Cricket nations prepare for winter tours

The summer is done and dusted. Now the world’s leading cricket nations set their sights on another round of exhausting and demanding winter tours.

And as we diehard North American cricket fans get ready to fetch our parkas out of storage and prepare to shovel snow, we won’t be too far away from all of the action – in fact just a click away.

From the cozy confines of our living rooms we will be able to take in all of the action from as far off as sunny Australia and New Zealand.

In the winter of 2018 it was the Ashes series that transfixed fans the world over as Australia clobbered visiting England. The spotlight will be on Australia yet again as it entertains India in a stamina-sapping tour starting in mid-November until mid-January. India then packs its bags and boards a short flight to New Zealand for another demanding series that will end on Feb 10.

After the thrashing England suffered in Australia, the visitors hoped for a turnaround in New Zealand, but the Kiwis piled more embarrassment on the English and that included an innings loss after being shot out for a meagre 58.

The question on everyone’s mind is whether India, the No. 1 Test nation, can finally win a series in Australia.

Earlier this year India, under the leadership of the dynamic Virat Kohli, was expected to upend Joe Root’s England, but instead returned home empty-handed after being pounded 4-1. India has a well-balanced unit with a solid batting lineup and a multi-talented bowling unit that includes four world-class speedsters to complement the spinners. But being poor travelers will weigh heavy on their minds as they have been known to fold like cheap suitcases when under pressure.

Australia, on the other hand, will be showcasing a complete new Test lineup devoid of captain Steve Smith, his vice-captain David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft, who are still serving out year-long suspensions after being caught cheating in a Test series in South Africa last April. Tim Paine has assumed the role of captain and Justin Langer has taken over as coach from Darren Lehmann . Lehmann handed in his resignation following that scandal.

But prior to welcoming India, Australia will test its new-look squad against ever-unpredictable Pakistan at their home away from home in the United Arab Republic starting next week.

India, too, leaps into Test action following that beating in England against visiting West Indies in two Tests starting at Rajkot on Thursday. Jason Holder’s West Indies won’t be a pushover as it has been in the last couple of years. The squad has been on a roll in recent months after several lean years losing only one Test match in 2018. Can the Windies spring a surprise? There was no place for left-handed Devon Smith but keep an eye on Sunil Ambris, who has impressed with the bat. Windies have also brought back pacer Alzarri Joseph, while Jomel Warrican will complement Devendra Bishoo as a part of the spin department. India’s 15-man team to take on the Windies will be minus openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, who were in excellent form in winning the Asia Cup last week. Fans vented their anger at Sharma’s exclusion from the squad especially after captaining India in Kohli’s absence to the trophy and also being the second-highest scorer in the competition. Instead, the Indian think-tank decided to include youngsters Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, and Hanuma Vihari. India retained the Asia Cup title by beating Bangladesh in a last-ball finish at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday.

Meanwhile, Root’s England, still basking from that winning summer, is headed to Sri Lanka hoping young all-rounder Sam Curran, who was a revelation against India, will continue his form with bat and ball. But more importantly, Root will be hoping to find an opening pair who can play Test cricket now that Alastair Cook has retired. Hopefully Sri Lanka, a team in turmoil following the ouster of captain Angelo Mathews, will regroup for this series and give the visitors a fight.

South Africa, meanwhile, has already started its long winter season by beating neighbouring Zimbabwe in the first of three ODIs by five wickets at Kimberley on Sunday. The Proteas’ fiery pace attack packed off the visitors for a paltry 118 with Lungi Ngidi grabbing three for 19 and Kagiso Rabada two for 34. South Africa wobbled to 58 for four thanks to special spell by pace man Tendai Chatara who bagged two for 12 before Heinrich Klaasen’s 44 steadied the ship. A lot will be expected of the fiery young speedsters when South Africa tours Australia in November for three ODIs and one T20 encounter in preparation for next year’s World Cup in England.

Canada’s cricket historian Kevin Boller passed away in Toronto last week at the age of 83. The Australian-born Boller was inducted to the Cricket Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies