With the cricketing calendar of 2008 drawing to a close, it is worthwhile to give the year passed by a second glance. In this piece, and the subsequent ones that follow, I review the year gone byÃ¢?Â¦an A to Z of cricket in 2008.
A invariably stands for the Aussies cricket team, and this was probably a year that saw them in the news for, well, not exactly the right reasons. Starting with 'Monkeygate', the Aussies failed to defend their fortress at Perth against a rival which hasn't had a very enviable record at WACA. This was followed by a tour to India, where they not only went on to lose the series 2-0, but also exhibited the brittleness of a novice. The captaincy always looked dubious, the body language, defensive and lost, and in the end, it did not take a rocket scientist to conclude that here was a great team on a decline.
B needs to stand for BCCI, and their stance in international cricket today. With a population of a billion to boot, and a cricket hungry one at that, and an economy that is burgeoning at around eight percent, this was one body that was worth more than the GDP of some of the nations around. And as is the case with most, with such riches, comes a lot of clout and strength, and a possibility of slight misuse. So, the threats of deserting the Aussie tour mid-way due to the Harbhajan Singh suspension, was quickly followed by the machinations with various countries to get their players for the IPL and rejecting some others for their links with the parallel league. Clearly, there was an ICC and the rest, and then, there was a BCCI.
C is for the Champions Trophy and the Champions League, both of which got cancelled for exactly the same reasons. The Champions Trophy was always in doubt when one bomb after the other ripped the country of Pakistan, the host. However, the months prior to the tournament saw many a blast in the cities and this led to the postponement of the tournament. When, is the question, that not many have an answer to even now. India, on the other hand, was riding high after getting most things right with regards to the Champions League, a first of its kind tournament, that consisted of cricket clubs from five of the countries. Modelled on the lines of its counterpart in soccer, the BCCI raked in ESPN-Star as its broadcasting partner - and in turn an unprecedented moolah - and it looked like most players featuring here were going to be drenched-in-the-dollars. So much so that Brad Hodge was to reveal later that many of his Victorian players had already budgeted for lucre they had been promised from the League. As it turned out, terror stuck in Mumbai just a week before the tournament was to begin, and the organisers had no option but to pull the plug…for this year.
D would be for Dhoni and his ice-cool captaincy in all forms of the game. So, if one saw the team win the ICC World T20 in 2007, this year had Dhoni captain his team to the first ever tri-series win in Australia, a finals' spot at the Indian Premier League, a 2-0 triumph over, who else, but the Aussies again, and a 5-0 whitewash against the Pommies. None of it affected his batting or his wicket-keeping; in fact, his down-the-order shenanigans ensured many an Indian win in the ODIs, and he showed enough glimpses of improvements with the bat in the longest format. Sourav Ganguly had no qualms in seeing streaks of his own self in this man from Jharkhand, who had once been over-looked for the Indian wicket-keeper's role by the India A coach, because of his unorthodoxy.
So far, Dhoni has all but proved him wrong.
E is for the English cricket team, who had an up and down sort of a year; as they have been facing for some time now. A couple of test series wins against, the now lowly Kiwi team, was followed by the loss to South Africa and the relinquishment of captaincy by Michael Vaughan. Some had almost stopped short of terming it a good riddance; especially after his travails with injuries meant that he spent more time on the doctor's table than on the cricket field for most part of the last couple of years. The charismatic Kevin Pietersen took over, and the turn-around was as drastic as Australia's drop from the perch. The consolation test win against South Africa in a dead rubber was followed by a shocking 4-0 whitewash of the Proteas in the ODIs that followed. Having tasted blood, the team set foot on the Indian shores with expectations to better their previous series score against the hosts (they had lost 6-1). What followed was another twist to the English fortunes as they went from riches to rags in double quick time and lost 5-0. A quirk of fate – the Mumbai terror attacks – cut short their tour by a couple of ODIs, or else, a 7-0 drubbing wasn't too far away from the realms of reality.
F cannot be for anyone but the fans, who have not only made the sport as commercialised as it is today, but also given the Indians - and the BCCI - a stronghold in the world of cricket. The Indian fans in specific were treated to some brilliant entertainment - or cricketainment as they call it - during the IPL, and it was looking all very rosy for them. But the perennial problems that the administrators always ignore came back to hit them again; pathetic conditions of stadiums, lack of potable water and edible food during matches, and the use of toilet facilities that resembles a boot camp. So much so that the Indian test series against Australia almost went to empty stadiums, something that led - at least - one of the administrators, I.S. Bindra to claim that the Indian spectator has "been short-changed" for a long time now. With the security threat been the name of the game today, it doesn't seem like the grounds are getting packed anytime soon.
...to be continued...