The A to Z of cricket in 2008...
Continued from the previous two posts by the same author...
M stands for Mallaya, Vijay Mallaya (in true Bond style!). The man who got all sporty as he invested into two sports; one a zero-risk proposition in cricket, and the other with an immense potential to go big in India; formula one. However, one cannot be too sure whether the on-field results in either could be termed as outright success for Mallaya, as both his teams ended very close to the bottom of the pile. Mallaya sure was different in many regards, as has been his usual wont; as his team topped the cheer-leading squad, as did he on having the best test side playing T20 cricket, had the best looking brand ambassador by a proverbial mile in Katrina Kaif, and then became the first and the only owner to sack the CEO of his Bangalore Royal Challengers mid-way through the tournament.
The last mentioned activity brought an entirely new synonym to accountability in this age of cricket; and the phrase 'corporatization of cricket' had been permanently etched in the lexicon of many a cricket lovers.
The last one heard was that Mallaya had put his entire team - excluding the icon player, Rahul Dravid - on the selling block, before the next IPL!
N is for the New Zealand cricket which sunk to newer lows and despairs in the year 2008. If the Indian Cricket League, and in turn the BCCI, ensured that some of its better players had to bite the dust, then injuries to the likes of Jacob Oram meant that they struggled through most of the season. If the losses in the longest format of the game to England and Australia were not enough, one against Bangladesh looked an almost certainty till Daniel Vettori guided the way and won them the match.
However, that remained the story of the summer; over-reliance on the one or two of their cricketers like Vettori, Oram and Brendon McCullum, and the result was an abysmal number eight position in test cricket for the Black Caps.
Surprisingly enough, they had a more than reasonable year in the ODIs.
O reminds me of the appalling Over-rates that one was a witness to during not only the Border-Gavaskar trophy, but also most of the other international matches through the world. Regular transgressions during the much publicised India-Australia series meant that the captains were left huffing and puffing on more occasions than one, and in the end, it also caused Ponting enough nightmares to end up bowling a part time spinner instead of his main, fast bowlers at a crucial juncture in the fourth test match. Many blamed this 'selfish' move to be the sole cause for the handing over the BG trophy, but the bigger issue is that the administrators seem to have no clue by which they can control this malaise.
As if to prove that Ponting's problems were no flash-in-the-pan, both India and England bowled at less than 12 overs to the hour through the first test match at Chennai, and yet, it was blamed away to the Chennai heat.
Surely the global warming hadn't affected climates so much that the sun seemed hotter and that bowling 15 overs in 60 minutes seems to be an objective in futility. Again, the ICC would need to wake up and quickly at that, before the longer version of the game would need to be increased to a six-day match; in short flogging the dead horse further.
P will be shared by Pietersen, Proteas and Pujara, the three who made quite a flutter at the domestic and international circuit. Pietersen almost turned his side's fortunes against South Africa, by winning the only test he skippered against them, and then united the likes of Harmison and Flintoff to thrash the Proteas 4-0 in the ensuing ODI battle. Not that they would have started as favourites in India, but then, not too many would have expected a 5-0 whitewash either. It could have been a lot worse, but the atrocities in Mumbai meant that the English team had to return back. There was a small matter of winning the hearts of the Indians by returning back to the tests after much deliberation, but the elusive win was not too forthcoming.
Proteas, on the other hand continued their rich vein of form as a team, to record another series win. That made it eight out of nine, with the only drawn series coming in India, after leading 1-0 going into the final test match. The litmus test though, would be against the number one side, Australia, whom they meet in a three test match series. As things currently stand, there does not seem to be too much to separate the two.
Pujara was quite clearly the find of Indian cricket of the season, with three triple hundred in the domestic tournaments in a span of less than a month. If that was not enough, his scored another string of big scores, to lead his Ranji team, Saurashtra into the knock-out stage of the tournament. Here was a man with a vociferous appetite and a good technique to boot, and somebody to definitely look out for.
To be continued...