Over the years, the game of cricket has evolved to a great degree. From timeless test matches, to 6-day matches and then finally the 5-day test matches took shape. Similarly the limited overs format was originally was a 60-overs affair, which was then curtailed to 50 overs. And, then the final revolution took place in the form of Twenty20 cricket.
All through the history, the game has witnessed a number of changes and minor tweaks to its format, all aimed at building a connect with the audiences. There have been mixed results, few changes have worked, few fell by the wayside, but then these are just two sides of any change process.
However, all across the history, there have been 'tags' or 'stereotypes' attached to the different countries which play the game. This has to do with the general culture and atmosphere in the political and social structure of the nation.
Here in this piece, we take a look at the list of current Test playing nations, and try to figure out their stereotype. However, in no means we say that these tags define the way these countries play their game, it is just an indication of how other countries view them.
Talk of Australia and the words bullies, sledging and aggression prop up almost simultaneously. There is little doubt that the Australian team has been one of the top cricketing nations ever since the inception of the game and have dominated in all formats for one of the longest time. Even when their teams have not been at their peak, they never throw in the towel and fight it out till the end.
However, for all their cricketing prowess, the players cannot keep quiet on the field and love to get involved with the opposition players. They are notorious for trying to bully the opposition, and even if that means abusing or passing lewd comments which are nefarious to say the least.
They believe in mind games, which is just their version of getting under the skin of the opponents if things are not going according to their plans.
Cricket was a gift by the British empire, but it has been lapped up India like no other country in the world. So much so, that today the Board of Control for Cricket in India has become one of the biggest and richest sporting boards in the world.
If anyone wants to track the growth of cricket, the evolution of Indian cricket provides the best possible study. From a team which made up numbers, to one of the most widely followed teams all across the globe, the journey has been quite a memorable ride.
However, amidst all this change, one tag that has always been gone along with the team is the tag of being proficient players of spin bowling. From the likes of Lala Amarnath to Tiger Pataudi, from Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar and now to Virat Kohli, there have been players who have defined how to play spin.
Perhaps the nature of pitches in the country and the excessive diet of spin bowlers have all helped in building this notion. A tag which is here to stay!
Perhaps the term mercurial has been coined to serve Pakistan cricket team. One their day, they can be world beaters, and on the very next day their performances will leave everyone stunned.
Their ability to blow hot and cold almost simultaneously is the way Pakistan cricket has been known over the years. The unbridled talent that the country produces has been the envy of other nations, but the way the talent fizzles out keeps leaving everyone pulling out their hairs.
This and to some extent the constant in-fighting within the team and the squad has also been forever synonymous with Pakistan cricket.
On and off, all like flicking a switch, or like Pakistan!
The nation which gave the world the game of cricket, England have always played the game with much fervour and tradition, even in the current day of modernisation.
And this is what England cricket will always be known for, which is playing the game with tradition and grace. This is what will always be associated with England cricket, and to many this is the reason why the officials have been rather reticent to change.
This is the reason why, Test Cricket has always occupied the top shelf in the cricketing establishment in England, and many believe this is the reason why One Day Cricket languished for so long.
"I think it's almost inevitable if we are going to prioritise one-day cricket," Andrew Strauss , the England cricket director said when asked about the plans to revamp director said when asked about One Day Cricket.
Similarly, perhaps this is the reason why, they are still continuing with the redundant format of their domestic T20 league.
Stoic, traditional and almost too sceptical about change, England have their own bunch of stereotypes to content with.
#5 New Zealand
Limited resources no matter, a not so productive domestic set-up, no problem, New Zealand have always been known to punch above their weight in all tournaments.
The Kiwis have always been viewed as the proverbial underdogs and this tag has only buoyed them to perform better, exceeding all expectations. The fact that they have a very limited talent resource, is also what makes them an even more attractive prospect.
So what is New Zealand known for then?
For many, it is their free flowing demeanour and for others, it is the way they utilise their limited resources to their maximum. New Zealand will carry the tag of being the underdogs who give the other fancied teams a good run for their money.
#6 South Africa
So much has been said and documented about the immense potential of any South African team and then how they unravel so quickly at key moments, that one cannot help but associate with them the tag of that infamous word 'chokers'.
So then, is it their stereotype, well one has to grudgingly acknowledge it. There have been far too many instances where the side which enters a crunch match, a semi-final maybe, brimming with confidence and they bottle up when it matters the most.
Be it the 1999 semi-final Cricket World cup, or the 2003 World Cup, be it the 2007 World T20 or most recently the heartbreaking 2015 World Cup semi-finals against New Zealand.
Indeed South Africa are the chokers of World Cricket!
#7 Sri Lanka
If we look at the records of Sri Lanka and the records held by greats like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene and if we introspect them closely we will find that majority of their runs have come in Sri Lanka on the flat pitches in the P Sara Oval in Colombo or the SSC also in Colombo.
One of the criticism which has been levelled against Sri Lanka is that they prepare featherbeds at home and which sucks all the interest out of the game. Do they then play for personal records more than the benefit of the team? We will never know, but unfortunately this tag will always go along with them.
If this is an unfortunate tag, there is one very special tag which goes along with Sri Lanka, and this is the ability of the tiny island to produce players with mystery. Ajantha Mendis, Lasith Malinga are prime examples of players who were different in what they did. They were not conventional by any stretch imagination. Not a bad tag one has to say!
#8 West Indies
Talk of West Indies and the image of smiling faces bereft of any tension springs up. But there is more to West Indies that meets the eye. For a team which dominated World Cricket for 15 years, the downward slide has been a sorry story.
Their recent resurgence especially in T20 has been a joy to say the least and much of the flair and flamboyance which is associated with Caribbean cricket is back to enthral. The music seems to be back and so is the swagger, and it is all fantastic news for the game.
Thus, what is the their stereotype, is it the blaring music or the swagger, is the power game or is it the carefree attitude, I would say it is an amalgamation of all of the above.
Ever since their Test Debut in 2000, Bangladesh have always been a team which has only flattered to deceive. A permanent under-achiever in cricket, Bangladesh found some form going their way during the recent years when they performed admirably in the 2015 World Cup. They kept at it in the Asia Cup, but just as they were beginning to show progress came the World T20 and they were a team left deflated.
Perhaps this is their legacy, the stereotype, which is to always be a struggling team, a team which has hid under the minnows tag for too long, and never quite emerged from the shadows of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, so much so that today Afghanistan evokes more fervour than them.
So then what is their stereotype? Perhaps the fact that they even after almost 16 years they have not yet made their mark and forever being the underdogs, which is just a refined way of labelling them as under-achievers.
A team which boasted of players like Andy Flower, Alistair Campbell, Trevor Gripper, Neil Johnson and the like, the slide of the team has been one sad story.
The were a team to reckon with back then, but now the team is more renowned for messy political situations and which has led to derailment of the team.
The situation is so grim, that it is difficult to see Zimbabwe ever stage a return, and that they will ever be known will be the messy political scenario and the derailment of what could have been a team with so much promise and potential.