While the competition in cricket is increasing rapidly day by day, it is now primarily limited to the four countries – India, Australia, New Zealand, and England. These teams are a long way ahead of the other test-playing nations. A decade ago, Sri Lanka and South Africa, who would have easily made it into the list of elite teams, find themselves at the nadir of their cricketing legacy.
Sri Lanka, who have won both the world cups, have not recuperated from the retirement of their star players, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, in 2015. The two veterans were the heart and soul of the Sri Lankan batting line-up. The recent retirements of Rangana Herath in 2018 and Malinga in 2021 have further left the side hapless. While the retirement of players is a natural cycle that every team goes through, the absence of high-quality players to replace them has deeply hurt the Asian side. Adding to their miseries, the players who were being groomed at that time, be it Angelo Mathews, Chandimal, Thirimanne, or Thisara Perera, have been underperforming for a long time. A clear-cut proof of this decline is that where once Sri Lankan players led Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises, there isn’t a single player from the country participating in the IPL this year. The 2014 T20 world cup winners currently sit below Bangladesh in the ODI rankings and below Afghanistan n the shortest format.
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Controversies with its Cricket Board have always surrounded South African cricket. This has been one of the biggest reasons for their decline in the last few years. AB de Villiers’ sudden retirement in 2018, Faf du Plessis’ exclusion from the player contracts, and the fact that their players prefer to participate in foreign leagues over representing their country show the gravity of the situation. Fast bowling talent is abundant in South Africa, and they have been churning out new talent to fill the shoes of legends like Steyn and Philander, but the absence of solid batsmen and a good leader have cast a shadow over the team.
Sri Lanka and South Africa currently sit at the bottom of the Super League table, which will decide which teams shall play in the 2023 World Cup. It will not come as a big surprise if the two teams have to contest against the associate teams to earn a berth at the World Cup. While teams like Afghanistan and Bangladesh have considerably improved the quality of their cricket, this decline has led to a huge gap between the top 4 and the rest of the teams. As a result, international tours as well a the World Cups are slowly losing the competitive factor. This is why franchise cricket is much more closely followed by fans than international cricket.
No cricket fan likes to see these powerhouses of the sport who have produced so many legends and provided many memories in such a state. There is a serious need for both these countries to improve their domestic platform to scout new talent. If the gap between the cricketing nations is not covered, we may soon be heading into a football-like situation with league cricket taking precedence over the international arena.