If Test cricket is in demise, nobody told this global team
Running through all the recent high-profile Test retirements over breakfast last week, a friend raised the question of whether a World XI of today would be the worst of all time. It is the kind of hypothetical that leads naturally to rose-tinted thoughts of the past.
But who would be in a current 'world's best'? With plenty of experience, good recent form and proven quality, this wouldn't be a bad line-up:
David Warner - Batting ave. 46.54
Alastair Cook - 46.51
Hashim Amla - 51.35
Michael Clarke(c) - 51.50 (bowling ave. 37.16)
Mahela Jayawardene - 50.30
Cheteshwar Pujara - 58.93
AB de Villers(w) - 51.94
Mitchell Johnson - Bowling ave. 27.42 (batting ave. 22.12)
Stuart Broad - 30.31 (24.12)
Dale Steyn - 23.01
Saeed Ajmal - 27.46
This is a side that would at least give previous World XIs a run for their money. The batting looks especially strong and balanced. AB de Villiers may be unlikely to go down in history as a great wicketkeeper but as a keeper/batsman he'd happily follow the hard act of any predecessor.
The spin department – with Ajmal the only obvious contender – is notably weak, which is particularly interesting when you consider the success of spinners in the T20 format. This suggests not only that spin bowlers' approaches to the short and long forms are often so different that excelling in both is desperately hard, but also that batsmen are using T20 tricks in test cricket most effectively against the twirlers.
I realise the Broad pick might raise an eyebrow. Even so, there are undoubtedly a lot of top notch players about. We shouldn't mourn the demise of Test cricket just yet.
A new England regime has much to be impressed by
A prospective England squad are putting in some fine performances in the latest round of the county championship. Having a new establishment to impress is doing wonders.
Jimmy Anderson returned to wicket-taking ways at Northampton, while Jack Brooks, Tymal Mills, Steve Finn and Chris Jordan are all staking serious claims.
After a mortifying winter there cannot be a cricket fan (at least outside Surrey) who isn't glad to see Finn's successful start to the season. Neither can there be any who don't feel for poor Graham Onions. Last summer he did all that was asked of him and more yet remained unhonoured by England's call. This season, he has eight wickets at 34.
Many of the leading contenders for a top six spot are also putting in standout performances. Injury to Matt Prior puts a renewed question mark next to the wicketkeeping position. As for the spinner's role, whoever wins selection come June should bear in mind that there is a place going in a World XI too.
There is too little tension in the IPL
The latest edition of the Indian Premier League – its seventh, amazingly – has demonstrated that a certain brand of cricket can be successful and popular in the United Arab Emirates, with the vast majority of games reported to be sell-outs.
But to some extent, T20 matches are starting to fall into the same trap as traditional limited-over formats: they promise great excitement but often fail to deliver real tension. Looking at just the last five matches to have taken place, it is fair to say that none really went down to the wire. Chennai had a wobble in their chase against Hyderarbad on Monday but the result was rarely in much doubt: none of the others made it into the final over. The dew factor is clearly having a major impact too, with chasing evidently the preferable option.
For occasional big moments of drama, the IPL remains hugely attractive. But there are too many moderate performers and far too many one-sided matches to keep general cricket fans on tenterhooks for the full length of what is an over-bloated tournament.