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Lots of Pietersen and SLC and plenty of fond farewells in our look at the top dogs and bottom feeders of the year gone by
January 2, 2013
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, MS Dhoni makes about US$3. According to Forbes magazine, he made $26.5 million in the period from June 2011 to May 2012. That puts him ahead of not only all cricketers but also Usain Bolt and Novak Djokovic. That's $72,603 per day, and about 84 cents per second. Take that, suckers who think he uses deep point too often in Tests.
India playing four quicks in Perth. Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Pace like fire. Batsmen quaking in their boots. Err… David Warner 180 off 159. India beaten inside three days. MS Dhoni banned for poor over rate. It was all happening at the WACA.
The Sarfraz Nawaz award for raising a match-fixing stink
Hashan Tillakaratne. Except that nothing came of it. This is the last we heard of it: "I stand by my comments about match fixing but can't reveal names for my safety. I made the statement in good faith and I will reveal the names to the ICC."
No tweet can be serious unless it is deleted soon after. After India had been knocked out of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, Suresh Raina indulged in some schadenfreude at Pakistan's ouster, deleted the tweet immediately after, and then blamed it on his nephew. Last heard, it was the nephew who couldn't face the short ball.
Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Mark Boucher, Tatenda Taibu, Brett Lee, Ricky Ponting, Andrew Strauss, Simon Taufel, Sachin Tendulkar (just ODIs), Michael Hussey.
Thankfully not Bill Lawry, who has said - amid speculation this could be his last summer as a commentator - that he has not made a decision yet. It won't all happen once he goes.
The retirement, part II
Test cricket in Sri Lanka. If SLC had its way, all Test cricket in every country would make way for ODIs with India, but thankfully there are some boards that still want their teams to play Tests. This year, Sri Lanka's Tests against India were converted to an ODI series (the horror, the horror), one Test was taken off the England tour, next year's Tests in the West Indies have been cancelled, and South Africa's Test tour of the island is headed towards becoming a tri-nation ODI series involving, yes, India.
The retirement, part III
Haroon Lorgat. Those press conferences at important cricketing occasions, where the ICC's CEO spoke a lot without saying anything, are not being missed at all.
The SLC award for poor administration
NZC can be proud. (Incidentally it all happened in Sri Lanka.) What really happened only John Buchanan, Mike Hesson and the suits know, but if you go by what Ross Taylor said, they were all lying. What Taylor said made sense too. If New Zealand indeed wanted to have Taylor remain the Test captain, they must have believed he was a better captain than Brendon McCullum, because you need a better captain in Tests. It didn't show in how they let him go.
The SLC award for being bad paymasters
The SLC award for being petty
To the SLC, for not letting the players spread share of their earnings among the lesser fortunate ground staff and other helpers.
Mystery balls. Some people should realise they are not Shane Warne.
The press conference
Where Kris Srikkanth, then the chairman of Indian selectors, instructed a reporter, "Boss, you just shut up now." Those priceless words, now used to end all cricketing arguments, came in response to a question - repeated ad nauseam because Srikkanth wouldn't answer it - about why, if Virender Sehwag was unfit for a future tour, he was not being pulled out of an ongoing one.
Kumar Dharmasena. Best umpire. It is not yet clear if that was what prompted Vernon Philander to tweet: "Great to be back in the mothercity. What a waste of 4days that was. Let's start on a positive note, seeing forward to training tom...#cobras"
Actually it's not a particular shot but the way Martin Guptill plays them. The eyes follow the ball only until it meets the bat. He doesn't look up to see where it has gone. The eyes are, as Richie Benaud succinctly puts it, where the ball used to be. He is yet to mis-hit one of them.
Brad Hogg. At 41. Still sprightly. Still bowling a googly hard to pick in T20. Still the owner of flowing natural hair. No self-respecting postman, Newman from Seinfeld least of them, will approve of such efficiency.
Richard Levi began the year with a 117 not out against New Zealand. That T20 innings was superbly timed, in that it came just before the IPL auction. Following that, though, Levi has been sorted out so comprehensively that he has scored 106 in 11 innings. That includes a fifty against Zimbabwe. In South Africa's final T20 of the year, Levi was finally dropped.
