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Portents of 2009 - Cricket

Now that India will not be touring Pakistan as a fallout of 26/11, the biggest highlight of the first half of India's international calendar is gone. A big bummer, but in the circumstances, its only appropriate. I wish we had attacked the buggers though. Anyway,on with the predictions.

India in Sri Lanka - 5 ODIs

While India have to figure out how to deal with M&M - Murali and Mendis, Sri Lanka have to deal with trying to get their tired and recently brittle batting order to put enough runs on the board as well as making their innocuous pace attack display enough venom in the opening overs to allow the tweakers to weave their magic. Fielding has been a game-changer in limited overs cricket on quite a few occasions and this is probably the first time that an Indian lineup has the edge over Sri Lanka, even if its a slight one.

Keeping the murderous form the Indian batting order is in, and the flexibility and options they have in rotating the order and playing different roles, I think this will be a 3-2 or 4-1 scoreline in our favor.

India in New Zealand - 2 T20s & 3 Tests

While India being the world T20 champs does not really matter much in this form of the game, New Zealand has some really explosive batsmen in McCullum and co. and they do hold a slight edge. They also possess far more experience in T20 cricket than the Indians. Either 2-0 to New Zealand or 1-1 but then this is T20, 2-0 to India is not that unlikely either, particularly with Dhoni at the helm. That man can do anything, provided he has Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over.

The tests are a different matter altogether. I admit that the New Zealand pitches and conditions are quite unique and India have not one a series there in more than 4 decades but I think we will fare better this time around. The batting lineup is settled and one of the most prolific in world cricket at the moment, the pace attack, well lets just say it deserves the moniker, and the spinners are not too bad either.

The biggest factors in the humiliation meted out to the Indian team last time around were the pitches. But a voice in my head tells me that they will not be presenting those greentops again.

On an individual level, I am looking forward to seeing how Sehwag and Gambhir do on this tour. I am reasonably sure Dravid and Tendulkar will unfurl a special or two while Laxman will do his customary rearguard whenever needed. On the flip side, I suspect Yuvraj will continue to provide test selection woes to Srikanth and co.

So 2-0 or 2-1 to India, unless the weather decides to play spoilsport in a big way. In which case, it could be 1-1.

IPL season 2

This season is make or break time for IPL. Last time around, the novelty of the concept in cricket, coupled with the big names on display meant that there was reasonably high levels of customer interest throughout. This time around, Lalit Modi and co. have to deal with viewer fatigue as well as figure out ways to avoid a couple of good teams running away with the competition and rendering a lot of games meaningless.

If they manage to figure out how to do that, we could well have a long-term winner on our hands.

While I can't pick a winner out of the 8 teams in the contest, I suspect that the standard of cricket on display will improve remarkably. I also think that all teams will come up with a more thorough analysis and will have remarkably similar strategies. It will be much closer than it was the first time around. The semi-finalists will probably not be known until the last 2-3 league matches.

Beyond that, may the most explosive batting order win.

ICC World T20

India can only go downhill from the heights achieved in the first edition. Australia will certainly come to the party this time, they have way too much talent in their ranks to not do so. South Africa could very well go all the way. AB and JP are seriously good.Pakistan will be listless.West Indies will be passengers.Sri Lanka and New Zealand could surprise.England should not even bother to participate. For the founders of the format, they totally suck.

India in West Indies - 4 ODIs

Not much to say. 3-1 or 4-0 to India. The one person who can prove me wrong is a certain Mr Chanderpaul. But I am hoping that Zaheer Khan will be able to take him out cheaply. Gayle will flatter to deceive and the rest cannot make enough to keep this strong batting lineup worried.

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