By: Krutart Vashi
Lets begin with the countdown of the best teams in world cricket 2018.
- New Zealand
The Kiwis had a wonderful start to the new year, as they beat the Windies and Pakistan comprehensively in both Tests and ODIs in January. Their opening combination looked fragile after the retirement of the swashbuckling Brendon McCullum. But Colin Munro has stepped easily into his big shoes and gives New Zealand blazing starts just like McCullum and is ably supported by the two-toed Martin Guptill. Kane Williamson and Co. have always been the dark horses that deliver on big occasions.
However, the reason New Zealand slips to No. 5 in the countdown is the lack of a quality bowling line up. The onus is on Tim Southee and Trent Bolt to restrict the opposition from scoring, but if either has a bad day, they are not backed up well by other bowlers. This was observed in the T20 against Australia, when even after scoring mammoth 243, the Kiwis lost to their Trans-Tasman Rivals. An unsettled playing XI also causes the worry for them. With World Cup just over a year from now, New Zealand has a task up their sleeve if they want to make it big in the game.
The Poms had a summer to forget, as they were humiliated in the Ashes down under 0-4. However, they retaliated well in the colored outfits against their arch rivals, completely transforming the way they played the game.
The presence of Jos Butler and Jason Roy at the top of the order totally rejuvenated the Brits, never allowing the Australian bowlers to settle in. Eoin Morgan and Joe Root caress the middle order and keep the scoreboard ticking. The English side under Eoin Morgan in ODIs have scored 6 totals in excess of 350 in the past 18 months, more than any other side, including a world record 444-3 against Pakistan.
From old-fashioned techniques to the modern day cricket, the transformation has been a vindication on field. Chris Woakes has come of age in all three formats and Mark Wood showed the world how to defend a low score in the final over by just sticking to basics, their bowling looks all but settled. But what the England team really misses is the services of Ben Stokes, and the team management and fans are just hoping he dons the English colors again, before the much awaited World Cup, which England would be keen on getting hands on for the first time.
If I have to describe the Australian team in one word, my answer would be Steve Smith. The baby faced Australian captain had dream summer scoring 700+ runs averaging around 80 in the Ashes. There’s no stopping Steve Smith, who with an unorthodox batting technique wrecked a havoc among the English bowlers.
The razor edge of Australian cricket just doesn’t seem to be blunt, as the reinforcements keep on coming from the breeding grounds. Having specialist players in each format have made it easier for the management to assign the roles to the players.
Mitchell Starc led bowling line-up rattled the Brits in the Ashes and the Aussies would be backing up their performance down under to defend the coveted World Cup in England next year.
- South Africa
The Proteas are invincible in their own den. A thrashing 135 run win over India in the 2nd test, ended the latter’s undefeated run of 9 test series. The South African pace quartet of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada are all “Fire and Blood” when comes to bowling. These four have given such an impressive performance that media and fans across the globe started comparisons with the great West Indian pace quartet of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Collin Croft. The rainbow nation almost dethroned India from the top rank in the test series, showing how good the team really is when it comes to the longest form of the game.
Despite being thrashed 1-5 in the ODI series against India, South African ODI unit is as strong and formidable as it can get. The South Africans were without the services of their batting mainstays in the middle order, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, and hence succumbed to the quality Indian spin bowling. A rare failure for South Africa considered as their vulnerability, 17-match undefeated streak at home in ODIs is a testament to that. A full strength squad with the likes of AB, Faf, QdK, Amla and Miller and a more than ready bench strength with the likes of Heinrich Klaasen is more than enough to send some chills down the spine of the bowlers. If this happens, South Africa are well on course for their maiden World Cup title next year.
Team India landed on the South African soil after an astounding 9-test series win in the great Indian home season of 2016-17. Tested and baptised by pace and bounce in 1st two test matches, India bounced back brilliantly in the 3rd test at Jo’burg and carried the momentum into the one dayers completely thrashing the Proteas 5-1 in their own backyard to win 1st ODI series in 25 years on South African soil and increasing the ODI series unbeaten run to 9.
Virat Kohli as captain, has now 33 wins out of 40 matches as captain, only behind Ricky Ponting’s 34 wins. Virat is one the bests of the modern game, having tumbled records after records in both the formats, looks settled and cemented at the top of the middle order. A strong opening combination of Rohit Sharma-Shikhar Dhawan, followed by Kohli at number three, form the best top 3 in limited overs cricket at the time. India’s only concern with World Cup around is the fragile middle order who fails to get going in the slog overs. And that is what India needs now, a strong middle order batsman, who can rise to the occasion when a rare failure of the top 3 occurs.
Bowling department settled with reins in hands of young fast bowlers and quality spinners, along with the experience of Ashwin-Jadeja on the bench, the Indian team is all set to repeat the feat of 2011 and go into the record books as a dominant side feared by any other team on the cricket field.