Under the English sun

Vijay Lokapally | Updated on January 04, 2019 Published on January 04, 2019

He is a jolly good fellow: The World Cup 2019 in England will also be the farewell stage for Mahendra Singh Dhoni   -  REUTERS/ED SYKES

Summer, England, World Cup — 2019 is putting out the best for the cricket connoisseur

It is said that there is “rain in the air” when the cricket season arrives in England. It doesn’t always rain but it is a factor that dominates pre-match calculations on the circuit. The early half of the summer presents the batsmen the most daunting task of scoring runs but the bowling fraternity celebrates the advantage that comes from the benevolent weather. The swing and the seam can be a nightmare for the batsmen to tackle. There is something for everyone — the batsmen, bowlers and the spectators, who have grown watching some fascinating contests between the bat and the ball. England is the place for cricket.

The summer of 2019 will showcase the best of cricket when the ICC World Cup begins at the Oval on May 30 with a match between England and South Africa, and the final slated at Lord’s on July 14. In a throwback to the 1992 edition played in Australia and New Zealand, all 10 teams will play each other in the round-robin format before the top four make it to the semi-finals. (For lovers of football the Copa America, to be held in Brazil in June-July, will be an attraction. It possibly would be the last chance for Messi, if he plays, to win a title with Argentina.)

The cricket World Cup returns to its origins after the first three editions staged in 1975, 1979 and 1983. In 1999, England hosted most of the matches barring those that were played in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Netherlands. “Cricket in England is challenging because the conditions change so fast. You win the toss in sunshine and, by the time your openers are out to bat, it becomes cloudy and you end up repenting the decision to bat first,” says Kapil Dev, captain of the Indian team that won the World Cup in 1983.

“I have always loved playing in England,” says Mohammed Azharuddin, who once hit a Test century between lunch and tea at Old Trafford in 1990. Connoisseurs of the game can look forward to some engaging cricket from England this summer. Tickets may have sold out for all key matches of the World Cup but there are seats available for some of the low-key contests.

An English summer offers a delightful package of cricket, tennis and football. Wimbledon is an annual attraction, with the cream of the sport on view. Wembley is an iconic football venue worth a visit. Even the county grounds whet your appetite for good cricket.

“It has a lot to do with the atmosphere,” says Harish Krishnamachar, a sports marketing professional and avid cricket follower. Watching cricket in England is part of his annual calendar. “The ease of access and comfort in watching a game is unmatched. Contrast it with the rush and pleasure of watching it in India. I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to watch cricket, or any other sport, in England. It has a culture of watching sport. They plan it in advance,” says Krishnamachar.

The pleasure of enjoying the World Cup in England comes with the bonus of watching tennis at Wimbledon (the tournament kicks off on July 1). Also, organised tours to the sports venues, during or out of competition, is a lovable tradition in England. If not a seat at a World Cup match, there are many reasons to be in England — a day at Wimbledon or Wembley — or visits to various county cricket and football grounds.

For fans of Indian cricket, there is compelling reason to watch cricket in the most serene surroundings such as Southampton, The Oval, Old Trafford, Edgbaston and Headingley, where Virat Kohli and his team will play. It will certainly be the farewell stage for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the finest to have played the game.

The best gift the team can give Dhoni is the Cup, which he won as captain in 2011. He gave up Test cricket in 2014 with the sole aim of preserving his energy for the 2019 World Cup. “Dhoni is an absolute must. Virat needs Dhoni,” Gavaskar had said recently on Star Sports. “There’s no doubt about it. In 50 overs where there is that much more time, that’s when MSD comes into play. You know he makes those small field adjustments, talking to the bowlers in Hindi — telling them where to bowl and what to bowl. It’s a huge plus for Virat,” was how Gavaskar evaluated India at the 2019 World Cup.

Dhoni, in the final leg of a most enchanting cricket journey, should ensure overwhelming presence of Indians fans at the World Cup. The fact that India is considered a favourite to win the Cup can be reason enough for fans to head to England. Will Indian cricket revisit 1983? Fans will find out this summer!

Vijay Lokapally is Deputy Editor, Sports, The Hindu

Published on January 04, 2019
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