If Indian cricket team has to become the greatest team in history, it has to ensure a cracking 2018
By many standards this is the best group of young men to ever play cricket for India. While they may not challenge legends individually, although one could argue that Virat Kohli is already a legend, as a group, they are world-beaters.But the coming 12 months will test their mettle like no other time. Although 2017 has been a year for consolidation and getting records, the last few months of prop- er cricket have involved brutally torturing a hapless Sri Lanka. But in January and February, India tours South Africa, followed by a trip to England in July and August and spending the next winter between November and January in Australia. This is an opportunity for Kohli and his platoon to prove that they are not flat-track bullies and can perform across the world and truly deserve to be the best test team in the world. India not only has the talent, it is also fortunate that they have lucked into a time where many of their rivals lack the resilience and skills from half a decade ago. Many rival teams are ageing while attempting to blood new talent. But as the ongoing Ashes proves, it is difficult to beat teams at home and India’s rivals are rebuilding for the future. And like it or not, India has gone from trying to get a place at the high table in International cricket to now controlling it, the Indian Premier League (IPL) being the signature event of the year. India is the big bully who every- one wants to pull down a peg or two, and Kohli and his boys should be careful of the emotion with which rival teams will come at them. That said, thanks to the IPL, Indian and international cricketers are now closer than before, very often forging friendships like that between Kohli and South African talisman AB De Villiers. Such friendships might curb the raw emotion of the cricket but will also ensure what happens on the field stays on the field.
This is also the year that the IPL enters its second decade on the back of a massive television and online deal. But how will the IPL evolve as the Chennai and Rajasthan franchises come back? Will there be more teams and how will the IPL bring the joy of franchise cricket to large parts of the population where franchises do not operate? These are questions that the IPL will need to figure out as well as trying to work out how it can expand to a larger global audience as European football leagues are doing today. Ergo, can the IPL become a vehicle to promote the sport globally? In addition, 2018 will see the first test match played by Afghanistan and appropriately they will play India. While the final venue and dates are yet to be decided, Afghanistan’s entry to test cricket is a good sign of the health of the sport. With Afghani players Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Nabi plying their trade in the IPL, it proves that cricket, including the IPL, much like Bollywood, is an instrument of Indian soft power and something that must turn China green with envy. Unfortunately, Indian and Pakistani cricketing ties remain a victim of our Western neighbour’S promotion of terrorism. Maybe Pakistani officials might see that cricket ties can only help people-to-people relations. But other than that, all in all 2018 is a year Indian cricket fans should look forward to.