2016 wishlist: What sports lovers can expect this year...

Updated: 03 January, 2016 21:15 IST | A Correspondent |

From the Indian cricket team starting to win consistently away from home to politics and court cases taking a back seat, Michael Jeh writes on what sports lovers would want to see this year

Hope to be able to read the words FIFA, Integrity and Ethics in the same sentence without wondering if it’s an oxymoron or just a bunch of morons.  

Comedian Simon Brodkin (not pictured) throws dollar bills at FIFA President Joseph Blatter during a press conference at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich on July 20. Pic/Getty Images

Watch a footballer score a goal and act like it’s a normal part of a day at the office rather than celebrating like he’s just come up with a cure for cancer or given rise to world peace.  

Cricketers behaving more like tennis players — straining every sinew to win matches without feeling the need to justify boorish behavior with references to “it’s a man’s game” and “white line fever”.  Tennis seems to do that better than almost any other sport except golf.  

Oh wait...I forgot about Nick Kyrgios!  For every generalisation, there’s always an embarrassing exception to the rule.  The difference between tennis and say, cricket, is that the other Pros on the circuit rounded on him and effectively called him out for his crass behavior. Some cricketing nations make this sort of player their vice-captain!

Can’t wait for the DRS/Third Umpire system to catch up to what we expect from a multi-million dollar sporting code.  The inconsistencies, like the Nathan Lyon non-catch vs New Zealand in Adelaide recently, makes a mockery of a system that was meant to eliminate the howlers but instead has been drowned out by howls of ridicule.  Sometimes, it seems that everyone but the third umpire can see the blindingly obvious.  One poor decision can change the course of a game.  Get it right ICC.

Here’s another in the Wishful Thinking basket; will 2016 be the start of an era where cricket takes another leaf from tennis and develops a system to monitor no-balls? In tennis, the technology exists to track the transgression of the white line and it’s switched on 100% of the time.  Cricket is still caught in this bizarre time warp where umpires regularly miss no-balls unless a wicket falls and they ask for a replay.  It’s as if no-balls don’t really matter unless someone is dismissed.  Why not just develop a technology that takes the decision away from the umpires and makes the third umpire double up as a line umpire for every delivery, not just the wicket balls?

Whilst we’re being optimists, will 2016 be the year when India start winning consistently away from home?  With the talent and resources at their disposal, it should not be an Everest-like task.  
India’s batsmen play the short ball better than ever before and their quicks are as pacy as any other country.  
The only thing that stands in their way is self-belief and the ability to look a grassy pitch in the eye and know they have the weaponry to fight fire with fire.  Sri Lanka almost rolled NZ in Hamilton on the grassiest pitch they are ever likely to encounter.  

On that theme, let there be no more murmurings about ‘doctored pitches’ in the subcontinent. Most of the Tests played in NZ, Australia, England and South Africa rarely make it into Day 5.  Most Tests in the subcontinent go the distance.  
Ravi Shastri is right — there should be no cultural cringe for pitches that turn on Day 1.  It’s no different to a green top…
cricket’s about  showcasing the complete repertoire of skills.

Whilst we’re on that topic, let’s hope for more pitches like Delhi where South Africa valiantly tried to save a Test in the old-fashioned way; soft hands, patience and techniques that have almost been locked away in museums.  To watch Amla, Du Plessis and De Villiers bat to save the Test was amongst the most intriguing modern-day battles.  You would not want to see it in every Test but as test of a different set of skills, it was fascinating.  Cricket needs more of that sort of diversity.

What 2016 promises is a rare opportunity to watch an era where at least six of the world’s best batsmen, with not much to choose between them, will lock horns in the World T20. I can’t recall another era when there was so little to choose from when trying to pick the best T20 batsmen.  Kohli, Rohit, AB, Smith, Warner, Williamson, Root, Mathews… How to choose?  In terms of versatility, AB gets my vote.  For sheer ease and grace, the Kiwi is my pick and Kohli in home conditions is just too sublime for words.

And finally...any chance we can enjoy a year where politics and court cases take a back seat to sport itself?  FIFA, ICC, IOC, IPL — with that lot to choose from, snouts in the trough and bloated with self-importance, the prospects are bleak. They might do better than to remember this simple axiom; if you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters!

Michael Jeh is a Brisbane-based writer

First Published: 01 January, 2016 12:15 IST

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