Comeback of the year: Australia.
Australia got whitewashed by India 0-4 in their Test series, failed to win a single match in the ICC Champions Trophy, lost the Ashes 0-3 and failed to defend an ODI target of 350+ twice in an ODI series versus India.
No-one would have thought they would recover from that low. However they did it by the end of the year, taking an unbeatable 3-0 lead against England and reclaiming the Ashes in style.
Such was their complete dominance that they set a victory target of 500+ for all three matches, a record!
Almost heist of the year: India-SA at the Wanderers.
In the first Test, South Africa fought to a 244 despite being 146-6 at one stage behind India’s 280. Then in the final innings they had a stiff task of chasing down a target of 458 runs. At 197-4 India must have thought that it would be just a matter of time before SA collapsed. But at 402-
4, it was nothing but SA’s match and a matter of keeping calm. However wickets pegged them back and they came tantalizingly close to the greatest chase ever and were left stranded at 450-7 by the end of the match!
Low of the year: Sledging.
Just when you thought that sledging was on its way out, it made a comeback in the Ashes. It’s back with a bang vis a vis Australia. The high point of it was probably Aussie captain Michael Clarke telling England tail-ender James Anderson, “Get ready for a broken f***ing arm.”
Ouch! Australia is on the ascendancy and Clarke has emerged as the top run getter in Tests for 2013. One can see only things getting more intense.
Maximum ICC top rankings go to… South Africa.
At the beginning of the South Africa-India series, the world No. 1 and No. 2 Test teams had a difference in points at 131-119. While India are 6-0 for Tests, South Africa are 6-1.
AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla are the top two batsmen of the ICC rankings while Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are the top two bowlers.
(Incidentally, the ODI No. 1 batsman ranking is also held by de Villiers.)
But interestingly in terms of most Test batsmen amongst the runs and bowlers among wickets, England takes the honours. The top 3 wicket takers are: Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Graeme Swann. Four of the top 6 run getters are English: Ian Bell, Alistair Cook, Joe Root and
Cliffhanger of the year: ICC Champions Trophy final.
First it rained and it was reduced to a 20 over match. Then India looked to be bowled out under 100 when they were 66-5 in the 13th spot of bother at 46-4, but they still took it to 110 till the next wicket fell.
The turning point happened during the 18th over which happened to be India's favourite whipping boy Ishant Sharma. Ishant was hit for a 6 and followed it up with two wides. When it seemed all over, Ishant took two wickets and India came roaring back.
England still required a six off the last ball and R Ashwin gave a dot ball and Indian were champions.
(Javed Miandad’s last ball win against India at Sharjah in 1986 seems to have taken place a 100 years ago!)
Controversy of the year: IPL.
Match-fixing is like a cancer that cannot be eradicated and it keeps coming back and India is usually at the thick of things. This time it hit IPL and Rajasthan Royals was under a cloud, shadowing Rahul Dravid’s IPL retirement. S Sreesanth became the most high profile player to be
involved in recent times.
Gurunath Meiyappan of Chennai Super Kings also came into the net and his father-in-law BCCI head honcho N Srinivasan had to step down.
Brutal knock of the year: Chris Gayle.
In the RCB versus Pune Warriors league match, Chris Gayle unleashed yet another Gaylestorm when he blasted a 175* off 66 balls in a brutal innings studded with 13 4s and 17 6s. With a strike rate of 265, one wonders whether Gayle will hit a double century soon in T20s!
The entire team of Pune Warriors couldn’t even get to Gayle’s personal score and were all down for 133.
Stingiest bowling of the year: Umar Gul.
In the Pakistan-South Africa T20 match in Centurion, Gul sent down just 14 balls. But that was enough for him to take a 5-wicket haul. What’s more, he just gave 6 runs for those 5 wickets.
Pakistan had set a stiff target of 196, but the entire South African team together could just make a century.
ODI top order of the year: India.
Opener Rohit Sharma has scored 1196 runs in 2013 at an average of 52 with a double century. His partner Shikhar Dhawan has 1162 runs at 50.5 with as many as five centuries. One down Virat Kohli is the year’s top scorer with 1268 runs at 52.8 and four centuries.
Never has India’s ODI top order looked this good. Since it crashed in the ODI series with South Africa, the whole team crashed along with it.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/