Thursday, December 22, 2011

Slipstream V - Cricketers of the Year - 2011

On the lines of Wisden Cricket Almanack, Slipstream Cricket has decided to announce its selection for the Cricketers of the Year. The list will comprise of 5 cricketers whom this blog believes to have had the maximum impact on the game in the year 2011. The selections are made solely on this blogger's bias. So the Slipstream V (Five) for 2011 (as they will be referred to) are as follows

1. Rahul Dravid (India)
The year started with Dravid's future under some cloud. The Test contributions had become average and calls were coming for infusing younger blood into the test lineup while he wasn't part of limited overs setup for quite some time. India went on to win the ODI World Cup and calls became louder. And then happened the West Indies tour. Another Kingston masterclass set up India's only test victory and the series victory. This was followed by a horror tour of England over the summer, where India were cleanly swept off the ground. Well, all of them except the man called "The Wall". 3 Test centuries in lost causes, carried his bat while opening the innings, became the 2nd highest run-getter in Tests, recalled to the limited overs setup (which prompted him to announce his retirement as well), debut and farewell in the same T20 match (his 3 consecutive sixes are my only T20 internationals memory of 2011) and then the 69 in his last ODI innings. At home against the West Indies another century followed. The Indian cricket fan learnt to respect Rahul Dravid once again. The oldest active Test player was also the highest run getter in this calendar year  with one test still to go. And if the on-field achievements were not enough came the captaincy of Rajasthan Royals for next year's IPL and the Bradman Oration. The Wall made every one sit up and listen as he delivered a master class with his speech. The "Creaking Terminator" was certainly back.

2. Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe)
Zimbabwe had been a team in disarray since the highs of the 1999 World Cup. The multiple player walkouts and  the political environment had led to the team suspending its own Test status. The period also saw them drop below Ireland in ODI rankings. 2011 was the year they took baby steps back into the Test environment. A victory against Bangladesh, nearly pulling off a sensational chase against New Zealand and a battling loss to Pakistan, Zimbabwe cricket certainly showed that they still had the fight in them. And leading the way for them was the captain Brendan Taylor. His stupendous form with the bat certainly propped up the team. An unbeaten 2nd innings century to setup the victory over Bangladesh was follwed by some great performances against the Kiwis. Became the 1st Zimbabwean to hit back to back ODI hundreds against the Kiwis, followed by a 4th innings century in the close loss. With Taylor at the helm, some fresh talent coming up and some old hands returning, Zimbabwe cricket is certainly looking up.

3. Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan)
In 2011, Pakistan cricket threatened to their usual tragi-comic self. A good World Cup campaign (losing semi-finalists) was followed by the typical mess. Players chopped and changed, the captain Afridi retired and then unretired, ditto for Younis Khan, coach resigned, the spot-fixing accused were put in jail, there were whispers of a few others being involved, one Akmal replaced the other behind the stumps. In the meantime the on-field results were pretty good. The fast bowling supply never dried up, batsmen with a calm temperament also came into the picture. Misbah-ul-Haq was the man who presided over this on-field period of calm. Certainly his good batting form also helped (15 international 50s across formats in 2011), but it was his adept handling off the most unpredictable team in the world which picks him in the Slipstream V.

4. Hasim Amla (South Africa)
There is something about Amla. The bearded wonder personifies a sense of serenity all around. Certainly the best No. 3 in Test cricket (and he beats pretty stiff competition in the form of Trott, Sangakkara and Dravid for this title). Amla somehow seemed misfit for the limited overs cricket (maybe it has got something to with being a classical batsman), yet by the end of the year, a run of big scores at an average of 55+ at a very quick 90+ strike rate saw him captaining the South Africans in ODIs and T20s as well.

5. Vernon Philander (South Africa)
The man with a surname made for headlines (Philander bowls a maiden over :P). The newcomer of the year. He made his Test debut in 2011 and after a total of 3 tests has 4 "Michelles" and some 24 wickets at an average from the 19th century. The games may have been in his pace-friendly home conditions in South Africa but he managed to outshine his far more illustrious teammates Steyn & Morkel. Thats one great start to a career.

So this was the Slipstream V for 2011. More reviews of 2011 coming up.

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