It is a ‘glass is half full or half empty’ situation in cricket these days. The lack of domination of a team or the No. 1 side is being looked with two different perspectives. The pessimistic one says no team currently has the calibre or wherewithal to rule the roost for long and the optimistic one says the game has become competitive like never before.
Too much of domination ups the boredom level of seeing the sport. Like from late 1990s to early 2000s Formula One produced only one Mika Hakkinen to challenge the legend of Michael Schumacher and his team Ferrari. Formula One hit the roofs in popularity charts, Ferrari became a cult team, Schumacher an idol for every aspiring driver. But many purists and race lovers wanted to see a new hero a new constructor’s champion.
But lack of a dominating personality or a team too hampers interest in the sport. Like in women’s tennis, the last time a player was dominant was probably either of the Williams’ sisters. Since their injuries and lack of form, there have been numerous No. 1s but none influential and the women’s game since then has been more focussed on talking about the outfits the damsels wear during their matches.
So cricket after being ruled, on field, for 20 years by West Indies (1970-1990) first and then Australia (1990-2010) has no worthy heir apparent currently. England upstaged the Aussies in 2008-09Ashes series and Australia were on their way down from Test supremacy since, India took the throne of ODI champs in 2011 and of all the teams, England were the Twenty20 kings.
Since the change in equation, i.e., when Aussie stranglehold on cricket started waning, no team has ever looked to begin a new era of domination. India, after becoming the World No. 1 Test side and fifty over champions too, never looked convincing on top. Eventually they were toppled by a marauding English side in Tests, and in spite being world champions they could never top the ODI rankings.
This has led to an interesting situation where one bad day for a team in either of the formats can lead to the start of good days of another. It is good for the game; in the sense the results are no more as predictable as Ram Gopal Verma’s movies. There is an element of doubt, even when Bangladesh is facing Australia or India, though not on a consistent basis but yes there is.
It was heartening to see Bangladesh in the Asia Cup finals after beating the likes of India and Sri Lanka on their way up. England losing to Pakistan in Tests opened up this debate of whether the Strauss led side were worthy of being India’s successor. But neither was India’s candidacy any good. So what’s the point of being a No. 1 side in cricket these days?
In between all these teams, probably for the talent and the right composition, South Africa is one team which has always been on the brink but never turned up on top. They have the entire arsenal to be there and dominate. But there strong wish and will to be the perennial bridesmaid hasn’t just faded ever. Probably it’s not a bad choice to make. These days in cricket it is irrelevant to be No. 1. Isn’t it?