The most pointless debate
Was the one around introducing lbws to balls pitched outside leg when the batsman is attempting a switch hit. Kevin Pietersen, the finest exponent of said shot, killed it off in one tweet, like only a man who knows the stroke inside out can. What Pietersen basically said was: I get outside the line of the stumps when I play the switch hit, and I am playing a shot, so how can you give me out? "It's a waste of a meeting," Pietersen concluded.
India had just lost the SCG Test. It was the end of a dream that had kept such greats as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman going over the years. It was official then that the three would never win a Test series in Australia. Minutes later, the BCCI emailed the schedule of the IPL, which would go on for 53 days.
Michael Clarke: once when he was on 329 in a match Australia won inside four days. Once when he was 259 in a match that could not have produced a result. Of the 26 declarations made in Tests this year, eight have come from Clarke. Australia might not be the best team in the world yet, but under Clarke they have shown the most intent.
PS: Clarke also became the first man in Test history to score four double-centuries in a year.
The MS Dhoni award for the most weird analogy
For the second year in a row, it is Salman Butt. "I had always asked him [Mohammad Amir] to have his hair cut, but he never listened to me. Then how was he ready to do such a big thing [at my behest]?" Butt wondered. Last year Butt wondered if professional wrestling could be popular despite being scripted, why not cricket.
The most pointless match
In March, India travelled 6984 kilometres, from Mumbai to Johannesburg, with a 15-man squad plus support staff to play one Twenty20 international. It was the first international match out of 5551 played till then to be lost by a side that lost no wicket. We could have done without this match.
Good old-fashioned, swinging, possessed yorker speared into the toes. Once upon a time fast bowlers used the delivery at the death. Now they bring fine leg and third man up and bowl slower balls on a length.
By going from "Yea Viv talk nah" in Edgbaston to "Sweeter from behind" in Colombo, Denesh Ramdin proved his ability to come up with a line that got people talking was, just like his Test century, a one-off.
It's easy to write them off as publicity seekers, but there are less brutal ways of staying in the limelight than taking up boxing. These two boys' own heroes have had their share of demons to fight, but they have also brought us immense joy on the cricket field. Whatever took Andrew Flintoff and Jesse Ryder into the ring, it has to be more than just the desire to see their names in circulation again. They both won their debut fights, and both want more. So when can we have Ryder v Flintoff?
ODI cricket. They are playing with the Powerplays again, and introducing more bouncers, and nobody - players included - actually knows what is going on.
Slyly, a bigger experiment was at work. Only 95 ODIs were played in the year, as opposed to 83 T20 internationals. The biggest consumer of ODIs, India, hosted just one such match - and that was on December 30, as part of an unscheduled series.
Radio Sport discontinued its coverage of the Plunket Shield in New Zealand. SABC won't broadcast home Tests in South Africa. In a year in which South Africa became No. 1 in Tests. Heaven forbid if they won a World Cup.
Test Match Special fought Test Match Sofa, everybody fought the BCCI, the BCCI fought the DRS, the DRS fought itself, Shah Rukh Khan fought the authorities at the Wankhede, New Road fought floods (again), Kirti Azad fought the IPL, Shahid Afridi fought reporters, Chris Cairns fought Lalit Modi…
The Hashim Amla award for the best bearded player
Monty Panesar. Six Tests, 33 wickets, four five-fors, one ten-wicket haul, all achieved in a joyous wide-eyed way. Not bad for somebody who is still a non-regular, eh?
The comeback, II
Left-arm spinners like Panesar. Rangana Herath was the leading wicket-taker of the year, Abdur Rehman provided Saeed Ajmal great support, Pragyan Ojha kept pitching it on a kerchief, and even Robin Peterson took wickets in his only Test.
The comeback, interrupted
Last year Zimbabwe returned to Tests, and gave New Zealand and Pakistan a scare. This year they played just one Test and three ODIs. One year forward, two back.
