Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Hots & The Nots of 2009

Its been yet another eventful year of cricket. Thrilling finishes to performance excellences on the field; and awards and honours to controversies off the field. Here's a look at ten of the 'Hot' and the 'Not' events of the year.

No. 1

HOT - Akmal Brothers
The duo from Pakistan combined to put in the rare glimpses of excellence from Pakistan this year. Umar burst on to the scene with a bang, scoring a whirlwind century in Sri Lanka. He also ended as the top run-getter in his debut test series against New Zealand. Kamran also played a pivotal role in Pakistan's triumphant T20 campaign besides putting in consistent performances in the ODI format. The two brothers leased life and energy into the Pakistan team.

NOT - Hussey Brothers
After starting the year strongly with impressive performances, the Hussey brothers faded away. David fell away so much so that it cost him his place in the team while Mr. Cricket aka Michael Hussey's graph kept tailing downwards with pressure ringing on him from the experts calling for fresh blood.

No. 2

HOT - Team Pakistan at ICC tournaments
Maintaining their unpredictability tag, Pakistan, performed unbelievably well out of nowhere at the two ICC events this year. After a disastrous start to World Twenty20 including heavy defeats in the warm-ups and the opening match, Pakistan twice turned the tide from the verge of exiting before putting in inspired team performances to lift the trophy against all odds, beating favorites Sri Lanka in the final. Then at the ICC Champions Trophy, shifted to South Africa from Pakistan due to security concerns, Team Pakistan impressed all and sundry with a magical win over arch-rivals India before stretching Australia to the last ball. An unfortunate turnaround in the semi-final meant the end of the road as they lost to New Zealand.

NOT - Team India at ICC tournaments
An abysmal year for India at the ICC events. Starting off as favorites, the defending champions progressed through the first round of World T20 easily, thumping minnows Bangladesh and Ireland. But at the Super Eights, they fell apart as they packed their bags having lost all three games. At the Champions Trophy, a defeat against Pakistan proved costly. For perhaps the only time in history, the billion-strong Indian population then wanted Pakistan to win against Australia so that Team India could qualify. However, Pakistan suffered an agonizing last-ball defeat against Australia to kick India out. At both the tournaments, India's weakness to short-pitched bowling was majorly exposed as the young blood repeated their mistakes.

No. 3

HOT - Indian Premier League (IPL)
The second edition of IPL was moved to South Africa after security concerns due to national elections in India. Despite controversies regarding grounds and sponsors, the change in venue proved to be a hit with South African audiences welcoming teams with open arms. Some mis-hit concepts such as the 'strategic time out' were also tried. But the month-long extravaganza provided some thrilling cricket as Adam Gilchrist's Deccan Chargers deservedly lifted the title.

NOT - Indian Cricket League (ICL)
What started off as a breakaway concept soon became to be known as the 'rebel' league. ICL, it can be safely assumed, has breathed its last. The league was denied ICC recognition. The talks between ICL and IPL also remained fruitless. The spring edition was postponed after the Mumbai attacks, but the league officials vowed to be back in November. However, with BCCI offering amnesty to players resigning from ICL, and also international players seeking release from contracts, the ICL soon ran out of gas. Much was made about ICL suing ICC for 'restraint of trade', little came of it as financial troubles left little choice for the league officials. Many players claimed their dues still remain uncleared as most of them returned to national ranks.

No. 4

HOT - Dropped catches
The number of dropped catches seemed to be getting cheaper by the dozen. Pakistan dropped no less than 26 catches in four tests in November-December. India remained ordinary too. Even Australia dropped some notable ones. And Makhaya Ntini wouldn't forget AB De Villiers' simple drop in Ntini's 100th test as Proteas wondered where did the Jonty Rhodes spirit go.

NOT - Catches win matches
Catching seemed to be a lost art as many would-have-been-awesome catches were missed. The unbelievable catches that win matches were simply not on show this year. Wonder what the fielding coaches are doing these days!

No. 5

HOT - The all-in-one Daniel Vettori
New Zealand Cricket seems to be running on one man - Daniel Vettori. Once started off as a bowler, Vettori is now an accomplished all-round batsmen as well. In addition, he shoulders the captaincy, coach, and selection responsibilities as well. And the results have been positive too - New Zealand reached the final of Champions Trophy before drawing with Pakistan 1-1 at home after dismal performances in the previous years.

NOT - The 'handicapped' all-rounders
With injuries coming thick and fast, the all-rounders were forced to choose between duties. Jacques Kallis played purely as a batsman for some time. Andrew Flintoff focused solely on his bowling, dropping to number seven in the batting order during the Ashes. Even Shane Watson's injury transformed him into an accomplished opener, although he has now returned with the ball as well.

