For a country of 1.2 billion, cricket has been a way of life since 1983 when Kapil Dev led India to World Cup glory.
But it then had to wait until 2011, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni lifted the trophy on home soil.
Since then, the country where the population eats, prays and talks cricket has been shut out of a major trophy.
This year the World Cup returns to India and hopes are high that this powerhouse will end its 12-year wait for the most important silverware in the game. India keeps producing world-class players and attracts global attention every year by hosting the Indian Premier League that churns out millionaires. Any cricketer worth his salt wants to play in this league because of the exposure and money they receive.
On the international front, India has been an also-ran, but its hopes of ending the long drought received a major boost with the return of ace fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, who was sidelined since last September with a back injury. The pace man proved he hasn’t lost his touch in the three-match T20 series against Ireland last week.
As expected, Bumrah will tune up for the World Cup by spearheading India in the Asia Cup, which begins at the end of the month. The six-nation tournament will be jointly hosted by Pakistan and defending champion Sri Lanka.
The highlight of the competition will be the clash between India and Pakistan on Sept. 2 in Sri Lanka and once again one can expect life in both countries to grind to a halt.
India has named a squad of 17 for the Asia Cup, most of whom will also feature in the World Cup squad. Among those back following injuries are KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer while the new faces include left-hander Tilak Varma and fast bowler Prasidh Krishna.
The surprise omission is experienced leg-spinner Yuzendra Chahal, who has been replaced by wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav. India’s decision to leave out Ravichandran Avinash, one of the world’s best spinners, makes no sense at all.
If India wants to end its World Cup drought it is imperative Avinash is brought back to the team as he is deadly on Indian surfaces. Not only can he bowl, but he is also an excellent batsman and can also score runs.
Like an old-time boxer, Ben Stokes has vaulted out of retirement from the 50-over game and it has cost Harry Brook his place on the squad that will defend its World Cup title in October.
England fans are thrilled Stokes made himself available as it greatly boosts its chances of back-to-back titles, but it has ruffled a few feathers as Brook happens to be such a talented and destructive young batsman.
Stokes isn’t the only Englishman to make a U-turn. Last month, all-rounder Moeen Khan was wooed out of retirement from Test cricket and he played a major role in England tying the Ashes series with Australia.
Stokes had branded the three-format schedule as “unsustainable” when quitting the shorter format.
One to mock Stokes’ return was former Australia captain Tim Paine.
“I found that interesting,” Paine told SEN Sports. “It was a bit of, ‘Me, me, me,’ there isn’t it? It was, ‘I’ll pick and I’ll choose where I want to play and when I want to play,’ and, ‘I’ll play in the big tournaments. The guys who played for 12 months, ‘Sorry, thanks. But can you go and sit on the bench because I want to play now?’”
The 24-year-old Brook was surprised that he was bypassed.
“Obviously it’s disappointing (to be omitted from the World Cup squad), but I can’t do anything about it now, you’ve just got to move on. I’m trying not to think about it anymore,” Brook said.
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Australia, one of hot favourites for World Cup honours, will be eager to see three of their star players recover in time for the World Cup.
Skipper Pat Cummins, batsman Steve Smith and fast bowler Mitchell Starc were ruled out of the coming tour of South Africa, but the selectors are confident they will be all back when the World Cup begins.
Cummins was dropped from the African safari after the Ashes ended when it was revealed he played the fifth Test with a fractured wrist. The injuries to Smith and Starc were announced on the weekend. Smith has a tendon issue in his left wrist and Starc is struggling with groin soreness since returning home from the Ashes.
They will miss the three Twenty20s and five one-day internationals against South Africa from Aug. 30 to Sept 17.
Afghanistan found the pace generated by Pakistan fast bowlers too hot to handle as it slumped to a 142-run thrashing in the first of three ODIs in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday. Imam-ul-Haq made 66 in Pakistan’s total of 201 and then shot out Afghanistan for a mere 55. Haris Rauf captured five wickets for 18 off his 6.2 overs and Shaheen Afridi took two for nine off his four overs.
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