Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Line-up from Twenty13

Like most other things, the cricketing year 2013 is also coming to an end. So here is an year-end list. Just giving it some cricketing context by making an eleven to remember for (or not) from Twenty13.

1. The final one
Sachin Tendulkar c Darren Sammy b Narsingh Deonarine 74
Thats how a 200 test career ended on the scorebooks. There was a little more to come when he gave a touching farewell speech calling it his "life between 22 yards for 24 years" Millions of fans also promptly announced their retirement from watching the game. (How many kept this promise during the Johannesburg Test is a matter of conjecture). (Click here and here for Slipstream Cricket's coverage of the last match)

2. Fairy tale beginnings
Australia are in major trouble. 9 down facing up to a huge deficit in the opening game of the Ashes. A 19 year old, who wasn't even originally picked in the squad, comes into bat on debut. And then proceeds to score 98, the highest ever by a number 11. Its the stuff fairytales are made of. However Ashton Agar's career did not really take off. There is still plenty of time for it though.

3. The Power of the Moustache

Shikhar Dhawan had played for India before,but he only exploded on the scene, twirling his moustache, this year. Ravindra Jadeja transformed from the being the most abused one to to now being a  revered one. David Warner returns from Zimbabawe and starts scoring Test centuries. Mitchell Johnson from a Barmy Army punching bag becomes the sledgehammer  who destroys England. The only thing in common between all these characters is the Moustache. 

4. To Walk or Not to Walk - That is the Question
Stuart Broad edges Ashton Agar (he of the fairy-tale start from 2 above) into the waiting first slip. Umpire Dar does not raise his finger. Australia have used up all their reviews, Broad does not walk. The social media erupts declaring that this is as big an incident as Bodyline. The Spirit of Cricket (whatever that is) is called into question. Everyone jumps into the debate. Meanwhile the most common sense solution (empowering the TV umpire to initiate decision making) is not even breathed about. 

5. The Irony
We are living in an era where the health of the game is being questioned. Test cricket is supposed to be dying due the arrival of ODI cricket, which in turn is dying to the arrival of T20 cricket and the non-death of Test cricket. Then we had the Champions Trophy's last edition (as of now) this year. The tournament was keenly contested raising ratings. But being held in England rain also joined the party redcuing the final (of all games) to a 20 over contest. The Irony...

6. The Fixing Saga
Sreesanth, Chandila, Chavan arrested during IPL, Ashraful banned, 3 former Kiwi internationals facing Anti-corruption inquiries, Umpire Rauf getting dropped from the international panel, Team owners facing illegal betting charges, bookies attempting to buy franchisee in Sri Lankan Premier League (which failed to take-off). The fixing saga continues but the corrupt are being weeded out. Can it be completely eradicated? Well human greed has no limitations but "constant vigilance" is what is needed to keep the game as clean as possible.

7. Homework Gate
4 Australian cricketers are dropped from the squad ... for not completing a presentation on how to improve the team. No wonder they were absolute rubbish at that time. Not too much after the coach was the one who got dropped and slowly the team also rediscovered its mojo.

8. Karma bites back
England were all gung ho after winning the 3rd consecutive Ashes. They celebrations ended with some of the team members taking a leak on the Oval pitch displaying no sense of respect for the hallowed turf. Well karma came back  to bite them and since then England have been humiliated by the same opponents in the next 4 matches.

9. Pakistani Enigma
The Pakistan team performs like a sine curve. Hitting rock bottom and then immediately scaling new heights. The same set of players can lose a Test to Zimbabwe (who are struggling to arrange a match) and then a couple of weeks later beat up the top ranked South Africa. And to ensure that the sine curve is complete they lost to South Africa in the very next Test.

10. The Associates battle on
The likes of Ireland and Afghanistan continue to keep the Associate flag fluttering. Although they face severe resistance from the big 10. England keep stealing Irish players and using them (Morgan & Rankin) to beat them. A 16 nation qualifying tournament is held to find 6 Associates who get to play in the qualifying rounds for the next T20 World Cup. Yet the likes of Irealnd, Afghanistan, Nepal et al keep on playing. Guess they are the truly passionate cricketing countries.Hats off to the Associates.

11. Comeback of the Year
From who else but the ever-youth comeback kid, the one and only Shahid Afridi. After having retired for the 20th time in the past 20 years, he comes back to the national squad and destroys West Indies with bat and ball. 76 runs (coming in at 47/5) and following it up with a 7 wicket haul . If not the greatest all-round ODI performance, this surely has to be the greatest all-round comeback performance of all time. May he keep retiring and coming back.

12. The 12th Man (a purely cricketing concept)
For the 12th man presenting some off-field action. Here is a video of Brett Lee trying to kill bowling an over at Piers Morgan. 

Well that was the line-up from the year as we bid farewell to the legend Jacques Kallis who retires in the ongoing Durban Test. Wishing for good cricket in the next year.

Wishing all readers a very happy and prosperous new year ahead.

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