The same is true of the most amazing teams. Any side can usually boast one player who’s worth watching in a game, but the best teams have a batting order that stays good past number six, and a bowling attack that can sear you with pace and then bamboozle you with spin. Some teams come to define a generation, sending experts running for the record books and fans looking for betting sites not on gamstop. Depending on when you started watching, you might name a particular vintage Australian side or one especially watchable version of the West Indies. For comparison, let’s have a look at some of the recent past decades, and which countries defined them.
1980s: West Indies
While the Windies have improved recently from a spell of very ordinary performances that ended up spanning decades, they absolutely owned the 1980s in a way few teams could have managed before or since. Their captain at the height of their powers was the redoutable Sir Viv Richards, whose run-ins with the likes of Botham were usually worth the entry fee alone. Richards could bat like few others, having no obvious weaknesses in his defence or attack. He was backed up by Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge, and the fast bowling of Malcolm Marshall.
Their years of greatness bled into the 90s, with Lara, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose being some of the best ever to wear the maroon cap.
With an honourable mention for the one-day side of Sri Lanka, there is one nation that dominated the 1990s in a meaningful way. Theirs was a batting attack that just didn’t have a tail, with even specialist bowlers proving to be pretty handy with the bat, too. One memory of the 90s stands over all others when you look back to that decade: Shane Warne’s incomprehensible leg-break that cut back and took out Mike Gatting’s off-stump in the 1993 Ashes. Warne was taken from us too soon earlier this year, at just 52, but that delivery is fit to stand tribute to him. Along with Warne, Steve and Mark Waugh were serenely brilliant with bat in hand while Glenn McGrath was an unshakable pace merchant.
Let’s face it, it was still Australia for much of the next decade too, so we leap forward into the last decade, and this one probably belongs to India. They were certainly the best one-day side of the period, winning the World Cup in 2011 and reaching at least the semis of each one thereafter. They did so thanks to a team that contained - and still does contain in many cases - Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma. This team still needs to find a level of steel that will make them more consistent title winners. Too often they’ve got to the brink of being generational, but they’ve still managed to be great without always taking that extra step.
This is not the time to say which team will dominate the 2020s - we can’t say that just yet. England entered the decade as World Champions, although but for a major stroke of luck they could have ended up watching New Zealand carry off the trophy on that July evening at Lords’.
The answer to the above question could well be New Zealand, who are becoming more and more like their rugby counterparts when it comes to ruthlessness on the big occasions. It remains to be seen whether India can turn the undoubted raft of talent at their disposal into a team that defines another decade, or whether Australia will wrest back the big honours and justify their present place atop the rankings. One thing’s for sure - it’s going to be fun finding out.