No. 6

HOT - Ajmal & Afridi
Pakistan's spinners were the key to Pakistan's success in the shorter forms of the game. With cumulative 50 wickets at a miserly rate of 4.2 runs per over, the two troubled all the teams, specially Australia. In the T20s, the two formed a formidable partnership as Pakistan dried out the runs in the middle overs. 37 wickets at an economy of 5.5 per over would leave any captain drooling. The pair played an integral role in Pakistan's ability of defend low scores in the World T20.

NOT - Mendis & Murali
Sri Lanka's menacing pair of Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan flopped badly through the year. Troubled by injuries and exhausting schedules, the two were no longer the threat they once used to be. No four-wicket hauls in ODIs or T20s says much about their troubles. Conceding at nearly five an over in ODIs at an average over 30 isn't threatening. Even in the T20s, the two combined to pick up only 23 wickets at a higher average and economy rate than Ajmal and Afridi. A dismal year in test matches as well, costing over 45 runs per wicket.

No. 7

HOT - Dilscoop
By far the 'invention' of the year. Tillakaratne Dilshan's paddle shot getting down on one knee and hitting over the wicketkeeper's head quickly became famous as Dilscoop. As much as it frustrated the bowlers, the shot became the commentators and viewers' ultimate delight.

NOT - Reverse sweep
An annoying sign for a spinner - the reverse sweep - was no longer as effective. The master exponents of the stroke failed to apply it properly at crucial times. Younis Khan got out reverse sweeping several times. Similarly, Kevin Pietersen avoided the stroke as Australia continued to bowl flat at him. Consequently, the shot once perfected by Javed Miandad went missing this year.

No. 8

HOT - Tony Greig
After the demise of ICL where he served as the Executive Board member, Tony Greig returned to mainstream, international commentary. In his usual, fluent, energetic and vibrant style, Tony Greig was welcomed with delight by his fans. Cricket commentary came to life once again as Greig served as commentator during matches involving Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, West Indies and South Africa.

NOT - Danny Morrison
Once an intimidating fast bowler, Danny Morrison's transition into the commentary box was unfortunately not welcomed by many. Co-representing New Zealand in ESPN-Star's commentary team for ICC World T20 in England, Morrison often failed to live up to the expectations of the fans. His accent often seemed difficult to comprehend and his efforts of creating energy often fell flat on the face. Not surprisingly, Simon Doull was left as the sole Kiwi commentator at ICC Champions Trophy.

No. 9

HOT - Concert performances
A welcome change this year was the return of concert performances at cricket matches. Strings and Abrar ul Haq entertained audiences in Dubai during the Pakistan-New Zealand T20 series. Akon graced the IPL in South Africa before the opening match. Audiences in South Africa and Australia were also treated to performances by Dirty Harry, Coldplay and Rogue Traders.

NOT - Cheerleaders
Introduced during the ICC World Twenty20 2007, the cheerleaders were a definite not this year. The cricket fans returned to prefer watching cricket for cricketing reasons rather than glamorous ones. Perhaps the broadcasters' penchant for higher ratings ticked off too many people as the cheerleaders phenomenon moved towards being 'a bit too much' before the broadcasters finally realized.

No. 10

HOT - Resilient tailenders
This was the year of close finishes - some heartbreaking moments, and some unbelievable resilience and courage. James Anderson and Monty Panesar dug out over 11 overs to deny Australia a win in the first Ashes test. It proved so crucial that England went on to win the Ashes. Mohammed Aamer and Saeed Ajmal nearly did the unthinkable against New Zealand by putting together a century stand. And Graham Onions provided excellent support to Paul Collingwood to deny South Africa a win in the first test.

NOT - Failing openers
The Kiwi openers became Pakistan's bunnies in the test series. In four innings, the highest opening partnership was 5 runs! Pakistan did no better either. Imran Farhat and Salman Butt continued to struggle. And Jayasuriya's woes at the top saw him demoted to number four. In short, opening seemed like a lost art.


  1. and yet another AMAZING piece!! keep it up!! :D

    generally the cheerleaders may have been a NOT, not for you though ;)

  2. lol!!well very well-written...atleast i dint get to hear any achievements from the indian team =P..

  3. Very well analyzed and summed up. Excellent piece.

  4. great roundup,hassaan!

    i don't particularly agree with your analysis about openers, though...india and australia have had solid partnerships this year.pakistan has lacked a god opener since saeed anwar retired and jayasuria is getting too old anyway. and lest you forget it,dilshan,player of the T20 trophy,opens for sri lanka!

    a few grammatical mistakes though.

  5. You missed India being the No. 1 Test Team!