Why the West Indies-Australia-South Africa tri-series has been one of the best ODI series in recent times
Uncertainty in results, the varying conditions and the mercurial nature of the teams have made the tri-series a must watch.
For long there has been a talk of excessive cricket, for long there has been a talk of the impact of T20 cricket on Test Matches, and then quite recently, there has been a growing concern about the health of One Day Internationals and its relevance. Amidst all the clamour, the International Cricket Council has decided to explore the option of rolling out a league structure for the One Day format. Perhaps, the last straw is needed to a drowning man.
Far away from all the concern and the proposals, a triangular series is going on in the Caribbean. West Indies, South Africa and Australia are slogging it out to outdo each other. And we have seen it all. Low scoring humdingers, high scoring affairs and rained out match. Considering all the different aspects, it is rather surprising that the series has slipped under the radar of the cricketing world.
Many believe that this has to do with the timing of the matches and the broadcasting issues. And yes, even this is up for debate in the corridors of the ICC. A major shake-up to the prevailing ecosystem of selling television rights is up for discussion and the Full Members are now debating the different aspects by which it can be streamlined. This can be debated at a later stage.
Back to the tri-series, and having followed the matches, I am convinced that this has been the best ODI series in the recent past. I would also like to extrapolate this by saying that a tri-series is much better prospect of keeping the format alive and kicking rather than 'meaningless' bilateral series.
The biggest USP of the series that it has become a great advertisement for the uncertain game that is cricket. Any team can beat any other team on any given day. No team has looked at ease, while no team has put together a string of consistent performances. The fact that West Indies is ranked 8, South Africa 3 and Australia number 1 has given the series a rather enigmatic colour and one that has made it endearing.
Return of the Caribbean flair
In cricket, we have empty stadiums, packed grounds, noisy spectators and then the Caribbean flavour. Few sights are as captivating as the sights and sounds of a packed West Indian stadium. Although the stands have not been full, the music is certainly back. The team has not disappointed either and have put in few inspired performances. Perhaps, the success in the 2016 World T20 has instilled confidence in the group. Cricket will only get better if the West Indies is strong.
Adam Zampa’s promise
Even as Nathan Lyon has become the premier spinner for Australia in Test Matches, they have been juggling around to find one for white ball cricket. Adam Zampa has now established himself has the spinner Australia have been looking for. He has shown that along with the calm temperament, he has the skills to be successful in the highest format. Leg spin is a difficult art to master, but Zampa has spun his web around batsmen. He gave a glimpse of his ability during the Indian Premier League and has carried it forward to the series. The young Turk is the leading wicket-taker in the series with nine victims at an average of 19.33.
These three factors have stood out this series. Apart from the obvious suspects other aspects which have stood out is the new look South African bowling attack. Dale Steyn is playing for Glamorgan and his Limited Overs future with the National team looks bleak, to be honest. Kagiso Rabada has become the new leader of the bowling attack, a staggering feat for a 20-year old.
And then there is the struggle against spin for both South Africa and Australia. Both the teams have been found against spin in the past and this series has been no different. On a sluggish Guyana pitch, the batsmen from either side seemed to be stuck against quality spin. For Australia, this is even more as they tour India next year. The inadequacies have been very glaring and the technique employed to counter slow bowling is far from perfect. Many Australian batsmen still plant the big front foot forward and then look to play the turning ball with hard hands. On slow, turning Indian pitches, this technique is bound to get exposed.
Also, there is the pressing issue of transformation, and clearly the diktat to include 7 coloured players in the team is hindering the effectiveness of the team. How will the team then cope up with it going forward and will this in any way have an effect on the team bonding and culture?
The tri-series is exciting in so many ways and clearly it has slipped under the radar- well this is a crying shame.