Monday, January 7, 2019

The Twenty18 Lineup

Image result for 2018The calendar changes to 2019 and we have Jimmy Neesham & Cheteshwar Pujara starting the cricketing year in contrasting yet effective styles. Before the year runs away any further, time to look back and present the 2018’s Slipstream XI – a collection of interesting & not-so-interesting events to remember the cricketing year 2018 by. 

0. Let’s begin at the beginning. 
All these years we were sending a coin up in the air for the all-important task of finding who bats first. But the smart fellows at the Big bash League decided that sending a coin up in the air doesn’t seem exciting, so let’s throw a specially designed bat! Which lead to an amusing incident where the bat landed on its side!!! 

1. Debutante(s) of the Year 
Ireland & Afghanistan became the 11th & 12th Test playing nations respectively. While Ireland ran Pakistan close, Afghanistan were overwhelmed by India. Meanwhile Nepal made their ODI debut with a narrow win against Netherlands. It was reported in Nepalese newspaper as “Nepal hammer Netherlands by one run”. 2019 is going to be a bumper debut season as all Associates get international status for T20s.

2. Sandpaper Gate 
Cameron Bancroft was caught with his hand in his pants as he tried to hide away the bit of sandpaper used to rough up the ball. Ball tampering is a taboo and usually leads to a temporary suspension of the guilty party. But this one snowballed into a major crisis for Australian cricket leading to extended bans for Bancroft, Captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner and departures for Coach Lehmann and CA chief Sutherland. Heads continued to roll and Australian cricketing culture itself was called into question, while the rest of the cricketing world watched in glee!

3. Cricketing Jargon of the Year 
The culture review of Australian cricket brought in a new terminology - Elite Honesty. Now you could not just play hard and fair, but you also had to show “Elite Honesty” at all times (:O). However, giving it close competition was SENA (short for South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia). Cricketers, especially from the sub-continent, now had their career numbers judged with their performance in SENA regions. Only a favourable comparison here would ensure a place in the pantheon of greats! 

4. Technological improvement of the Year - Stump Mics 
Stump microphones were turned up mainly to catch the faintest of the snicks on the snickometer, but it became a more useful tool for catching the discussions/ banter/ sledging going on in the field. Special mention here of Tim Paine and Rishabh Pant’s talks (!). So amusing that often the actual commentators just kept quiet while these two were standing up to the stumps. 

5. Run-Out of the Year 
Azhar Ali added a new chapter in the glorious tradition of Pakistan cricket’s comical run-outs. The batsman hit the ball towards the boundary and then proceeded for a mid-pitch chat oblivious to the facts that (a) the ball never crossed the boundary, (b) the fielder had jogged down to retrieve the ball, (c) the keeper had rushed up to collect the throw and break the stumps & (d) the umpire had not made any signal. 

6. Retiring on a high 
A century in your last innings to go with a century on debut, and ending the year with a knighthood. What a way to go, Sir Alastair Cook! 

7. Battle of the Year 
The war against corruption continues as does the infighting for controlling the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI in short). Last year with the ODI World Cup, Women’s cricket had finally become cricket. This year it added its public controversy with the spat between Mithali Raj and coach Ramesh Powar, leading to the latter’s dismissal. Well, being in the limelight is great but should be for the right reasons! 

8. Finally getting its due 
The Ranji Trophy – India’s premier domestic first-class competition. There was a major expansion with NINE new teams added. India’s domestic competition now has 37 first-class teams. Well we also have 1.3 Billion people, so no big deal. But it was commentator Kerry O’Keefe’s on air jibe about its quality which lead to everyone singing paens in praise of the Ranji Trophy and how important a role it plays in establishing India’s dominance in world cricket! 

9. Scaling New Heights - Indian Pace Attack 
During the India-Australia series, an interesting graphic came up. India’s pace troika of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami had collectively taken more wickets in an year than any other pace bowling trio. They broke the 34 year old record of Marshall, Holding & Garner. An Indian fast bowling trio being spoken in the same breath as these legends while outgunning home attacks. With Bhuvaneswar Kumar and Umesh Yadav as back-up, never before had we had so many fast bowling riches. 

10. The Sleeper Hit of the Year 
A tri-nation T20 series involving India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – who would be interested, especially after India rested most of the big guns. But the Nidahas Trophy proved to be an action packed entertainer. Bangladesh irritating the Sri Lankan home fans to such an extent with their Naagin Dance celebrations that they switched support to India! And then there was Dinesh Karthik belting the last ball for a six to win the final for India. 

11. The Sponsors! 
Was flipping through the sports channels, Star Network was showing the Burger King Super Smash while Sony had the KFC Big Bash on air! Junk food companies sponsoring elite sports events. Nothing new given that McDonalds sponsors the Olympics. And cricket has always been the less athletic of sports, which prioritises Lunch, Tea and Drinks breaks even over the actual action at time. Case in point – lunch taken during an India-South Africa ODI when India needed 2 runs off 31 overs! 

12th Man – Free riding of the year 
Adil Rashid did not bat, did not bowl, did not take a catch and ended up on the winning side of a Test match. 

That was cricketing year 2018, lets see what 2019 has in store for us with a World Cup looming and new international teams coming up all over the globe. 

Wishing all cricket tragics a Happy New Year!

Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

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