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Season preview

It's that time again. The start of a new Australian season is upon us, and again it arrives with all of the usual connotations in the way of excitement, anticipation and expectation about the six months that lie ahead.

The commencement of a new summer also prompts the staff at to undertake our annual ritual of assessing each of the six state teams and their respective Pura Cup and ING Cup prospects.

With the caveat - or perhaps that should read 'ready-made excuse' - that predictions about finishing positions in these two competitions are probably as difficult to formulate as any in Australian sport, it's therefore the moment for us to reach for our spasmodically-trusty crystal ball. To weigh up the fallout from last summer, to cast our eyes over developments in the off-season, and to assess what comes next.

In noting that we successfully nominated three of the four finalists last summer, we should say that this is another season that already looks like providing close races in each of the two competitions.

Inevitably, the hardest part of this process again lies in deciding which teams might finish at the feet of the two tables. The likelihood of being embarrassed later in the season by marking particular teams down at the start of the summer is very real.

Nevertheless, we expect that it might be a season of surprises. Last season's expansion of the one-day program brought with it one of the most competitive and keenly-fought campaigns in memory. And, while two teams again established their dominance in the Pura Cup, developments just below them on the table can not be ignored.

With that in mind, we believe that one state will reach its first one-day final in as many as seven years and that another will progress to its first first-class decider in eight seasons. Naturally, such outcomes are heavily dependent on good fortune, but they would provide powerful evidence of the fact that no state has a mortgage on a finals position in either competition.

Wherever the teams finish, though, there is one thing that's probably for certain even now. Australian interstate cricket in 2001-02 will undoubtedly continue to be played at a tremendous standard, a standard that adds real weight to observations that it is currently the strongest domestic arena in the world.

To administrators, players and spectators alike go our best wishes for a memorable summer.

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