A rare break in the cricket calendar - The lull before the storm
There was a time when a cricket series was a seasonal affair, invoking enthusiasm and frenzy because they were not frequent.
As the appetite of cricket lovers increased, embellished by the deluge of sports channels which inundated them with more and more cricket from around the world, a demand-supply chain ensued.
The cricket calendar started getting tighter and tighter. Indian Premier League, Big Bash and other notable Twenty20 leagues took up some space cramming the calendar further. This year, the Champions League was done away with, probably to the relief of some cricketers.
The Ashes and Australia’s tour of England came to an interesting end drawing the chequered flag on the English summer.
A rare possibility surfaced – no international cricket for a fortnight, anywhere in the world. That hasn’t happened in a long while, definitely not this year.
But, what follows the empty fortnight is a barrage of matches, with half a dozen teams playing each other quite a bit.
We can take this break as an opportunity to look at all the cricket we can soak ourselves in once the sabbatical cricket has taken comes to an end.
India v South Africa
The broadcasters’ caption for this series is fun and apt, ‘It’s difficult; it’ll be fun’. India is a final frontier for South Africa having won just once in 2000 and lost twice while managing to draw on two occasions.
Over the last decade which saw South Africa climb to the top of the Test rankings by beating most other cricketing powerhouses in their own den, a series victory in India eludes them.
Some sense has prevailed too. It is not a short two-match series leaving everyone thirsting for more.
This series is a colossus of sorts.
It starts with three high adrenaline T20 Internationals, eases into five-One Day Internationals and then turns on the intensity with four Tests where they play for the Freedom Trophy.
The Gandhi Mandela series will go on until the first week of December, starting in the first week of October.
The whole of India will love this home series under a brand new captain, who will lead his side in whites for the first time at home.
The T20I series is important considering India and South Africa are at number four and number six, much lower than their ODI rankings.
The Test rankings will be an incentive for India who are at number five at the moment and wins against the number one ranked side, even at home, should fetch them some points as they trail Pakistan by one point and England by two.
The Zimbabwe games
Zimbabwe gave a good account of themselves when India toured recently. It is only fair that they get more games to motivate their players and crowds.
Pakistan will tour for two T20 games and three ODIs.
Ireland get much deserved games too against Zimbabwe, with a Test-playing nation, three ODIs, all of the matches to be played at Harare in late September and early October.
Bangladesh v Australia
A much improved Bangladesh will have a chance to lock horns with the best in the business and Chittagong and Dhaka will host two Tests against Australia in October.
On paper, the tussle between the second-placed teams from top and bottom is not much of a contest.
But Bangladesh will want to translate their ODI success at home, in a season where they beat three top teams, Pakistan, India and South Africa, into success in Tests too, where they are a country mile behind their nearest rivals West Indies.
Pakistan v England
England have had an unbelievable home season that saw them win the Ashes 3-2.
They showed great potential by adopting a brand new style of playing the ODI format under their skipper Eoin Morgan, winning a series against World Cup finalists New Zealand and narrowly losing against the world champions, Australia.
Now they’ve to travel away from familiar shores to play Pakistan with Test, ODI and T20I rankings at stake in United Arab Emirates during October and November.
The two teams will play three Tests, four ODIs and three T20Is. Playing against the top-ranked T20 team in UAE will also help England’s preparation ahead of the T20 World Cup to be played in India.
Pakistan will look to not only retain their T20 ranking but will also try to stay ahead of their sub-continental rivals India in the Test rankings.
The Trans-Tasman Rivalry
At their peak, Australia were still troubled by their trans-Tasman rivals, who always punch above their weight against the world’s toughest team across formats.
Fans of the rivalry have waited for a long while to watch the contest and the much due series will finally get underway when New Zealand tour Australia in November.
This will also be a historical contest as the two teams will play three Tests, the final one of which will be the first day-night Test match with pink ball.
That promises to be an electric setting for a historically significant experiment at Adelaide that might alter the direction of cricket.
The rivalry will be resumed when Australia tour New Zealand a couple of months later for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy that includes three ODIs and then the trans-Tasman Trophy, comprising of two Tests.
Sri Lanka v West Indies
Sri Lanka has had a tough home season, losing two back to back series against their sub-continental rivals, Pakistan and India.
They are in transition, still reeling from the loss of two stalwarts of their batting order, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
West Indies under Jason Holder will also look to improve upon their performance, eight points adrift of seventh placed Sri Lanka, as the former tour to Sri Lanka.
Holder’s no-nonsense leadership offers respite from all the board-player gimmicks that West Indian cricket has witnessed.
Holder has already won fans of the stature of Brian Lara with his resolute playing style with bat and ball and steady, honest captaincy.
After drawing a hard-fought series against England at home, West Indies lost to Australia, which means they start from scratch.
For the young team, this will be an interesting learning experience, the mix of spin and some new found inclination to seamer-friendly pitches.
Two Tests, three ODIs and two T20Is during October and November make for a short tour but it will be trial by fire before West Indies go down under for probably the test of their lifetime.
The New Zealand games
Sri Lanka will face their biggest Test of the transitional phase touring New Zealand where they will play two Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is in December.
Pakistan will tour New Zealand briefly as well to play three T20I and three ODIs before New Zealand host their trans-Tasman rivals.
The T20Is are particularly important as New Zealand gear up for the T20 World Cup in the sub-continent against the top-most T20 sides.
© Cricket World 2015