By Adrian Meredith
Since 2000, a lot of things have happened in cricket, most notably the invention of Twenty/20 cricket – 20-overs-per-side, but also, perhaps just as significantly, the introduction of the Decision Review System (DRS).
So the question remains: Has cricket improved since the turn of the century? First let us look at some negatives before coming to the positives:
1. Pakistan is not hosting international cricket matches - not even against other subcontinental countries.
2. Pakistan has been unilaterally blamed for all of the spot-fixing and match-fixing in the world - somewhat unfairly.
3. West Indies still refuses to pay its players fairly.
4. The West Indian Cricket Board (WICB), till recently, refused to let their best player and Chris Gayle play for his country, largely based on his preferring to make money elsewhere but also for his negative comments about the way the board is run.
5. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have been bullying of other boards in a very nasty way, including trying to stop the Sri Lanka Premier League and the Big Bash in Australia.
6. The News of the World newspaper was given credibility by the International Cricket Council (ICC) just moments before they were forcibly closed, permanently, for lying and corruption, most notably surrounding phone hacking.
7. England have begun to use their own ball (Duke), which differs so significantly from all other balls elsewhere in the world that they have become almost unbeatable at home because of it, giving them a huge unfair advantage in home games.
8. The Decision Review System (DRS) gives benefit of the doubt to umpires, instead of to batsmen, giving inconsistency and making bad decisions stay bad.
9. Kevin Pietersen was forced to retire from T20I cricket when he only wanted to retire from ODIs.
10. Zimbabwe were unable to play tests.
Now for positives:
1. We have recently seen a large number of world class spin bowlers, including Imran Tahir, Robin Petersen, Saeed Ajmal, Ajantha Mendis, Devendra Bishoo and finally Australia's own Nathan Lyon.
2. The T20 format has succeeded at a domestic level, so much so that in some cases there are larger crowds at domestic level than at international level, finally giving domestic cricket the credibility that soccer has.
3. Some players are now choosing to play domestic T20 cricket instead of playing international cricket, highlighting just how strong the domestic circuit has become, at least with T20, and paving the way for popularity levels to one day compete with that for soccer.
4. One-Day International (ODI) cricket, thought to be dead, had a hugely successful World Cup, and matches in between have continued to be successful too, proving that T20 cricket has not killed the ODI format, suggesting that all three formats can co-exist.
5. India have finally become a superpower on the field, rather than just in terms of popularity, as highlighted when they became No.1 Test team for the first time ever. They also won the World ODI Cup that they hosted, and the T20 World Cup earlier.
6. Bangladesh have become much stronger, occasionally competing with top level teams, though they lack consistency.
7. Afghanistan has risen significantly to now be probably the 12th best team after Ireland and the 10 Test teams.
8. Ireland in particular did well in the World Cup, adding interest to the performance of the minnows.
9. Zimbabwe returned to Test cricket in a big way.
10. West Indies have risen significantly, thanks largely to the new captain Darren Sammy.
11. Pakistan have risen, thanks mainly to Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq.
12. The DRS has faults, especially in relation to it giving the benefit of the doubt to the umpire rather than to the batsman (which would be consistent) is nonetheless significantly better than no DRS and it is very positive that it is being used.
Good times, yes?
(Adrian Meredith, an Australian from Melbourne, has been very passionate about cricket since he was seven years old. Because of physical challenges he could not pursue playing the game he so dearly loved. He loves all kinds of cricket - from Tests, ODIs, T20 - at all levels and in all countries and writes extensively on the game)