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Mission 2020 for cricket


Mission_2020_CricketAfter an exuberant and exhilarating year of cricket in 2019, the cricket community is welcoming 2020. Everyone is excited about the T20 World Cup which will be played in Australia during October-November 2020. There are lots of challenges and milestones that cricket teams are looking to achieve. The challenges and goals are different for every team. Let’s take a look at individual teams and their mission for 2020.

1. India

Managing Injury Concerns

Team India ended 2019 No.1 in Tests and No.2 in ODIs. In T20Is they are No.5. The slide in T20Is is mainly because India couldn’t field their best XI due to injuries. Hardik Pandya is still recovering from injury while Bumrah just came back to international cricket. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar are out as well. Thus, India’s major challenge in 2020 will be to keep their players fit and injury-free as much as possible.

MS Dhoni And The Tour Down Under

India are at the top of the table in ICC Test Championship. In 2020, they will be touring New Zealand and Australia, where they’ll be keen to continue their 100% win record. Australia had a perfect summer while New Zealand are tough to beat at home.

2020 will be crucial for India’s icon MS Dhoni. While it is unsure whether he’ll continue playing international cricket, India’s fans would want him to continue till the 2020 T20 World Cup. If he doesn’t, the curtain will fall on his illustrious career. India will be looking to ready his replacement, Rishabh Pant, or groom other wicketkeeper options like Samson or Ishan Kishan.

Kohli The Captain

Virat Kohli said, "2019 was great for India, except for 30 minutes of bad cricket that we played in the World Cup semi-final." For Virat, 2020 poses a great challenge as a captain: to win ICC tournaments in the shorter formats. Another thing on his bucket list would be to win the IPL this year.

2. Australia

A Perfect Start

Australia won all 5 summer Tests by a big margin. Since mid-2019, they have done most things right, and achieved results. After retaining the Ashes in England, their graph has always been upwards.

Maiden T20 Title?

The 2020 T20 World Cup will be played in Australia. The home team will look to repeat the heroics of 2015. They have got the perfect team to win the T20 World Cup. In the 6 editions of the tournament so far, Australia have always been favourites but haven’t won yet. A T20 World Cup on home turf would be an opportunity to end their drought.

Grooming New Leader?

One more aspect that Australia would be looking forward to in 2020 is to find their next candidate for captain. After the 2018 Sandpaper gate scandal, Tim Paine has taken over and brought glory back to Australia. But, at 35, he can lead Australia only for a couple of seasons.

Australia is known for grooming potential captains from an early stage. Marnus Labuschange has emerged as the one who can fit in this role. The team management hope he’ll continue with his splendid form in Test cricket.

Battle Of Champions

Currently, India and Australia are the top 2 teams in ICC’s Test Championship. After the T20 World Cup, India will contest the Border-Gavaskar trophy in Australia. This could be a preview of the 2021 World Test Championship final. In 2018, India registered their first ever series victory down under. Australia will be eager to get even in 2020.

3. England

Regaining The Glory

2019 was surreal for England, at least in the limited overs formats. They won their first ever World Cup in dramatic fashion. Since 2015, England have built a solid limited overs team. Unfortunately, their Test side hasn’t been up to standard. Despite Ben Stokes’ heroics at Headingley, England couldn’t regain the Ashes. For the first time since 2001, Australia retained the Ashes in England. Late in 2019, England lost a Test series against New Zealand and the opening match of their South Africa tour- the Boxing Day Test (though they won the next two matches).

Closing The Opening Spots Question

Since Alastair Cook’s retirement, England have faced an opening conundrum in Test cricket. They have rotated openers quite frequently, trying several. While Rory Burns could be one of the two openers, they are still searching for a permanent long-term opening pair. Sibley’s recent maiden century has given England some hope of finally fixing the opening pair problem.

