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K.R. NAYAR COLUMN: Who will make 2018 a beautiful year for cricket?

Mantle is on cricketers like never before to breath more life and joy into the game

Gulf News

Who will make 2018 a beautiful year for cricket? Many would have preferred the question to be ‘which team will make cricket look beautiful and exciting’?

But a look at what lies ahead reveals that 2018 will be an intense battle between Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Joe Root to emerge as the best.

These three cricketers have made India, Australia and England cricket exciting to watch. The pressure on them to deliver next year will be enormous since they are on a neck-to-neck race in scoring centuries, double centuries, as well as swelling their average.

Once could well debate on which team will be exciting to watch if the other teams too had players like these three.

Australia defeated England in the Ashes, and they deserve all credit for the way they dominated the series; but we also need to remember the series was played in Australia.

India are looking good over other teams; but again all their recent victories have been on subcontinent wickets.

Today no team can claim their dominance in cricket like the Australians did a few years ago.

Many also forget the fact that South Africa is now the second ranked Test team and Pakistan tops the T20 format. Both these teams have good players, but they are not being talked about like Kohli, Smith and Root.

New Zealand is also looking good and have a class batsman in Kane Williamson, but he hasn’t been able to win huge acclaim.

It is strange that Pakistan, despite being the Champions Trophy winners and topping the T20 team ranking, is not getting the credit they deserve.

South Africa have AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla; unfortunately they too are not discussed as cricketers who will end up as the best.

De Villiers is only 33 years old and this can be his year provided he continues to play the kind of shots and knocks that makes us watch him with awe.

All this raises a question whether batsmen alone can only make cricket look good in 2018?

Despite the many changes in cricketing rules, cricket is still a batsman’s game. Unlike the past there isn’t a Muttiah Muralitharan or Shane Warne in world cricket today. So 2018 will be a challenge for bowlers like Ravichandran Ashwin, James Anderson, Rangana Herath and Mitchell Starc to make cricket exciting through their bowling.

Cricket will be thrilling only when there is an intense clash between the bat and ball. All departments of the game must compete with each other. It should also be the year when all formats of the game compete vigorously against each other to win the hearts of the fans.

The mantle is on the cricketers like never before to breath more life and joy into cricket.