It is the start of the year, which means everyone has to try to be better than they were last week. Even if the good intentions are not going to last much longer than it takes to write them down, it is the time to make a list. Who should be doing what in 2016?
Ben Stokes — be a hero
India — be more punctual
India have a weird take on being fashionably late. It is supposed to be the guests who rock up after the appointed time, sashaying in after the party has started, looking all cool.
India invert that thinking, preferring to organise the party at the last minute instead, then send out the RSVPs in the knowledge everyone is going to turn up anyway.
Evidence the short-notice exile of the Indian Premier League to South Africa and the UAE in the past. Both were thrown together in no time at all, both were great. Now they have done the same with this year’s World Twenty20. They do carry off their tardiness with a certain panache, but, still, a little more notice would be appreciated in future.
For everyone’s sake. Not wishing to overstate it, but February could herald the final death knell for Test cricket.
AB de Villiers might be stepping away, and Brendon McCullum definitely will be. That means the game is losing the man who has done more than anyone else in the recent past to give it some much needed pep.
Few have stood up for fair play on and off the field quite as prominently, either. When New Zealand’s captain goes, there will be a black hole in the Black Caps.
Pakistan — preserve Misbah
There has already been a teaser for what might follow the ultimate departure of Misbah-ul-Haq from the scene of Pakistan cricket. Chaos.
Yasir Shah has failed a dope test. Players, including Misbah’s likely successor, have been trying — and failing — to be unavailable in protest at the selection of another.
It is at times like this when a calm hand on the tiller is a must. OK, so Misbah’s reign as Test captain has to end at some point, but Pakistan could do with the 41-year-old batsman holding out for a little while yet.
Their summer assignment is to England. You do not need to be a student of history to realise tours there are usually fraught ones for Pakistan. Keeping Misbah in tow until the end of that would be handy for all concerned.
ICC — be in the pink
So far, so good when it comes to the great pink-ball, Saving Test Cricket campaign. But, even if the numbers that went to the game between Australia and New Zealand recently were startling, getting a crowd for Test in Adelaide is not that remarkable.
The format needs desperate remedial work elsewhere, though. The ICC needs to compel, coerce, demand, or just do whatever it can to get its member boards to try pink-ball, day-night matches, at times when spectators can actually get to the games. Such a venture in the UAE would be ideal.
South Africa: Hashim Amla — quit captaincy
Given the additional political issues unique to South African sport, the captain of the Test cricket team needs especially broad shoulders.
For years, they had the perfect leader, in the form of the man mountain Graeme Smith.
Following him was always going to be a tough ask. Landing it upon a man who gave away the captaincy of his domestic side earlier in his career as he wanted to focus on his own game seemed a touch ambitious, possibly even foolhardy.
Evidence that Amla has been struggling with it so far is plenty, not least in his own form and the fact South Africa have a best of 248 from their past 11 innings. Maybe he will go on to become a captaincy great, but he needs a turnaround in fortune asap.
Marlon Samuels — try to look bothered
Smiling after dropping a dolly off Usman Khawaja when Australia were piling on the runs in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Scandalous.
UAE — deliver the plan: Cricket in the UAE is in the throes of a substantial overhaul. The recent past has been one of great achievement, but the immediate future is going to be tough.
Even if the results suggest otherwise, the Emirates Cricket Board need to believe in the changes they are attempting to implement if they are going to enjoy long-term success.
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