The Hundred

The other major event England will be looking forward to is ‘The Hundred’. England couldn’t capitalise on their T20 league. The Vitality T20 blast hasn’t been in the league of IPL, Big Bash and the CPL. The England (and Wales) Cricket Board will be hoping ‘The Hundred’ yields them success and provides fans entertainment. While there are some radical changes in the format, ECB is quite confident of its success.

Repeating 2019 Success?

Apart from that, having won the 2019 World Cup, England will surely eye winning the T20 World Cup in Australia. Having missed out on an opportunity to become champions in 2016, and with their star-studded line-up now, they are one of the strongest contenders.

4. South Africa

Filling The Big Shoes

South Africa had rough journey in 2019. The abysmal performance in World Cup and the huge defeat in the Test series against India were their lowest points in 2019. The retirement of players like Amla and de Villiers has created a void in South Africa’s batting order. The team management will have to find players who are capable of filling this void.

Administrative Challenges And Kolpak

There have been lots of administrative and financial challenges that South Africa faced. Now, under the helm of Graeme Smith, they will be expecting a revival.

One of the big challenges is losing talented players to Kolpak deals. The latest player to join the list is Vernon Philander, who has been instrumental in South Africa’s success in Test cricket over the years.

End Their Title Drought?

The T20 World Cup, yet another ICC event, will tempt them as always. It will be interesting to see if they can get back their two specialists- Dale Steyn and AB De Villiers, the latter of whom has been open for T20 international return. Considering the larger picture, at some point in 2020, they may try Quinton De Kock leading the team in one of the three formats.

5. West Indies

Signs Of Improvement

When it’s a T20 World Cup year, no one can ignore West Indies. In 2019, they have performed comparatively better than past years. A Test series win over England and 2-2 result in ODI series against England just before the World Cup were the signs of improvement. There have been changes in administration in West Indies cricket due to which they have their marquee players back.

‘Champion’ For 3rd Time?

Seasoned campaigner Kieron Pollard has been appointed the captain in limited overs cricket. The T20 format suits the type of cricket the Windies play. In 2020, with the likes of Russell, Bravo, Narine, Pollard and hopefully Chris Gayle in the team, they can repeat their successes of 2012 and 2016.

Efforts To Improve In Test Cricket

West Indies would like to improve their record in Test Cricket and move up the table in the ICC Test championship. In 2020, their youngsters - Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer - have huge opportunities to take their game to the next level and win more matches for the West Indies.

6. New Zealand

Can World Cup Success Yield A Trophy This Time?

Reaching two successive 50-overs World Cup finals and a semi-final in 2016 T20 World Cup, New Zealand have achieved everything except winning a trophy. They have been very close yet very far from winning the World Cup. Although they are ranked 6th in the T20I table, they could be strong contenders for the 2020 event.

Big Challenges At The Start

In 2020, they face two tough opponents- Australia and India in first 3 months, though they already lost the Test series against Australia. They need to find solutions beyond the trio of Boult, Southee and Williamson. Tom Blundell has been a positive in the series against Australia.

Maintaining Home Record & Filling The Gaps

New Zealand’s spin department remains a concern, at least in Test cricket. In 2020 they will be looking for a spin bowling option who can keep one end tight while the quicks look for wickets. Since Daniel Vettori, they haven’t had a specialist spinner for a long time at a stretch. Since 2016/17, they haven’t lost a Test series at home. With a strong team like India touring this summer, retaining that successful record will be a tough job.

7. Pakistan

A New Captain-Coach combo

With a new coach and a new captain, Pakistan will be hoping for better results across formats. Babar Azam and Azhar Ali, the new captains who have taken over from Sarfaraz Ahmed, need to prove that they are fit for the captain’s role. Apart from them, Misbah-Ul-Haq is in the dual role of coach and selector. He has to make sure that the team balance is maintained and there is some consistency in their performance.

Playing In Their Own Backyard

The biggest positive for Pakistan has been return of Test cricket to home soil after 10 years. Pakistan will be hoping that the series hosting Bangladesh will also take place. In addition to that, for the first time, all matches of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) will be played in Pakistan and not the UAE. Thus, 2020 is a big year for Pakistan. The fans and cricketers will look forward to the complete return of cricket.

