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Boon or Bane | Evaluating what the long layoff means for every international team

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Boon or Bane | Evaluating what the long layoff means for every international team

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Anirudh Suresh

03/26/2020

If you’re someone who is hopeful of cricketing action restarting in mid-May, let me be the bearer of some bad news - there is no way we are getting any action at least until June. From a fan’s perspective, it is miserable indeed, but what does it really mean for the teams and their plans?

India

No one really wants to admit this, but let me tell you, the Indian players must be absolutely stoked that finally, FINALLY, they get to rest. This is a side that played FIFTEEN international games in January and February alone and has been playing continuously since August, so you could imagine how physically and mentally cooked they must have been before the ongoing situation broke out. Albeit an unfortunate one, this break gives the likes of Kohli, Bumrah, Rahul and Iyer some much-needed rest and, most importantly, allows the likes of Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar and Shikhar Dhawan leeway to get themselves completely fit before getting on to the field. The break also gives the team time to re-evaluate their results, rethink their process and recuperate before the all-important WT20 and, of course, the Tests against Australia which will follow. A welcome rest, you could say. 

VERDICT - BOON

Australia

Like India, Australia would, no doubt, appreciate the duration of rest that they’ve been handed with, but unlike the Men in Blue, the Kangaroos are a bit under-cooked in terms of where their team stands. The postponement/cancellation of the limited-over games versus New Zealand and the IPL means that Australia, with under three months to go for the WT20, will be unsure about their batting order and personnel in T20s, given the ruckus that’s unfolded in that area over the last three months. They also are, as of this moment, unsure on who their third pacer is and three months of action scrapped is nothing but a golden opportunity missed to test how the likes of Cummins and Kane Richardson fare under the pump, months before the WT20, given this will be their best ever chance to win the tournament. From a red-ball perspective, they would be pretty content with where they are, but this does raise question marks over their white-ball future.   

VERDICT - BANE

England

Before we get into the negatives, let us look at the bright aspects of this lay-off for England. Firstly, it gives the trio of Rory Burns, Jofra Archer and James Anderson a window to completely recover and get back fully fit, whilst also cools down the players who were on the verge of a burnout, be it Jos Buttler or Joe Root or Ben Stokes. But that’s all there is to the good side. Headaches are aplenty. Given the County Championship looks set to be cancelled, it throws all the plans they had to rebuild their Test side out of the window. On top of it, the board might also be left with a tricky call to make with respect to The Hundred, the one tournament everyone is willing to sell their soul to witness happen. But the biggest blow of all might arguably be the fact that they will have no time to experiment with their T20 side. Important calls - such as whether Buttler will open, whether Banton, Denly and Malan will be in the squad, whether Stokes will be persisted with as the finisher - will have to be taken without having really been scrutinised and evaluated. 

VERDICT - BANE

South Africa

Could you imagine being the South African cricket team right now? You FINALLY manage to win your first ever bilateral series in over a year and just when everything looks like it has fallen into place, BOOM, the sport gets indefinitely suspended. Nothing will ever define South African cricket post-2017 like this phase. The Proteas are a team that will suffer significantly because of this hiatus, as from building their team towards the WT20 to taking calls on the return of players like AB de Villiers and Imran Tahir, so much rested in the March - June window.  It also, unfortunately, kills off the momentum that they had worked so desperately hard and in a way, puts them back to square one. All they can do now is trust their instinct and hope that it pays off when normalcy resumes. If there’s one team that simply did not want or need a break, it is South Africa.

VERDICT - BANE

New Zealand

New Zealand are one of a kind, aren’t they? While you have all these teams around that are anxiously looking to experiment with their sides, trying to find the combination, the Black Caps are more than happy to stick to what they have. They, in fact, detest experimentation. “There’s a player who has failed 15 games in a row? No problem, we will give him 5 more matches just to be sure. The team is on a losing streak? Doesn’t matter, we will keep playing until we win.” That’s how they roll. Given the next few months were going to be of no significance to them anyway, the Kiwis would be thankful and ecstatic with this break, from a cricketing perspective. It also gives the likes of Williamson, Taylor and Southee a much, much-needed rest, given the mental toll that these last 8 months of action has taken on them.

VERDICT - BOON

West Indies

Like South Africa, given the Windies were still contemplating on re-integrating certain players back into the team, this layoff means that they will have no choice but to take decisions without really much context. The biggest question mark that hangs around the team is of course what happens to Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine and I suppose this question will remain unanswered until the actual squad is announced. But the major difference between them and the Proteas is that 90% of their team is set, and all that this situation demands of them is to take a few harsh calls - be it leaving out Gayle and Narine or leaving the incumbents Simmons and Hayden Walsh jr to swallow a hard pill. That said, they would still rue this period, given it was a great chance to bond further under the tenure of Pollard which already looks to have made a massive difference to the side.

VERDICT - BANE

Pakistan

So where do Pakistan stand, in the grand scheme of things, as compared to the rest of the world? Well, nobody knows. Not even themselves. Given their players don’t participate in the IPL anyway, the March-June window was, either way, going to be kind of an off-season for Pakistan. And hence, barring those two weird games they were scheduled to play against Bangladesh, this break does not do much harm to the team. PCB would be delighted that they managed to complete 90% of the PSL season as evidence from the competition could now be used to evaluate players as the WT20 beckons. The biggest challenge for them, perhaps, would be to ensure that the players stay fit and in the zone during what looks like is going to a considerably long delay.

VERDICT - BOON

Sri Lanka

When you’re a team like Sri Lanka, one in transition, that is struggling and desperately trying to stay relevant as one of the better cricketing nations, it becomes all the more important for you to keep playing as many matches as you can in order to strive for improvement. Now with the domestic season indefinitely postponed and with uncertainty still looming over as to who their best players are, a three-month hiatus, it could be said, is the last thing that Sri Lanka needed. Lasith Malinga would also see the potential cancellation of IPL as a missed opportunity, just months ahead of the WT20, to test himself against the best and to stay in shape. Speaking of which, could Malinga’s ball to Kedar Jadhav turn out to be the last ever he bowls in a Mumbai Indians shirt? Would be quite the poetic end to his legacy if that’s the case.  

VERDICT - BANE

Bangladesh

Bangladesh, you assume, would have loved to carry on the momentum they built in the Zimbabwe series and take it forward, but at the same time, they must be delighted with the break, for it means that they don’t have to travel to Pakistan anymore to participate in the bizarre third leg of the tour. Like Pakistan, given they don’t have any IPL commitments, the break does not make that big a difference to the team. Perhaps, the tour of England and Ireland, which is now subsequently postponed, would have given them a better idea of where they really stand as a team, but with the series likely to be crammed in before the World T20, the side would not mind a postponement. If anything, this gives the board ample time to reflect on the Mortaza situation and whether they think he fits into their plans going forward. 

VERDICT - BOON

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