From Shane Warne, who went too far in his BBL publicity overdrive and said all it would take for him to come back to Tests was a phone call from his mate Michael Clarke. It is rumoured the Australian captain has taken Warne off his speed dial.
The Mahatma Gandhi award for seeing, hearing and speaking no evil
The Shane Warne award for glorifying an IPL performance
Gautam Gambhir. The recipient of said praise being Yusuf Pathan, who was called "a magical player" by his Kolkata Knight Riders captain after he scored 40 off 21, his highest score in a 17-match season.
On Test debut, Abul Hasan scored a century from No. 10 to rescue Bangladesh from 193 for 8, but for the sheer character he showed in drawing the Adelaide Test with a century scored over close to eight hours, Faf du Plessis has to be the debutant of the year. The innings not only kept South Africa alive in the fight for No. 1, it also exhausted the best Australian bowlers so much they couldn't take field in the next Test.
The unlikeliest meeting of minds
Kevin Pietersen echoed Ravi Shastri's sentiment that England is jealous of the IPL.
The BlackBerry endorsement
From Pietersen, when he allegedly BBMed (that's a word nowadays) South African fast bowlers with tips on how to get Andrew Strauss out.
The worst century
It was more than a year in the making, it came in a loss against Bangladesh, and it involved slowing down during a Powerplay. The days when he let the 100th consume him - he blamed the media and fans for the pressure, but the fans didn't sign all those commercial deals on his behalf - were surely the worst phase of Sachin Tendulkar's career?
It was just T20, and West Indies have gone back to their losing ways after that, but for that fortnight in the World Twenty20, West Indies showed us how to celebrate success. This interview, and not "Gangnam Style", ought to be the YouTube hit of the year.
Everybody blames it for Indian Test spinners' poor discipline, for Indian Test batsmen's lack of patience, for conflicts of interest, for calendar clashes, for tired players. Fall guy. Easy target. Straw man. Poor little victimised, helpless IPL. Go on, apologists, pull another one.
The VVS Laxman award for playing three scarcely believable and super-impactful Test innings in one year
Michael Clarke, Hashim Amla and Alastair Cook might fight for the tag of the best batsman of the year, but for sparkling innings don't look beyond Kevin Pietersen. At the P Sara Oval he demonstered spin for England and levelled the Sri Lanka series, at Headingley he danced down the wicket and hooked the best bowling attack in the world, and at the Wankhede he brutalised Indian spinners on a raging turner. (And there was a fair bit of left-arm spin that he took care of along the way.)
The word you shouldn't be using for a South African in 2012, unless he is Kevin Pietersen
The word you can use for a South African in 2012
Choke, after AB de Villiers, their captain at the World Twenty20, admitted that was just what his side did.
The Greg Ritchie-Rodney Hogg award for cringeworthiness
For the second year running, Star Cricket's promos before series against England. After the Andrew Peter series last year, the broadcaster continued to embarrass by straddling the line between jingoism and racism with these.
The cringeworthiness, part II
During the Champions League Twenty20, Ravi Shastri asked viewers to not go by the size of Quinton de Kock.
The next cricketing MP in a reality show in India
After Sanath Jayausuriya and Navjot Sidhu made appearances in Indian versions of Strictly Come Dancing and Big Brother respectively, coming up next: Sachin Tendulkar in Survivor.
The biggest embarrassment heaped upon the ICC
By its jury, which didn't nominate Saeed Ajmal for an ICC award.
John Buchanan might have gone across the ditch, but Australia keep finding a way to make public silly dossiers and documents. Try to get Graeme Smith lbw, sledge Hashim Amla, this one said. Amla laughed his way to two centuries and 377 runs despite the "psychological warfare".
The Javagal Srinath award for being a vegetarian fast bowler
Most innovative use of Sachin Tendulkar's name to earn mileage
Julia Gillard, for announcing, when on a diplomatic visit of India, a fast-growing export market for Australia, that Tendulkar would be awarded the Order of Australia.
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Plays of the day from the IPL match between Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai