s the level of uncertainty created by Covid. Even the most secure of bio-bubbles have been breached by the virus. All the major leagues were disrupted, to varying degrees. International calendar became more lopsided, team sizes have ballooned. England replaced an entire team. India played a T20 with just 4 batters (off whom 3 made their debut). And yet the administrators and players gamely move on. They prioritized the tournaments/series which generate the most moolah. But that has been the harsh reality. Kudos to the organizers, players, support teams who got us as much cricket as possible. 

2. World Champions 
Finally, Test Cricket has a World Champion - New Zealand. They won a proper final in a proper manner. Although the qualification route was convoluted and covid-ravaged! But they certainly were deserving champions. By the way, just how convoluted was the Championship – South Africa and West Indies played a series which was part of the Championship group stage AFTER the Finals! 

3. One More Step
The guardians of the game have changed the term Batsman to Batter. Just that one more tiny little step towards gender equity. It is still a long way to go. Just look at the disparity in number of games across levels between men and women. And the pandemic has just increased the gap in many ways. 

4. Debutantes 
  • Women’s ODI: Zimbabwe (personally I was surprised to learn that Zimbabwe women have never played an ODI) 
  • Men’s T20I: Bahamas, Cameroon, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Hungary, Lesotho, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra leone, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania 
  • Women’s T20I: Belgium, Cameroon, Eswatini, Italy, Sweden 
5. They Were Robbed 
Thailand gave a super performance to reach the Super 6 of the Women’s World Cup qualifiers only for the tournament to be scrapped because of Omicron cases rising. Not only the World Cup they also missed out on ODI status for the next qualification cycle! Meanwhile, a team which doesn’t exist (Afghanistan women) has Test status! The mandarins at ICC really need to get rid of some of the classism which still exists in the global cricketing ranks. A major step would be to de-link on-field performance of Men & Women sides. 

6. Performance of the Year
Ajaz Patel became just the 3rd bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings, and the first in overseas Test match and promptly got dropped for New Zealand’s next Test. And this after being involved in a match-saving last-wicket stand in the game before! 
Special mentions - Frederique Overdijk – 7/3 for Netherlands vs France which are the best T20I figures ever. And Jaskaran Malhotra 6 sixes in an over USA vs Papua New Guinea in an ODI. 

7. The fortresses breached 
  • Pakistan finally after 3 decades of trying beat India in a Men’s World Cup game with a thumping 10-wicket margin in the T20 World Cup. That record had to go some day. Well, we are still unbeaten in the Men’s ODI World Cup. 
  • Then there was the greatest breach of all. Australia losing at Gabba for the first time in 32 years. As if this wasn’t a big event in itself, India achieved this with a depleted lineup and a bowling unit with a combined experience of 12 Test wickets! 
8. Picture of the Year 
Rakheem Cornwall with 2 teammates hanging on to him. He literally is the size of 2 humans!

9. Freak Injury of the Year
These are times in which players miss games because they had lunch at the same place where a covid positive case was also present. But Ben Foakes’s case is unique. He slipped on a sock, in the dressing room, in a county game and went on to miss England’s international summer. 

10. Comeback of the Year 
Indian women’s team returned to the Test arena with two matches including one Pink-ball game. But with no actual plans in place for domestic first-class games, these just seem marketing gimmicks. Although good to see that BCCI mandarins see the women’s game as worth marketing. 

11. The New Format 
Every year cricket throws in some new format, to win new fans but just ending up confusing the existing ones further. And spare a thought for the statisticians of the game. So, this year we have The Hundred! Why couldn’t they just have packaged T20 better! 

The 12th: The longest innings – Eileen Ash. She represented England on wither side of the Second World War. And in 2021 moved on at 110. RIP! 

And off the field South Africa’s mixed messages on taking the knee and the revelations of the SJN report. Hopefully they take some real steps while maintaining a competitive team at the same time. And the Tim Paine scandal which just blew off the Elite Honesty façade of Cricket Australia

That was cricketing year 2021. And we are already in some nice action in 2022. Hopefully (fingers crossed), the cricketing schedule is less Covid disrupted this year.

Wishing all readers a Happy, Healthy & Safe 2022 filled with lots of on-field cricketing action.

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