2013 – Unlucky for some, lucky for others

The more intently we gaze into cricket’s crystal ball, the less clear the future looks. But that doesn’t mean to say we should stop trying. Economists, after all, are nothing more than good predictors of the future. Investment bankers, unfortunately, are less good at it.

So here goes: a few thoughts for the year ahead:

Someone at the ICC, tired of being called ineffective, will gently coordinate a clever but publicly invisible gathering of minds designed to put India under pressure to accept the irreversible reality of the Decision Review System. The BCCI will be given bright and shiny beads for their cooperation but, only in years to come will they realise they are worthless.

Brad Hogg is the extreme example of an old man excelling at a ‘young man’s game’ but there are more and more cricketers well into their 30s who are proving that mental strength is worth more than physical strength in T20 cricket. Henry Davids showed that for the Proteas against New Zealand. As Kepler Wessels has always said, it’s not how hard you hit the ball or how fast you bowl it that matters, but WHERE you hit it and bowl it. T20 teams will start getting older in 2013.

More and more layers of the illusion will be peeled off the IPL this year. The smoke and mirrors which disguised and camouflaged the financial picture for the first five years are running out.

2013 will also be the year in which South Africa’s players take a stand – or at least speak out – against the way the game has been administered for the last 20 years. Those on the field have increased and improved their professionalism immeasurably over the last two decades. Just as you and I eventually realise that our doctors are not always right, professional cricketers will realise that it is not only within their rights to question the actions of their ‘bosses’, but in everyone’s best long-term interests for them to do so.

The major reason South Africa’s six franchises haven’t evolved into eight this season was the absence of a stable enough financial model to sustain player payments to Border and one other – Griquas, North West, Boland and even SWD are contenders. Sponsors will see the advantage to be gained from the exposure of a first-class franchise and will step forward to help make the transition possible next season.

The Proteas have a light workload but do face several challenges in 2013 – a one-day series in Sri Lanka and a full series ‘away’ against Pakistan, wherever that may be. India then arrive on SA shores at the end of the year for three tests and… wait for it… get ready… seven ODIs.

There is plenty of potential for a slip-up in results. If that happens, stand by for some heated questioning of Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton’s laissez-faire style of coaching. Encouraging players to make mature decisions about the style of preparation which suits them best as individuals is well-conceived and forward thinking. But watching them arrive for training at different times, wearing different kit, and leaving at sporadic times also looks suspiciously like disorganisation. If Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers had not saved the Adelaide test you might have heard a lot more about the squad abandoning practice two days before it because of the heat. Such are the fine lines between success and failure.

And finally, now that Kirsten has insisted on Russell Domingo being allowed to take the wheel of the Proteas’ bandwagon, do not be surprised to see what a talented and innovative driver he can be. Dubbed the team’s “Stratistician” by Upton last year, he has a rare ability to derive strategy and tactics from the analysis of statistics and other video information.

Happy New Year!

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