The Future Stars of Cricket
Every ten years or so, the cricketing world is blessed with absolute greats that go down in cricket folklore. Just look at the names on the list which most cricket websites name as some of the greatest names in cricket.
And this still misses out the likes of Sobers, Hobbs and Bradman who will be etched into every cricket fan’s psyche. The problem is where are the next generation of greats coming from?
Although names like Kallis, Ponting and Sangakkara are still playing, they are in the twilight of their careers. Only the seemingly evergreen little master, Sachin Tendulkar can categorically say he is still batting somewhere near his best – which is still miles above almost every batsman in the world.
Cricket needs the types of players above who can draw crowds to them just to watch them play on their own. How many people in India would tell their grandchildren about the lengths they took to see the master wave his willow wand around the Eden Gardens. Or how they saw Sir Viv smash the ball around every square inch of the Kensington Oval as the West Indies dominated the cricket scene in the 1980’s.
That is what cricket and indeed all sports need, two icons of the game battling it out, a contest between two great warriors – even in team sports – to see who will come out on top. Currently the likes of Messi vs Ronaldo, Nadal vs Federer, Gay vs Bolt and surely the upcoming Mcilroy vs Woods are all gracing our screens. We are in a wonderful era of sporting icons that will go down in history as some of the greatest ever. But cricket is losing this.
Sure Tendulkar is still the main man with the bat but there is no one with the ball now that ‘Murali’ has gone to have that ultimate clash with. With all of these stars now beginning to exit the area, the 2015 World Cup in Oceania will be lacking the star names that a worldwide tournament needs to be successful. Unless Tendulkar is some sort of demi god, his star will either be fading or burnt out completely by the time that comes around. So who could be the marketable names for the 2015 advertisers to groom?
Although India are the best side in the world, the majority of their squad is ageing. Sehwag will most certainly be regarded as one of the best openers in the modern era but might be a fading light come the second half on the decade. But men like Dhoni, Sharma and especially Gambhir have time and certainly the skill to stake a claim.
Yet the teams on the rise are England and South Africa. They have the best attacks in the game and a mixture of flair and grit with the bat. Dale Steyn and Graeme Swann are the best in the world right now. Both have that x-factor ability with Swann’s personality and first over wicket taking expertise and Steyn with his unbelievable strike rate, the third best in history for an established international bowler. If Steyn can stay injury free, he will be a great, I have no doubt. Swann emerged late in his career and has the ever present shadow of Warne and Murali detracting some of his achievements. Time is not on his side with realistically only four years left maximum for him to establish his legacy at 32 years old. But both teams have two young fast bowlers in Wayne Parnell and particularly Steven Finn who have a knack of taking wickets with a lot of time on their hands.
With the bat, Kevin Pietersen looked nailed on to make this era his own. He is still probably the most natural batsman in the world and when on song there is no one better to watch. But he hasn’t been on song for a long time now. Now you can argue that AB de Villiers is the man who bowlers fear more due to his mixture of aggression, consistency and upcoming responsibility as one day and twenty 20 captain. Bell and Amla are two of the most underrated batsmen in the world. Both are hitting top form – Amla is ODI number one – and both are wonderful to watch in full flow. Could either of these be the next aesthetic great.
Cook and Trott may be the best run machines at the moment but sometimes that doesn’t quite cut it. They aren’t that fluid, they are monotonous and neither have that exuberant personality of a KP or a Swann that make cricket so enjoyable to watch. Cook is the best position right now because of his position in ODI cricket and being only second to Tendulkar for run scoring milestones. And if Trott carries on the way he’s batting, you won’t be able to discount the second best average in the world ever.
So excluding someone who hasn’t played on the world stage yet, here are my picks for greatness in the ‘tens’.