In a couple of days, two eagerly awaited tours shall begin for cricket fans across the world. India will be returning to New Zealand after six long years, hoping to exorcise the ghosts of the last tour when India managed to win just two out of a total nine matches that were played in the summer of 2003. And even though conspiracy theories abound by the dozen for India's abject performance on that tour, what followed was a kind of watershed in Indian cricket as Team India went on to reach the finals of the World Cup in 2003, drew a test series against Australia away from home and beat Pakistan in Pakistan in both ODI's and tests.
Meanwhile in an altogether different topography, in far away South Africa, battle shall resume between the conqueror and the vanquished. Australia will look to assert their supremacy once again, even if the odds are heavily stacked against them. An ageing side, an inexperienced roster, playing away from home - shall all play their respective part to handicap the lads from down under, but given the vagaries of cricket, it would be foolish to write off the underdog before a ball has been bowled. More so when the underdog comes wearing the baggy green.
India and South Africa are both in line for claiming the numero uno position in world cricket. They have both beaten Australia in the recent past and have shown the necessary mettle to take over the mantle of world champion. The opportunity presented to both teams in the form of the current task at hand shall reaffirm their respective positions as the top two teams in world cricket. A loss for either side, particularly in the tests, irrespective of any rider, shall wipe out all gain that has been made in the last couple of seasons.
A hallmark of the Australian side of the decade between 1997 to 2007, was that they never let up. There was no sympathy for the marginalized sections of cricketing society. A weak opponent was treated with as much regard as would be expected of the rampaging Huns in dealing with a lesser rival. Test match or one day international's, those Australians played a brand of cricket, that was aggressive, hard and of the highest quality. Their position at the top of the pyramid was never taken for granted by themselves.
With the privilege of being the best side in the world, comes the onerous responsibility of setting the benchmark - match after match, series after series. Should both India and South Africa fail to rise to the challenges posed by the opposition, there might arise a period of uncertainty in which there is no clear number one in the game. What lesser sides might aspire to achieve from here on, is now to some extent a factor of their imminent fortunes.
In the ensuing couple of months, I do hope the men will stand up and be counted.