The year 2013 was quite a year for the institution of Cricket. It had its nadirs and zeniths, but a few of them stand out in the brain’s primary memory when I reflect the year gone by.
The ‘Tigers’ at Home Theory: World cricket is slowly getting to a stage when most teams are becoming tigers at home, and lambs abroad. You would associate this phenomenon with India over the 90’s, but globally this year, has epitomized that. England, won the Ashes at home, and expected to make it 4 in a row, and no one would have predicted anything different. Allan Border believed before the first test at ‘The Gabba’ that Australia’s fast bowlers would ambush England, and most of us mistook it for the empty boasts/sledges that come from Australian media before a series. How wrong were we! Mitchell Johnson ran through Australia, like a knife through butter, and yet another home series, was one by the hosts. There must be something in the air, which made test teams in 2013, get the trump card in the home advantage (Mukul Kesavan wrote a piece on the same) The IPL too, showed similar signs, where Harsha observed a similar pattern, where the hosts made their home grounds as their fortresses. The Bangladeshis carried some of that theory in ODI cricket, by near flawless performances in the ODI series against New Zealand.
Ghost of Match Fixing
IPL: When Sreesanth’s name flashed one fine morning, I thought it was one of those gimmicks, until the repeated coverage told me that something more sinister and serious had happened. To add to the drama, when IPL owners were betting, and when Srini’s son told of how his father’s connections in Dubai were not just with the ICC, but also with suspicious characters, world cricket’s skeletons were being opened. The IPL, was attracting all the wrong set of people.
Then it was Ashraful who admitted that he had attempted in corrupt practices during the BPL, it did send a few signals to the world, that all of the money and the glitz of the T20 leagues may have a lot lying beneath, which may not be all that pleasant to stomach.
ICC being bullied by BCCI
The BCCI’s has always been known to arm-twist cricket boards into not playing international cricket, or playing with second-string sides, during an IPL (thereby guaranteeing the best talent in the IPL). The BCCI went to a new low, by changing the Future Tours Program, to accommodate a grand farewell to Sachin at home, and also hitting the ego of Haroon Lorgat, which it saw as a thorn in their flesh (during Haroon’s reign as the former head of ICC). Two battles won in 1 move, but cricket lost in the end! The world got to see Sammy bowling to Sachin, instead of Sachin playing Steyn and Morkel. Anyways, maybe that was better than watching Sachin taking on some hapless Sri Lankan bowlers.
Cricket First, Monies and Careers Next!
In the era of big bucks pervading cricket, its quite rare to find cricketers playing just for the love of the game, ignoring remunerative career options. The Zimbabweans played the best cricket of their life in a decade, humbling Pakistan at home, in a series where the ZCU did not have enough money to fly players to another city, and put them in hotel rooms!
Afghanistan rise in world cricket has been meteoric since they qualified for the World T20 in the Caribbean (2010), and their fairy tale story went a notch further when they sustained their excellence by qualifying for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
Rise of Indian Cricket
Indian Cricket started the year gloomily by losing the Airtel ODI series against Pakistan, and ended the year badly with a series loss against South Africa. In between they recovered well, to win tests against Australia and West Indies at home, and a stellar performance away at the Wanderers against South Africa. They also struck gold in winning ODI series against England and Australia at home, winning a tri-series in the Caribbean, played their B side to win in Zimbabwe, and the icing on the cake being their victory in the Champions Trophy. In that period, they unearthed yet another swing bowler from the by lanes of Meerut, in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who impressed fans, with his swing. India discovered a new and hungry Rohit Sharma in Tests, just in time to coincide with Sachin’s retirement in tests, and found Cheteshwar Pujara an ideal foil to replace Rahul’s absence in the middle. At the top of the order, India’s selectors discovered a successor to the fatigued, but warhorse opening combination of Sehwag and Gambhir, in Vijay and Dhawan who made impressive centuries to cement their place in the side. Mahender Singh Dhoni, found more reason to underline his immense importance to the side with crucial knocks, like the one in the Celkon Tri-series final cup in the Caribbean. The T20 domestic leagues, too found some blood going through their veins, with Mumbai Indians dominating the IPL, as well as the Champions League! Enough reasons to believe that “Happy Days are back again”
Childhood had become a habit, and could never disconnect with the adult self that the 80’s generation had grown up with, thanks to Sachin playing. His retirement and final series, reached a mass crescendo, pretty much to the tune of a national tragedy. The man who had given joy to millions of Indians, with the way his wood treated leather, had decided to hang up his boots. The BCCI and Star Sports decided to cash in on the Super bowl like opportunity to make it the longest farewell. The rest of the world did not quite treat their heroes with so much pomp, except for a few articles in print about their heroics. Swann and Kallis wouldn’t quite mind their silent journey into the sunset of their careers, as they seemed to truly pause when the law of diminishing marginal returns hit their cricket. Not quite, the same reason that Sachin chose to go, but Sachin would always be my hero!
Retirements in Formats
There is so much of cricket on the television that I am starting to think like cricketers, if I should retire from watching one of the formats. I am already so fatigued, that I am not able to employ my primary memory to pull any more memories of the year. Maybe I will think about it, if Twitter makes #ThankYoutWEETOLOGER hash tags to trend for a day :-)