A Surprise Package In The T20 World Cup?

Pakistan’s form has always been sinusoidal and hence they are considered unpredictable. They are ranked No.1 in T20I rankings but with teams like Australia, England and West Indies competing, they are not the favourites to win the T20 World Cup.

8. Bangladesh

Testing Times Ahead

Bangladesh’s performance in the 2019 World Cup was inspiring, led by their senior most player- Shakib-Al-Hasan. For a while, things were good, but then there was the players’ strike and Shakib-Al-Hasan got banned for one year. In the absence of key players, Bangladesh struggled against India in the Test series. Bangladesh still haven’t made a mark in Test cricket, especially in matches away from home. They’ll look to improve their Test record in 2020.

Achieving Small Targets To Begin With?

While winning the T20 World Cup is still out of reach, they can play good cricket and provide a challenge, given their heroics in the 2015 World Cup.

Bangladesh can target the Under-19 World Cup as they have a good squad going into the tournament that defeated Sri Lanka 4-0 in a preparatory series.

9. Afghanistan

A Bright Start

Afghanistan won 2 Test matches against Ireland and Bangladesh in 2019. Their meteoric rise has been phenomenal. While they are still novices in the longest format, they have made their impact in limited overs cricket. With Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi playing in T20 leagues around the globe, Afghanistan can be impactful in T20 World Cup in Australia.

Establishing Strong Domestic Structure & Consistency In Leadership

Afghanistan, still new to international cricket, should focus on further strengthening their domestic cricket structure. This will ensure a good talent pool developing and coming up through age group cricket. There was a shuffle and re-shuffle in appointing captains for Afghanistan in all 3 formats.

While Ashgar Afghan was removed from captaincy 3 months before the World Cup, he has now been reappointed as captain across all formats. In the meanwhile, Rashid Khan, Gulabudin Naib and Rahamat Shah have led Afghanistan in different formats. A nascent team should have consistency in leadership. With all players supporting Afghan as captain, the board should allow him a long run as captain and expect good results in return.

10. Sri Lanka

Rebuilding Phase

Sri Lanka started 2019 on a high note, becoming the first Asian team to win a Test Series in South Africa. But after that they hit rock bottom. Sri Lanka is going through a metamorphosis, with many new players coming into the team.

Can Experienced Players Stand Up When Required?

Their experienced regular players, Malinga, Mathews, Chandimal, have been in and out due to injury. Sri Lanka will be looking for stability and consistency in their squad as well as captainship. Lasith Malinga, their iconic limited overs player, is expected to lead them in the 2020 T20 World Cup. Sri Lanka need to focus on building a solid squad before the tournament.

11. ICC

Promoting Women’s Cricket

Apart from the national teams, the apex body of cricket, the ICC, has several questions to ponder over. In March 2020, the Women’s World Cup will be played in Australia. The ICC will look to capture this opportunity to promote women’s cricket at the international stage.

Experiments With Test Cricket

The ICC has been trying to experiment with Test cricket in recent times. The latest addition is new proposed 4-day Test format, which will be implemented from 2023 onwards. The thought has already received various reactions, with several cricketers against it. Test cricket has a long history. While they are trying to promote Test cricket, they should try to preserve its rich culture.

How To Prevent Biasing Cricket To The Big 3?

The BCCI is planning to organize quadrangular series featuring the top three countries- India, England and Australia, plus one more. The ICC’s decision on this will be crucial as this move might shrink cricket and confine it to these three major cricketing nations.

Steps Towards Making It To The Olympics?

2020 is an Olympic year. Cricket was played in the Olympics only once, in the year 1900. The ICC has shown interest in bringing the game back to the marquee sporting event in the 2024 Olympics. With this background, the ICC will take a keen interest in knowing how the Olympics fare this year, and what decisions the Olympic Committee takes about cricket.

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