By Kushan Sarkar
A legend walking into sunset after an illustrious career, a bunch of bravehearts asserting India‘s supremacy in the One-Day international (ODI) format and a phenomenally talented cricketer choosing the path of self destruction by indulging in spot-fixing, were the highlights of Indian cricket in the eventful 2013.
While cricket had its usual quota of the good, the bad and the ugly but Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement after serving the country for 24 long years and giving joy to billions across the globe was certainly the most moving moment of the year.
It indeed was a ‘Farewell to Remember’ when Tendulkar played his 200th and final Test match at his homeground Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. His last innings in Test cricket bore testimony to legendary status — an innings that was high on quality and aesthetic value for those who had loved the ‘Game of glorious uncertainties’.
The euphoria and outpouring of the fans during his farewell series would forever remain unmatched. Sir Don Bradman may have had the best average but when it came to love and affection, Tendulkar had outscored the iconic Australian by a fair distance.
200 Test matches, 100 international centuries, more than 50,000 runs across all formats at the senior level are not just numbers or milestones for the cricket crazy Indians.
These are figures that every fan treasures with a sense of belonging. His farewell speech at the Wankhede on November 16 will forever be etched in the memory of his fans as there was hardly anyone who didn’t wipe a tear on that emotional afternoon.
Tendulkar left a legacy but with his departure a new chapter unfolded in Indian cricket as the ‘transition phase’, which had been a buzz word since the retirement of Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly was completed.
The ‘Gen-Next’ under Mahendra Singh Dhoni‘s able stewardship took over quite successfully with Virat Kohli easily being the best of the lot in terms of talent transformed into performance.
Apart from the legends, the likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh are also on their way out as they are battling to save their international careers.
Earlier this year, Shikhar Dhawan burst into Test cricket with an amazing 187 against Australia at Mohali which turned out to be the fastest hundred by a debutant.
Dhawan since then has made rapid strides in international cricket having played a pivotal role in India’s Champions Trophy triumph in England where he was adjudged ‘Player of the Series’. Along with Rohit Sharma, Dhawan has forged a very successful opening partnership which has done exceptionally well in the West Indies, England, India with only failure being the year-end away series against South Africa.
Dhoni again has proved that he is a good strategist as his decision to open with Rohit Sharma has proved to be a masterstroke. The talented Mumbai batsman had revelled in his new role which saw him smash a double hundred against the West Indies at Bangalore last month. Rohit also had an impressive debut as he scored back-to-back tons in his first two matches although he has struggled against pace and swing in South African conditions.
Cheteshwar Pujara seemed to have made the No 3 slot vacated by Rahul Dravid his own as he showed the world that he is good enough to make runs in foreign conditions with scores of 153 and 70 against South Africa at Johannesburg and Durban.
But highlight of India’s batting has been Kohli’s consistency throughout the season which has literally transfomed him into one of world’s premier batsmen in current times. 18 hundred in just 125 ODIs speaks volumes of what a prolific scorer this 25-year-old has been for India in recent times. His first innings century at Johannesburg was pure class and 96 in the second innings showed his insatiable hunger for runs.
With centuries on Australian and South African soil, Dhoni’s heir apparent is ready to take the legacy of Tendulkar forward just like he has now easioy fitted into the legend’s much owned No 4 batting slot.
While Indian batting had come of ages during the season, the same can’t be said about the bowling which has done well only in patches.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar had done well in England but his lack of pace had hurt India’s chances in South Africa. Mohammed Shami’s emergence as a potent pace weapon would have certainly pleased Dhoni. Shami’s ability to reverse the ball at a quick pace would be an asset for India.
While India have had more share of ups than down in regards to on-field performances, there has been off-field controversies that has dogged the country’s cricket establishment.
Shantakumaran Sreesanth, whose ability to swing the ball had helped India win their first Test in South Africa, was arrested along with Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila for alleging in spot-fixing while playing for Rasjasthan Royals in the sixth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL).
Although released on bail, Sreesanth had been handed a life ban by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after their internal probe found the Kerala cricketer guilty. Once a prodigious talent, Sreesanth will now have to live with the ignominy of being a tainted cricketer rather than being called a world cup winner.
If Sreesanth has been confined to oblivion because of his misdeeds, BCCI president N Srinivasan had a tumultous year as he came under the eye of storm. His son-in-law and Chennai Super Kings’s former Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan was arrested by the Mumbai Police on allegations of placing bets on his team’s matches along with failed Bollywood actor and former reality show contestant Vindoo Dara Singh.
While a section in the BCCI called for Srinivasan’s head, the Tamil Nadu strongman who has fought many boardroom battles managed to keep his citadel intact.
The menace of match fixing not only hit India but it affected Bangladesh cricket as well with former skipper and one of their top batsmen Mohammed Ashraful admitting to have underperformed in Bangladesh Premier League in lieu of money.
Ashraful subsequently has been banned from all forms of cricket.
While Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement had grabbed a lot of headlines, within another month, it was the turn of South African legend Jacques Kallis calling time on his Test career after the ongoing Test match at Kingsmead.
With a record that is enviable for one and all, Kallis undoubtedly is one of the modern day greats. Down Under, Australians have played their hearts out to get the prestigious ‘urn’ back from England having already clinched the Ashes with an unassailable 4-0 lead as Mitchell Johnson showed the world that he can be equally deadly as Dale Steyn.
With India scheduled to play nine away Tests against England and Australia next year, it will be another interesting year of international cricket that lies ahead of us.
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