The urn returns, and Tendulkar signs off in style

India's young brigade, Sri Lanka's post-war healing, Australia's travails and more in our staff's picks of the best and worst of the year gone by
December 30, 2013

India's young turks clinch the Champions Trophy © AFP

George Binoy, assistant editor
Best: Tendulkar's farewell speech
Almost everything around Sachin Tendulkar's retirement was sickly sweet. From the hastily arranged West Indies series to the obscenely extravagant plans to send him off in what the administrators thought was style. In that environment, even the rousing chant of "Sachin, Sachin" lost its genuineness and became annoying, especially when the goal was to evoke some response, any response, from the man. Tendulkar cut through the embellishment with a speech that was startling in its sincerity. His fans and critics were easily moved - that was no surprise - but so were people who had barely followed his career. His last shot was perfectly timed.

Worst: The case of Gurunath Meiyappan
For years he had been seen around Chennai Super Kings: in their dug-out, at player auctions, and at press conferences. For years he had behaved like more than a mere "enthusiast", and said as much through social media. To all followers of the IPL, Meiyappan was someone who enjoyed privileges that only franchise owners did. And then he mucked it up, after which Chennai Super Kings mucked up by trying to wash their hands off him, saying N Srinivasan's son-in-law wasn't what he had purported to be for all this time. A press release attempting to disassociate the franchise from Meiyappan was an insult to the intelligence of anyone who follows the IPL.

Andrew Fidel Fernando, Sri Lanka correspondent
Best: Cricket's role in post-war Sri Lanka
At a time when Tests face increasing challenges from the shorter formats, it is perhaps easy to think of cricket as little more than entertainment. In Sri Lanka's post-war north and east, though, such a glib appraisal of the game is becoming profoundly inadequate. Passion for cricket has not only endured 27 years of devastating civil war, it has now become one of the foremost vehicles of reconciliation. Initiatives like the Murali Cup, which bring young teams from the south to play against northern sides, have put teenage sportsmen at the coalface of national healing. In places like Mullaitivu, children who endured the trauma of the war's final bloody months and spent months in IDP camps in 2009, have begun building their lives around cricket, which has come to define many of them as young people.

Passion for cricket has not only endured 27 years of devastating civil war in Sri Lanka, it has now become one of the foremost vehicles of reconciliation

Northerners are also increasingly embracing Sri Lanka's cricketers as their own, welcoming players into their towns and cities more ferociously than fans do anywhere else in the country. Young men and women have begun to aspire to play for Sri Lanka, and thanks to gestures of goodwill from the national board, a pathway now exists for them to realise that goal. Deep divisions that fuelled a vicious conflict have not totally disappeared since the war's end, but in cricket, Sri Lanka is a more united nation than in any other regard.

Worst: Financial disparities in cricket
There is more money in the game than ever before, but no fewer than nine Test matches were removed from the 2013 calendar almost solely because boards felt them too big a drain on their finances. The WICB was the worst offender, having cancelled four Tests and replaced some of them with ODIs. Sri Lanka Cricket postponed three Tests, having cancelled four in the previous year. And Zimbabwe Cricket could not get funds together to host Sri Lanka in October. Elsewhere, CSA were held ransom by the BCCI.

Clearly cricket is poorer when India, England and Australia prosper but several nations can no longer honour their Test commitments. Financial mismanagement by boards is part of the problem, but the demand for a better revenue-sharing system grows desperate if cricket wishes to retain the less powerful nations within a competitive Test-match framework.

Brydon Coverdale, assistant editor
Best: Australia winning the Ashes in Perth
Regaining is always more emotional than retaining. Australia had been without the urn for 1577 days - even longer than the drought that ended under Allan Border's leadership in 1989 - when Michael Clarke's men finished the job on the final day at the WACA. It was a cathartic day for many in the Australian squad. Clarke was the only player who had won the Ashes before; Brad Haddin and Shane Watson had each played in three losing campaigns, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris two each. Not surprisingly, there were tears along with the celebrations, and a rare public singing of "Under the Southern Cross" on the WACA pitch a few hours after the victory. A 4-0 loss in India and a 3-0 defeat in England had given way to an unexpected triumph for a team cobbled together by circumstance. However long this group lasts together, they'll always have Perth.

Earned it: Australia clinch the series, Australia v England, Test, Perth, 5th day, December 17, 2013
That winning feeling © Getty Images

Worst: Australia's tour of India
What made the Ashes success all the more special was the knowledge that Australia had been a rabble earlier in the year. Not only had they lost 4-0 in India, Australia's first 4-0 defeat since the tour of South Africa in 1969-70 that cost Bill Lawry the captaincy, they had descended into chaos off the field. The suspension of four players from the Mohali Test for what became known as the homework saga was the low point and hinted at disharmony and self-absorption in the group. It also contributed to the sacking of coach Mickey Arthur a few months later. On the field Australia weren't just beaten, they were embarrassed. It was like they had never seen spin bowling before. Panicky selections, especially the axing of Nathan Lyon for Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell, added to the mess. Fortunately for Australia, things could only improve from there - and did.

Devashish Fuloria, sub-editor
Best: India's young brigade
An excess of wine, even of the finest vintage, can lead to a hangover. India stumbled through one as the powers of their once pre-eminent batsmen waned, before finally placing faith, seemingly reluctantly, in their young wards. The returns on those investments have exceeded estimates till now.

The switch from old to new might have happened in Mohali, where Shikhar Dhawan announced himself, or in England, where India won their first Champions Trophy. Maybe it happened during the ruthless wins against West Indies, or in Johannesburg, where India's batsmen possibly left the ball with more assurance than the previous generation had. One thing is clear on the evidence of 2013: the newbies are in no mood to relinquish the aura of Indian batting that they inherited.

Worst: West Indies' flop show
In the hoopla around Sachin Tendulkar's retirement, West Indies escaped scrutiny for their utterly spineless performance. Here was a team that only a year ago had exuded Caribbean flair during their World Twenty20 title win in Colombo. After a long while, they had looked united. In India, after six straight Test wins against New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, West Indies offered no resistance against a young team. They were then blown away by New Zealand, ranked lower than them. "We were taught a lesson on how to play Tests," Darren Sammy said after the losses in India. "We have been taught another lesson," he said after losing to New Zealand. Like perennial backbenchers, West Indies didn't show any signs of moving forward. The gains made in 2012 were wiped out in a disastrous 2013.

Posted by rame1975 on (January 1, 2014, 11:33 GMT)

Exciting year ahead for young INDIAN team. Hope they can improve the performance which they displayed in SA ... Good luck to Team India ...

Happy new year 2014 to all !!!!

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (December 31, 2013, 11:10 GMT)

The year Ends with some great talents in Indian cricket : Dhavan in ODIs, Pujara, Rahane in test and Virat in all format as an established batsman. Some good bowlers like Bhuvaneswar and Shami and a good allrounder like Jadeja who is effective in green pitches too.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2013, 14:09 GMT)

As an Aussie fan, you would expect my favourite to be us winning the Ashes. But I had no idea about what cricket was doing in Sri Lanka. It's actually beautiful, that the sport we all know and love is helping a whole nation to heal itself. It's bigger than cricket, but I'm so happy that the game can be apart of something bigger than it is. Regardless of your country, that should be something to make you happy, as a fan and as a humanitarian.

Posted by   on (December 30, 2013, 12:21 GMT)

16th Nov 2013: End of cricket for me. #ThankYouSachin #tenforever

Posted by Chris_P on (December 30, 2013, 4:25 GMT)

Bill Lawry lost the captaincy to Ian Chappell the following summer in the final Ashes test in Sydney, not South Africa.

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